Healthy eating habits are essential for every individual to maintain physical and mental wellness – and this is especially true for people recovering from addiction. A body exposed to toxic substances is forced to work even harder to maintain the proper chemical balance and repair the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol.
That’s why, as a person aims to rebuild their lives and their bodies, nutrition should be a major part of their recovery plan. After all, nutrition and addiction recovery work together for ultimate health and happiness.
Substance Abuse Negatively Impacts Nutrition
People who abuse drugs or alcohol experience a myriad of resulting physical problems. From chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes to blood diseases, substance abuse takes its toll on the human body. For many of these issues, the underlying cause is poor nutrition.
People need food to thrive. The body is fueled by breaking foods down into glucose, which is distributed throughout the bloodstream and used as energy or stored for future use. Without proper nutrition, the body cannot function to its fullest ability. People who are in recovery tend to experience:
People under the influence may forget to eat, not realize they’re hungry or have a suppressed appetite from the substances they’re using.
Bad Eating Habits
Substance abuse is an expensive habit. Many addicts don’t have the money for healthy food choices, so they live on a diet of inexpensive (and unhealthy) fast food.
Many of the body’s organs responsible for breaking down food and nutrients are impaired by substance abuse.
Alcohol and drug use negatively impacts the GI tract that helps bodies absorb the nutrients from the food we eat.
For these reasons, to achieve success on the path to long-term recovery, it’s imperative to evaluate an individual’s nutrition and addiction recovery. It is essential that they receive the proper vitamins and minerals they need to strengthen their mind and body, repair the damage that’s been done, and reverse the effects of substance abuse.
How Nutrients Help the Body
To realize how nutrition and addiction recovery can counteract the effects of substance abuse, it’s important to understand how nutrients positively impact the human body. Your food provides six essential nutrient groups that your body needs in either large amounts (macronutrients) or small doses (micronutrients). Here are those nutrient groups and how they benefit your mind and body.
Your body requires 13 essential vitamins to maintain balanced health, including both water-soluble (Vitamins A and D) and fat-soluble (Vitamins B and C) vitamins. These vitamins are necessary because they help develop a strong immune system to fight off disease and infection. They enable you to strengthen your bones so you can avoid osteoporosis and joint problems. Vitamins also help your brain and nervous system to function fully, which is essential to survival.
Major minerals like calcium, sodium, and potassium help your body maintain hydration and contribute to bone strength. Trace minerals like iron and zinc play a role in transferring oxygen throughout your body, building a robust immune system, and maintaining healthy blood pressure.
Proteins exist in your bones, your skin, and your hair. They’re comprised of various amino acids, many of which can only be absorbed from food. For this reason, the body requires multiple sources of protein to build muscle and ensure it can function fully.
While it’s true that too many fatty foods can be a detriment to your health, your body does require some fat and fatty acids. They help with blood clotting, muscle, and brain function, hormone production, and vitamin and mineral absorption. Healthy fats should be part of any balanced nutritional plan.
Carbohydrates are essential because they help with the brain and central nervous system’s function. Like fats and fatty acids, there are good carbs and bad carbs. People in recovery who are rebuilding their body’s health should avoid foods made with sugar and bleached flour. However, complex carbs like starchy vegetables and whole grains should definitely be included in their diet.
A person can live with poor nutrition for weeks (or longer), but dehydration is another matter. People are made up of about 60% water, and it’s essential in almost every function of the human body. In terms of recovery, hydration is critical because it boosts mood, helps to flush toxins out of the body, and improves the transference of nutrients from cell to cell. A recovering addict should drink about 15 cups of water a day.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
People who weigh more than their bodies can sustain experience pain, limited mobility, and a lower quality of life. They are at higher risk for disease. Conversely, severely underweight people can experience anemia and weakened bones.
Strengthened Immune System
Most cases of immunodeficiency are due to poor nutrition. A well-balanced diet can provide the vitamins and minerals you need to boost your body’s defense against disease and sickness.
When the human body has everything it requires to function correctly, it leads to more energy, which increases productivity. The feeling one gets when accomplishing goals helps to boost mood and improves the overall outlook on life. This can be extremely powerful for someone recovering from addiction.
A Positive Outlet for Socialization
Food is a highly communal aspect of our lives and can be a positive outlet for socialization. Get together with neighbors to cook a meal together. Join a co-op to create a community produce garden. Take cooking classes to learn how to prepare even more nutritious meals. A healthy attitude toward food and nutrition can open the door to social experiences that people in recovery need to move beyond their past and look forward to a brighter future.
From physical health to mental wellness, nutrition in sobriety plays a vital role in the success of recovering addicts.