When you are in recovery, you already have a lot on your plate in terms of getting healthy and getting your life back on track. It might not seem important to focus on diet and nutrition in recovery, or you might just feel like you don’t have any more energy to put towards it because of everything else that you are dealing with. However, maintaining a healthy diet is a lot more important to people who are struggling with (or recovering from) addiction. Drugs and alcohol already put a lot of stress on the body and when it is lacking proper nutrients, it can suffer even more. The combination of addiction and a poor diet often leads to vitamin deficiency, malnutrition, and other health complications. In severe cases, prolonged malnutrition can even lead to death.
Why Nutrition Matters
The body needs fuel to function. That fuel comes from food. However, you can’t just eat any food that you want. There are certain nutrients and types of food that the body requires to function. Furthermore, there are some foods that will actually provide health benefits along with keeping the body supplied with nutrients and fuel. A balanced diet is a key part of any healthy lifestyle. In addiction recovery, it can be even more crucial to your health and wellbeing.
There is no way to undo all of the damage that was done to your body by your addiction. Good nutrition, however, can definitely provide some assistance. First of all, you will feel better overall as your mood improves, and you will have plenty of mental and physical energy to handle the daunting task of recovery. Secondly, you will be providing your body with nutrients that can help repair tissue and organ damage, boost the immune system, and help with nurturing the brain back to health. There is a reason that many rehab centers are focusing on diet and nutrition in recovery: it DOES make a difference.
Not only will a diet be good for your mind and body, but it will give you a process that you can manage and control. While your recovery and the rest of your life might seem a little out of your hands, you can take the anxiety away by focusing on healthy eating habits, finding new and creative recipes, and figuring out how to change your eating lifestyle, not just take on a short-term diet. It is also another way to create structure in your new life in recovery, and to allow you to own your life, even if only in a small way.
The Effects of Addiction on Nutrition and Diet
When someone is struggling with addiction, most of the other areas of their life get forgotten and left behind. They spend all of their time, energy, and money on their addiction, leaving nothing left to worry about things like healthy eating habits or eating a balanced diet. Over time, the body is going to suffer as a result of the lack of proper nutrients combined with the excess amounts of drugs or alcohol in the body.
Many people using drugs and alcohol will find that their appetite is suppressed while using, which often causes them to forget to eat regularly. Some people might forget to eat because they are high, or simply not feel hungry enough to eat when they should. The most common issue between addiction and nutrition is usually monetary: people eat poorly or don’t eat at all because they’ve spent all their money on drugs or alcohol and can’t afford food. This can lead to serious cases of malnutrition and other health issues and is more common than you might think.
Another effect that addiction has on your diet is the habit of binge eating. Smoking pot, for example, increases the body’s metabolism and creates the resulting hunger commonly referred to as “the munchies”. This could cause someone to binge eat an excessive amount of food, most of which probably won’t be very nutritious. With some drugs, people suddenly gain an insatiable appetite once they come down from the high. They will likely eat until they are well-beyond full until the craving subsides. Over time, these effects will take a serious toll on your body and the overall state of health.
Abusing drugs or alcohol on a consistent basis, combined with poor diet and nutrition, can lead to many health issues. Most commonly, people are diagnosed with a condition known as malnutrition. This is identified by symptoms like:
- Low body temperature
- Muscle degeneration
- Suppressed immune system
- Vitamin deficiency
- Mental/Cognitive impairment
- Abnormal heart rate
- Electrolyte imbalance
Other Things to Consider
-Alcohol abuse can damage the pancreas and liver, which are important to many of the body’s most necessary functions. Without a proper diet to help maintain health and balance, the prolonged use of alcohol can cause serious medical issues such as alcohol-induced pancreatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.
-Diet is especially important for people who are addicted to alcohol. Alcohol affects the breakdown and absorption of nutrients in the body, and over time can cause serious vitamin deficiency. This deficiency can eventually lead to more serious medical conditions.
-Stimulants often suppress appetite, and sometimes even become abused for that specific reason as a quick way to lose weight. This can lead to a lot of issues, such as tooth decay, hair loss, open sores, confusion or memory issues, irregular periods, and even death.
-Even without the effects of drugs and alcohol, nutrition plays a huge role in the health and wellbeing of your body, both physically and mentally. In addiction recovery, your goal is total health and wellness, which includes a proper diet. As your body starts healing, your immune system will improve. Other differences include increased energy, a better mood, and better mental clarity and memory. Recovery isn’t just about the addiction; it’s about treating the whole person and this plays a big part.