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The Role of Nutrition in Recovery

nutrition addiction recovery

Addiction recovery is a complex and multifaceted journey that involves physical, mental, and emotional healing. While traditional approaches focus on therapy, counseling, and support groups, the role of nutrition in addiction recovery has gained increasing recognition in recent years. A balanced, nutrient-rich diet plays a crucial role in supporting individuals through the challenging process of overcoming addiction. Plus, March is National Nutrition Month.

“Food for humans is not unlike fuel for your car, in that neither runs well on fumes,” said Kelly Brey, Ph.D., Executive Director of Northpoint Colorado. “Recovery is a beautiful time to relearn how to fill your tank with premium.”

The Impact of Substance Abuse on the Body

Substance abuse often leads to nutritional deficiencies, as individuals in the throes of addiction may neglect their dietary needs. Deficiencies in nutrition and proper diet can compromise physical and mental health, hindering the recovery process.

Alcohol

When it comes to alcohol abuse, the most common nutritional deficiencies are of the B vitamins—B1, B6, and folic acid. The lack of these nutrients can cause anemia and problems in the nervous system. 

One of the more notorious nervous system disorders that can occur as a result of long-term alcohol abuse is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, or “wet brain” syndrome, which can develop with an extended lack of the B1 vitamin.

Alcohol abuse also damages the liver and pancreas, both of which play a major role in supplying nutrition to the rest of the body. The liver removes toxins while the pancreas regulates blood sugar and the absorption of fat. If either organ suffers damage via long-term alcohol use, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cirrhosis of the liver soon follow. Fortunately, effective alcohol treatment and recovery can help stop and possibly reverse damage to these organs.

Opiates and Opioids

Opiates and opioids—including codeine, oxycodone, heroin, and morphine—wreak havoc on the gastrointestinal system. Constipation is a common side effect of opioid and opiate abuse, as is diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms often lead to a lack of nutrients and an imbalance of necessary electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride.

Stimulants

Stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine reduce the user’s appetite, leading to weight loss and malnutrition. Meanwhile, users of stimulants often stay up for days at a time. During times when they are using, stimulants users may experience dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.

What is the Role of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery?

The role of nutrition in addiction recovery can be crucial. From stabilizing blood sugar levels to strengthening the gut-brain connection, proper nutrition promotes health and wellness in recovery. A few of the ways in which nutrition promotes addiction recovery include:

Hydration and Detoxification

While it is sometimes overlooked, hydration is vital for overall health and detoxification, especially during the early stages of recovery. It is important that those in recovery get enough fluids both during and in between meals. Water intake supports organ function. By the same measure, dehydration exacerbates physical and mental stress, hindering recovery.

Stabilizing Blood Sugar Levels

Stabilizing blood sugar levels is important to maintaining physical and mental health in recovery. Blood sugar levels that vary widely can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and drug cravings, making recovery even more challenging than it already is. A diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, and protein can help regulate blood sugar levels.

Neurotransmitter Production

Good nutrition in recovery supports the production and proper function of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—are essential for neurotransmitter synthesis. Maintaining a diet with a healthy helping of lean proteins can help restore neurotransmitter imbalances, contributing to better emotional stability and resilience.

Inflammation and Immune Function

Chronic inflammation is common in people with a history of substance abuse. This inflammatory state not only contributes to physical health problems but can also affect mental health. 

A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods—fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids—helps mitigate inflammation. The same diet also supports immune function, which is importance since people might be more vulnerable to infections and other health complications in early recovery.

Of course, nutrition is not just about a balance of individual nutrients. It’s also about inspiring healthy habits. Recovery from addiction provides one with the opportunity to establish a foundation of health and wellness, partially with wise food choices. Also, preparing nutritious meals fosters a sense of control and self-reliance, which can be essential in disrupting the cycles of addiction.

Find Help and Feel Better with Northpoint Colorado Today

Looking for compassionate, comprehensive care from a team of medical professionals? At Northpoint, Colorado, we offer a holistic approach to treatment, incorporating various therapies, activities, and support systems to promote our clients’ well-being. Of course, we also promote good nutrition in addiction recovery. Don’t let addiction keep you from enjoying life. Call us today at  970.627.6316 or reach out through our online form.