It is no surprise that substance abuse can be very destructive to your health. Flooding your brain and body with powerful drugs can overload your system with poison, and frequently become life-threatening, particularly if dosages get too high or your usage is too frequent.
What may be less well known is the reality that what you go without can be just as damaging as the substance you are putting in. Different forms of substance abuse can deprive your body of important nutrients and vitamins. An important part of a true recovery involves changing your eating habits to match your needs, so you can best restore yourself back to health.
Alcohol is very rich in calories, but not in nutrients. Chronic heavy drinkers can end up getting a lot of their caloric intake, drinking so much that they don’t eat healthy amounts. They are getting “empty” calories that can make them feel full, but provide no carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. Alcohol is simply edging out “real food” that would contribute to your health.
On top of this, alcohol can also damage your digestive system and make it more difficult to absorb the nutrients you do receive. In particular, heavy or habitual drinking often creates deficiencies in vitamins A, C, D, and K, as well as the B vitamins. It can also lead to deficiencies in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Some of the foods with the highest amount of vitamin A and K include most leafy greens, like spinach and kale. Good sources of vitamin C include papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and cauliflower. You can get Vitamin D from fatty fish, portobello mushrooms, and eggs. There are multiple types of B vitamins, and all need to be replenished in a balanced way.
You can get folate from spinach and asparagus, B6 from bell peppers, and B12 from calf liver. You can get more calcium by increase your milk and dairy consumption, or from green beans and almonds. Foods high in phosphorus include pumpkin and sunflower seeds, salmon, and soy. Leafy greens, bananas, and avocados are good sources of magnesium.
Stimulants suppress the appetite, and make it less likely you will eat an adequate amount of food. This means that recovering from cocaine and methamphetamine use, or abuse of Adderall or Ritalin can leave you in dire need of more balanced nutrition. This means eating a wide variety of foods, and paying attention to both what is tasty and what makes you feel good afterwards.
Generally, you should eat five portions of fruits or vegetables, consume lots of complex carbohydrates and whole grains, protein rich foods like beans, lean meats, or fish. You also need to drink several glasses of water throughout the day, take in moderate levels of dairy products, and avoid high levels of sugar, fat, and salt.
Long-term marijuana use can lead to zinc deficiency, and block the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids. Some foods with high zinc levels include oysters, lamb, unprocessed wheat germ, cashews, and dark chocolate. The best source of omega-3 fatty acids is oily fish, but you can also benefit from walnuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables.
To a large extent, the anxiety or strong craving that makes it hard to avoid a relapse can be quieted down through routines of self-care. Hunger and malnutrition in particular can often be felt in the body as a sense that “something is missing,” that your addiction can mislabel as a craving for your substance of choice. If you feel an overpowering source of anxiety, eating nutritious food can be an important way to calm your body down, and provide and care for it in a way that can best ensure your success in sobriety.