A well-balanced diet is an essential building block for a healthier lifestyle for everyone, but especially individuals in addiction recovery. Drug and alcohol use can impact everything from appetite to absorption of nutrients to mental health. When the body is not properly nourished, you may experience a variety of symptoms including low energy, low blood sugar, gastrointestinal issues, weak immune system, foggy thinking, irritability, and more.
Substance use can take a toll on your appetite. While it causes some people to eat too little, others may find that they overeat. Food choices are not always the healthiest either. Drugs and alcohol can cause you to crave sugary or processed foods that have little nutritional value. Plus, if much of your income is going toward supporting addiction, there is not much left for buying healthy foods such as fresh produce and lean meats.
Long-term substance use can also contribute to malnutrition. It can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and process a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. In turn, your body can become deficient in these areas. Malnutrition impacts your growth and development, cell and organ health, and the ability to fight off illness and disease. Even if you are trying to eat a healthy diet, your body may not be able to properly process these foods because of the impact of drugs or alcohol.
Establishing a Healthier Diet in Recovery
Effective recovery from addiction is about more than just avoiding drug or alcohol use. While that is a major component, recovery also involves addressing the impact that substance use has had on physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health. That means participating in a program that takes a comprehensive approach to treating addiction, and this includes nutrition education.
You don’t have to transform your entire diet overnight; in fact, this can be too much for your body to handle all at once. Start by slowly integrating healthier habits into your routine. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and help flush out toxins. Limit the amount of caffeine you drink because this can actually make you more dehydrated and decrease your appetite.
When it comes to preparing meals, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables which are a natural source of many essential nutrients. They can also be high in fiber which helps you stay feeling fuller longer and aids in digestion.
- Eat lean meats and fatty fish for more protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid processed foods that are often filled with sodium and artificial ingredients. Focus on eating fresh foods
- Limit the amount of sugar you eat to help stabilize your blood sugar.
- Choose whole grains and complex carbohydrates over refined carbohydrates.
Making a conscious effort to transform your diet can help to repair some of the damage done by substance use. You’ll notice that as you’re eating healthier, you begin to look and feel better. It can take some time for your body and mind to adjust, but it is beneficial in the long run, especially as you begin noticing changes.
Crossroads supports clients in developing healthier eating habits and understanding the impact that drugs and alcohol can have on health and well-being. A well-balanced diet and regular exercise are important parts of an effective recovery plan. It is not too late to turn your health around and make changes to support your addiction recovery.
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