Nutrition and addiction during the early recovery period is the difference between sobriety and relapse. Sober living homes think of nutrition for recovering addicts as a tool in a toolbox. There are many ways to solve a problem: nutrition as therapy is a power tool.
Sober living means a healthy lifestyle. But, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean one devoid of fun. Nutrition and wellness are key to sobriety.
The Link Between Poor Nutrition and Addiction
Malnutrition and addiction strongly correlate. Research shows that up to 70% of addicts struggle with malnutrition. Recovering addicts may think that recovery ends when they don’t crave drugs and alcohol. But, are they replacing one bad habit with another?
Also, bad nutrition and addiction are common in recovering addicts for many reasons. Addiction leads to vitamin deficiency because of malabsorption or neglect. A portion is due to the effect substances have on the body.
For instance, alcohol lacks nutritional value but can make someone feel like they are full. A few cases of beer over a whole day can equate to the recommended caloric intake for a day. However, it’s all empty calories and sugar that cause bloating, weight gain, and dangerous impairments.
Drugs Affect Nutrition and Wellness
Drugs that fall into this class induce euphoria. They are made to mimic opium synthetically by blocking chemical receptors in the body. Heroin, fentanyl, and some prescription painkillers fall into this category.
Side effects of this drug include loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Opioid users often won’t eat throughout the day because of this. This means they are missing out on important vitamins and nutrients.
Stimulants are known to suppress appetite. They can make someone feel happy, awake, alert, and confident–all without food. Types of stimulants include cocaine, ecstasy, and crystal meth.
Illegal drugs on their own derail the body’s metabolic systems. Adding appetite suppression into the mix makes it even worse for a person’s metabolism. Since users of this drug don’t get hungry often, they deprive themselves of good nutrition and the benefits that follow.
The origin of depressants comes from legal means. They are made by the pharmaceutical industry to relieve people of anxiety and sleeplessness. They are now diverted to an illegal market. Xanax, GHB, and Klonopin are examples.
Depressants can make people oversleep and overeat. On one side of the spectrum, someone could sleep all day and avoid eating. It could also cause them to binge eat without any regard to nutritional habits.
Pot, marijuana, Mary Jane, and the devil’s lettuce all mean cannabis. This substance triggers the brain into thinking its host is starving. Research indicates that when the brain signals the body is full, cannabis changes it to extremely hungry.
People who are addicted to marijuana are known to eat in excess. Since their brain thinks they are starving, they’ll eat anything and everything in sight. Binge eating can cause just as much damage as undereating.
Poor nutrition and binge eating can stunt recovery. Also, emotional eating creates a dependence on food, just like drug dependency. Sober living institutions focus on nutrition as therapy. Education on nutritional habits and drug addiction can aid permanent recovery.
Good Nutrition Promotes Long-term Sobriety in Early Stages of Addiction Recovery
A journal from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that nutrition education is essential during the early recovery stage of addiction. Treatment within a center with a focus on nutrition therapy saw a jump in how effective it was.
An early recovery stage can be anywhere from up to 90 days to a full year after addiction recovery. The timeline differs at the discretion of each medical professional. It’s during this early recovery period that it’s so crucial to instill healthy eating habits. Recovering addicts can take this knowledge to promote a lifetime of sobriety.
How Does Nutrition Therapy Help Recovering Addicts?
Nutrition therapy is using a healthy diet as a tool for recovery. Diets are prepared based on the vitamins and minerals a person lacks. It may also be used as a tool to restore chemical imbalances. It’s a natural way to assist in addiction recovery.
Recovering addicts tend to be destructive to their health and overall wellbeing, especially when it comes to diet and what they put in their bodies. It’s easy to eat fast food and frozen junk food. A person who suffers from substance use disorder can only think about drugs and alcohol. There is no room to eat well in their minds.
People suffering from drug addiction are known to fill their diets with:
- Refined carbs
- Processed foods
Those who are addicted to substances that limit appetite are especially prone to malnutrition. Despite a high-calorie diet, they are usually malnourished. Research shows that around 93% of surveyed addicts weighed under the average weight. This means they barely eat. When they do, it’s akin to eating garbage. Nutrition therapy breaks the bond between addiction and malnutrition.
What Does Nutrition for Recovering Addicts Look Like?
A plan for holistic wellness depends on the person who is suffering from substance abuse. They might have dietary restrictions and preferences. No sober living center would force them to eat food they hate.
In other words, undergoing nutrition therapy for addiction recovery if done right will be educational and enjoyable. First, a medical professional (nutritionist) will assess your diet, eating habits, and overall wellness. Then, they will come up with a customized and comprehensive treatment plan, including a diet consisting of a meal plan, to stop bad behaviors/habits and boost overall wellness, including those with vitamin deficiencies. There are pillars recovering addicts must abide by when it comes to their health. These fundamentals of nutrition therapy are:
- Food must be nutrient-dense
- It must consist of whole foods (unrefined food)
- Properly prepared meals
- They must promote healthy blood sugar levels
- Meals must aid hydration and digestion
- Includes food packed with minerals and healthy dietary fats
Recovering addicts may also consume vitamins that keep cravings away and elevate the mood. Green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are likely to be a part of a recovering addict’s diet. Also, fruits and vegetables will make up a significant part of their diet. That way vitamins like A, B, C, and K can help recovery.
Foods That Promote Good Nutrition For Recovering Addicts
- Fish: A great source for fatty, healthy acids like omega-3
- Greens and other leafy vegetables: Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber, folate, vitamin K, calcium, iron, potassium, and more
- Nuts/Seeds: Filled with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals that lower chances of health complications
- Whole grains: Unrefined grains, which makes them packed with minerals like magnesium and iron
- Berries: These are full of antioxidants which may prevent damage to cells
There is an abundance of food to help with nutrition for recovering addicts. For example, honorable mentions include legumes and organic meat. Addicts whose diet includes these types of food will have fewer withdrawal symptoms, irritable days, and cravings.
How Dual Diagnosis Affects Nutrition and Addiction
Substance use disorders are often paired up with other health issues. When someone has two or more health disorders it’s called a dual diagnosis. It also may be referred to as comorbidity or co-occurring disorders.
Eating disorders and substance abuse are common together. Studies show that 50% of people suffering from a substance use disorder also have an eating disorder. This is notable because they can’t distinguish between regular cravings for food and drugs. Alternatively, recovering addicts may try to replace substance cravings with sugary sweets. This happens many times during the early stages of addiction recovery.
These eating disorders commonly co-occur with substance abuse:
- Bulimia nervosa
- Anorexia nervosa
- Binge eating disorder
- Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID)
Nutrition therapy lets recovering addicts have a healthy relationship with food. It shows them that nutrition and addiction recovery can change their life. Trained staff within a sober living house can help recovering addicts use healthy diet practices as a tool.
Other Healthy Habits for Early Recovery
Nutrition on its own can’t promise long-lasting sobriety. Recovering addicts need other healthy habits to ensure success. The body is an ecosystem that needs sound physical and mental health to function. There are different routes to get there.
Exercise and nutrition are a handsome pair. Healthy foods provide vitamins and minerals to the body. Exercise is associated with the chemicals in the body that keep people happy and calm. Both together mean a happy body and mind. It also decreases the risk of other health issues.
Drink Lots of Water
Water flushes the body of unwanted toxins. It’s nature’s natural detox. Staying hydrated can keep someone from feeling lethargic and groggy. Withdrawal symptoms could be mitigated with the daily, eight glasses of water.
Get Good Sleep
People that reported restful sleep had fewer health issues down the line. Sleep is the body’s way of restoring itself. Those suffering from addiction should get at least eight hours of sleep to feel awake and less irritable.
Good Nutrition Promotes Early Recovery
Casa Nuevo Vida provides sober living to help recovering addicts stay clean. Getting drugs and alcohol out of the body’s system is only half the battle. Choosing a healthy lifestyle is just as important.
We provide healthy, delicious meals to all of our patients. Eating well never felt so good! Contact us now to see how good nutrition can help with early recovery.