The role of nutrition in the recovery process is all too often overlooked, which is a shame because it can actually make a big impact on how a person feels, and how they approach other aspects of their recovery. It is far more common to see recovering addicts and alcoholics overindulging in sweets, caffeine, and fatty foods. Eating junk food is seen as a harmless way to indulge when you’re newly sober. But now health and recovery experts have uncovered the ways that nutrition has an impact on recovery that may change what people eat and drink when they choose to get sober.
How addiction affects nutrition.
It’s important to be aware of the toll addiction and alcoholism takes on the body before beginning. For a person who has consumed large quantities of alcohol over a long period of time, there will be various deficiencies caused by the alcohol obstructing the body’s absorption of vital nutrients. Heroin or other opiate addictions are often the cause gastrointestinal disorders and nutrient deficiencies that come as the result of withdrawal symptoms. Repeated consumption of stimulants will curb one’s appetite to the point where a serious depletion of calories and nutrients occurs.
On a broader level, addiction and alcoholism often affects a person’s diet as a whole. An addict or alcoholic is very unlikely to eat a healthy and balanced diet when their addiction has become their number one priority. For example, many alcoholics will consume as much as 50% of their daily caloric requirements through alcohol alone. As a result, all sorts of health issues can arise.
How nutrition can heal.
A healthy, well balanced diet that provides the body with all of the vitamins and minerals it needs can actually make a recovering addict feel better and repair damaged organ tissues. Increased energy and a stronger immune system is also experienced. Good nutrition will also make an impact on a person’s mood. Because diet has an effect on the chemical and physiological structure of the brain, a person’s behavior will be influenced.
Eating certain foods can also impact the production of mood enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin that make a person feel better. All of these things mean that someone who is in recovery can benefit from nutrition on a physical level (by reversing damage caused by their addiction) and on a mental level (by improving their mood and mental functioning). Research also shows that recovering addicts who eat a proper diet are far less likely to relapse.
How to incorporate nutrition into recovery
When working on your recovery plan, it’s a good idea to consult with a nutritionist and make them another important tool for your treatment. A nutritionist can help determine what your specific needs are and create a diet plan tailored to helping you through recovery. There are even recovery nutritionists out there that are perfect for the job. Staying committed to eating a balanced diet can be difficult with all the coffee and junk food that are so common at meetings and other gathering places for the newly sober. A nutrition plan will help you stick to your healing diet and also teach you how to curb impulses.
What are the nutritional needs of someone in recovery?
Experts agree that eliminating sugar is a good idea for anyone in recovery. It’s also very beneficial to avoid processed foods altogether if possible. Try to incorporate as many whole foods, or single ingredient foods, into your diet as you can. Be sure to also get an adequate amount of protein into your diet, either from animal or plant sources, so that your body can produce sufficient amino acids.