Why A Healthy Diet Aids Addiction Recovery
What you eat matters, especially in recovery. A healthy diet aids recovery in many ways. Here’s why. Following a healthy, well-balanced diet is crucial for people living in recovery. A nutrient-dense diet will help recovering addicts recover from malnutrition and build a solid foundation from which they can start their new, drug-free journey. The nutrition of recovering addicts often takes a back seat to other health concerns, but the verdict is clear—many addicts suffer from malnutrition as a result of their addiction.
Developing healthy eating habits early in the recovery process will help combat malnutrition help addicts get the necessary nutrients to get healthy, clean, and avoid relapse. But first, how does substance abuse negatively affect the digestive system?
Drug abuse changes our body’s ability to absorb and process nutrients either directly through damage to our internal organs or indirectly through behavioral changes that result in poorer nutrition. Different substances will have different effects on the body, but, in general, abundant alcohol, opioid, and stimulant abuse will have an adverse impact on the digestive system.
Substances such as alcohol will damage the tissues responsible for breaking down and absorbing the essential vitamins and minerals found in food. If a body doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs, it will eventually suffer from chronic malnutrition, which comes with its own health risks.
Drug abuse can lead to a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, from chronic diarrhea to stomach ulcers. Alcohol thins the tissues of the GI tract, which can lead to perforation of the bowels.
Opioids and stimulants can suppress feelings of hunger which leads to a drug addict either not wanting to eat or forgetting to eat altogether. This can lead to unhealthy weight loss and malnutrition.
It takes a lot of water for your body to metabolize alcohol, opioids, and other drugs. Many addicts who are trapped in cycles of drug abuse might not have the ability to remember to drink enough water, making their bodies dehydrated and in dire need of fluids.
Being addicted to drugs affects a person’s priorities. As their addiction drives them further and further down a path of drug abuse, they may not feel the need to eat three meals a day, seek out healthy meals, or watch what they eat.
Many addiction treatment centers understand the importance of proper nutrition in helping recovering addicts revitalize their minds and bodies. While enrolled in rehabilitation programs, addicts formulate a meal plan with physicians and nutritionists whether or not the treatment is residential or outpatient.
In one study, 88% of adults entering drug rehabilitation centers were determined by clinicians to have poor overall nutritional health and lacked adequate knowledge about nutrition.
Eating high-quality food at regular intervals helps addicts in two definitive ways.
- It supplies their bodies with the proper amount of nutrients, slowly reversing the effects of malnutrition and helping them feel better physically and emotionally.
- Keeping regular meals and learning meal preparation skills helps bring structure and order into an addict’s life.
Learning about the importance of nutrition and its impact on the body’s functions can help people living in recovery find value and purpose in making healthy decisions. Recovery is a lifestyle that perfectly complements clean, healthy eating. In recovery, addicts are taught about the need to treat the whole person—not just the symptoms of the disease of addiction. Living healthily in recovery and eating healthily walk hand in hand.
Jenn Walker is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer living unapologetically in recovery.
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