Recovery from addiction requires your body to heal from months or years of self-abuse. This includes learning about and paying attention to nutrition, because the foods you consume affect your body, and they also can affect your mental health.
Restoring your physical and mental well-being requires not only learning new coping skills that don’t include turning to drugs or alcohol, but also getting adequate hydration and nutrition. Nutritional therapy is a method of obtaining counseling and nutrition education from a registered dietitian as part of your treatment plan for long-term addiction recovery.
Nutritional Deficiencies Caused by Addiction
When drugs or alcohol is the most important thing in your life, there’s a good chance you aren’t consuming the nutrients you need. Addiction can lead to malnutrition, because it’s not uncommon for addicts to go days without eating. When active alcoholics or addicts do eat, they usually grab something fast and easy that may have very little nutritional value.
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A person who drinks heavily may have digestive problems and their body may have difficulty absorbing important nutrients. Stimulating drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine can disrupt the sleep cycle and suppress the appetite, leading the addict to lack the urge to eat. Reduced intake of healthy foods or an impaired ability to absorb nutrients can lead to deficiencies in many different vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamins A, C and D, calcium, zinc, iron, and potassium.
The poor eating patterns that go along with addiction can also lead to an increased risk of long-term health problems. Diabetes, weight problems and hypertension can develop as a result of neglecting diet and exercise.
Poor Nutrition and Cravings
If nutritional therapy isn’t included as part of a program of recovery, nutritional deficiencies can increase the risk of relapse. When your body isn’t properly nourished, you may experience symptoms of low energy, depression and anxiety. These symptoms can set off a familiar sensation of craving mind-altering chemicals to relieve them.
For a recovering alcoholic or addict, feelings of hunger can be mistaken as cravings for substances. Sugar and caffeine are substances that may provide a temporary rush, so these should be limited to avoid setting off cravings and to allow more room for nutritious foods. Different foods can affect your blood sugar and your energy level.
Regular mealtimes are also an important aspect of good nutritional habits. With the help of a dietitian, you can learn to recognize how food may be affecting your energy level and your moods. Small, frequent meals may help you to avoid getting overly hungry.
Good Nutrition in Addiction Recovery
Nutritional needs can vary from one individual to another. Factors that need to be considered include the substance of choice along with the impact of any co-occurring conditions such as eating disorders or diabetes.
An important aspect of recovery from addiction is learning to begin to practice new habits of self-care. Good nutrition is part of an overall healthy lifestyle that can help lead to good mental health. As part of your recovery, you need to be sure to eat healthy meals and snacks and avoid relying on fast foods or high-calorie foods with low nutritional value. Your diet should include nutrient-dense foods such as:
- Low-fat dairy products
- Whole grains
- Protein from lean meats, fish, poultry, nuts or legumes
Nutritional therapy is an important part of the healing process in addiction recovery. A registered dietitian can give you expert guidance regarding changes you may need to make to your diet in order to help your body heal and to reduce the risk of cravings triggered by poor nutrition.
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, please call us at (310) 455-5258 or submit the form below to learn more about our addiction treatment programs in Los Angeles.