The Importance of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery

Posted in: Recovery

April 25, 2014

An assortment of vegetables

Healthy eating habits are important for everyone, but especially so for those who are recovering from an addiction. Many people who suffer from addictions and other mental health disorders have poor nutritional habits; SAMHSA reports that more than 42% of adults with mental illnesses are obese. Since poor nutrition can lead to other serious health problems down the road, it’s essential that a person going through addiction treatment is also educated about how to maintain a healthy diet.

Negative Effects of Addiction on Nutrition and Health

Having an addiction can lead to multiple health problems, both short- and long-term. The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes some of them as follows, organized by drug types:

  • Alcohol: alcohol damages several organs in the body, especially the liver, which flushes out toxins from the body, and the pancreas, which controls blood sugar levels and fat absorption. Alcohol addiction can cause diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, seizures, and malnutrition.
  • Opiates: common opiates such as oxycontin, codeine, morphine, and heroin damage the gastrointestinal organs, often causing constipation during use and diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea during withdrawal.
  • Marijuana: the most common nutrition-related side effect of marijuana is an increase in appetite, making people addicted to marijuana more likely to be overweight.
  • Stimulants: common stimulants include methamphetamine and cocaine, and these decrease a person’s appetite, making people with stimulant addictions more likely to be underweight. Since stimulants also increase a person’s energy and make them more likely to stay awake for long periods of time, they may also have dehydration and electrolyte imbalance problems.

How Nutrition Plays a Role in the Stages of Recovery

When a person decides to receive help for his addiction, he will begin a long process of recovery that includes many stages. Often the first stage of addiction recovery involves detoxification where the person gets all of the drugs out of his system and goes through any possible withdrawal side effects, all while under medical supervision. During this stage, medical professionals will actively monitor the person’s overall health and nutritional intake, helping his body become stronger and better able to recover from the addiction.

The next stage of recovery usually involves rehabilitation. Here the person engages in different kinds of therapies, with the goal of helping the person learn both how his addiction developed and how he can manage it and any other possible psychological issues in the future. Many addiction centers realize the importance of nutrition in the recovery process, and thus offer different types of nutritional counseling along with traditional psychological-focused therapy. The person may receive counseling from dieticians about ways to incorporate healthier eating habits into his life. He will likely also learn the importance of staying hydrated and eating meals regularly, as these habits can further strengthen his body and help him overcome drug cravings.

The final and ongoing stage of recovery is returning to regular life, where the person must use the skills he learned in therapy to live a drug-free and healthy life. In this stage, the person should practice the good nutrition habits he learned in therapy, and should work to keep his body as healthy and disease-free as possible to keep him on the path of recovery.

Where to Find More Information about Nutrition and Addiction Recovery

Nutrition is an essential aspect of addiction recovery. In order to regain and maintain overall health, a person must practice healthy eating habits while also continuing abstinence from the substance. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction and the negative health effects related to it, please give us a call at 615-490-9376. Our admissions coordinators are available to answer your questions about addictions and health. We also have several treatment centers across the country that provide integrated treatment for addictions, and we can help you find the one that best fits your needs.

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