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Nutrition in Recovery: Healing the Body from Within

Your body uses the sustenance you provide to power you physically and mentally. When your diet consists of unhealthy foods and empty calories, this can significantly contribute to poor mental and physical health.

In this blog on the role of nutrition in recovery, we’ll look at the following:

The Power of Nutrition in the Detox Process

Drug and alcohol addiction impacts metabolism, organ function, and mental well-being, and they can hinder the body’s ability to absorb, digest, and use nutrients effectively. During detox, you must fill up on vitamin and nutrient-rich foods to aid in repairing the damage of substance abuse.

Restoring Nutritional Balance

During the detox process, you may experience intense cravings and side effects like anxiety, irritability, and fatigue. While these symptoms aren’t entirely avoidable, having a balanced diet can fight against them, providing nutrients that improve your mood and health. 

Likewise, substance abuse contributes to nutritional deficiencies that harm organs and imbalance the body. As your body pushes out the substance, you must replace it with the vitamins and minerals vital to your health. 

Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies in substance abusers include vitamins B1, B6, and folic acid (a group called “B vitamins”). Without adequate B vitamins, your body is at risk of anemia and nervous system problems. Re-introducing these vitamins into your diet during detox can aid in healing your liver and other vital organs.

Detoxifying the Body

A medical detox pushes all the toxins from your body, not just the substance. You’ll experience withdrawal symptoms as well as your brain craves the substance it has become dependent on. 

Your doctor will recommend a diet rich in antioxidants during this time to aid in repairing cellular damage, increase the immune system and energy, boost mental health, hydrate, and stabilize blood sugar levels. Your body is already out of wack due to substance abuse, so detox will come with extreme changes (elimination of the substance) that can impact the medical detox process.

Building a Healthy Diet in Recovery

Substance abuse can suppress appetite and lead to significant minerals and vitamin deficiencies. Recovery is a great time to establish a balanced and healthy diet. Your body has detoxed from the drug or alcohol and is in the process of rebuilding itself. 

Most addiction treatment centers have a nutritionist on staff (including Harmony Junction) who can help you create a strong diet plan suitable for you.

Foods to Focus On

Antioxidants

Antioxidants strengthen the immune system, which is easily compromised by alcohol or drug use. They also help slow or prevent cellular damage caused by substance abuse.

Sources of Antioxidants

  • Berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
  • Red grapes
  • Peaches
  • Figs
  • Watermelon
  • Tomatoes
  • Papaya
  • Cherries

Fiber-Rich Foods

Fiber promotes a healthier gastrointestinal system and removes toxins in the body. Foods high in fiber supply B vitamins, which are one of the primary deficiencies in those with an alcohol use disorder (B1 deficiency affects 80% of alcoholics).

Sources of High-Fiber

  • Split peas
  • Black beans
  • Avocado
  • Oats
  • Pears
  • Bananas
  • Carrots
  • Leafy greens (Spinach, kale, bok choy, etc.)

Lean Proteins

Lean proteins are great for long-term energy. When recovering addicts experience energy crashes, this is a common way to trigger cravings and risk relapse. Along with boosting energy levels, lean proteins also leave you feeling full, so you don’t take part in snacking on sweets and other unhealthy foods.

Good Sources of Protein

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Beans

Healthy Fats

Healthy fats refer to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vital for recovery. Substance abuse can seriously hinder the brain and make it difficult to process information and focus. These fats increase cognitive function and activity, as well as decrease inflammation.

Sources of Healthy Fats

  • Oils (olive, canola, sunflower, soy, etc.)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Avocado
  • Olives
  • Coconut
  • Peanut butter

Hydration

Along with keeping to a vitamin and mineral-rich diet, make sure you’re also getting enough water to stay hydrated. Fruits and vegetables can contain a lot of water, but you must still be drinking enough. It’s recommended that women drink around 3.7 liters of water daily and men 2.7 liters.

Foods to Avoid

You’re in a vulnerable state when you’ve detoxed but still need time to repair and recover. That said, you want your diet to contribute to your recovery. That means avoiding foods that won’t leave you feeling full, cause sluggishness, and can harm your body.

High Sugar and Processed Foods

Sugar and processed foods work similarly to drugs and alcohol by triggering the reward system. Nearly 75% of Americans eat sugar in excessive amounts. Sugar is ultimately its own addictive substance, and the last thing you want in recovery is dependence on another substance. 

Both sugar and processed foods can cause imbalances in blood sugar levels and inflammation. The cravings caused can bring out cravings for the drug or alcohol as well. Studies have shown that sugar is linked to mood disorders and chronic diseases, too, which can significantly hinder your recovery.

Unhealthy Fats

Consuming too much unhealthy fats can have serious physical effects like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. As a result, this puts you at greater risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Unhealthy fats also contribute to poorer mood regulation and low energy levels, which can trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol.

Caffeine

Did you know that caffeine is the most used drug worldwide? It may not have as detrimental of side effects as some substances, but caffeine has its own issues that can mix in with recovery. To begin, caffeine in large quantities can trigger anxiety, which increases the risk of relapse. Likewise, caffeine can hinder vitamin absorption. Caffeine isn’t something that you must entirely eliminate in recovery, but it should be used with discretion.

Your brain uses the foods you consume to power and function. When you eat a balanced diet, your brain can provide clearer thinking, concentration, and focus. Your body is impacted, too. Good nutrition gives you more energy to prevent burnout and fatigue.

Diet and Emotional Stability

Eating poorly can contribute to feeling down or unbalanced emotionally, but improving your diet can boost your physical and mental well-being. Consider the statistics on nutrition and mental health below.

  • The risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat a healthy diet.
  • In a study of 120 children, eating fast food, sugar, and soft drinks was linked to a higher likelihood of having diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • One study found strong correlations between reduced anxiety and increased intake of fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Results from a study revealed that too much butter and animal-fat spreads, along with high-fat cheese and not enough fresh fruits and vegetables, were strongly linked to depressive symptoms.

Implementing Nutritional Strategies at Harmony Junction Recovery

Harmony Junction’s recovery programs provide patients with nutrition and fitness plans that fit their needs. We believe that your mental and physical health plays a significant role in substance abuse and must be addressed early on. 

Our nutritionist will work with you to create a nutrition plan that targets your needs and nutritional goals. Learn more today by contacting us. We look forward to hearing from you.