The Importance of a Good Diet in Recovery

When was the last time you ate three balanced, healthy meals in a day? Do you suffer from an eating disorder that co-occurs with your substance use? Many recovering individuals find it difficult to maintain healthy diets. Chronic substance use often wreaks havoc on the brain and the digestive system to the extent that you do not feel hungry or no longer find food appetizing. Over time, your body’s nutrient intake declines, harming the normal functioning of both your body and your mind. 

For these reasons, rebuilding a healthy lifestyle with a good diet is of primary importance during recovery. Your body not only relies on good food as fuel, but this food also improves your mental and behavioral health for the long run. A healthy diet and sleep patterns are the very first building blocks towards long-term recovery.

Addiction and Unhealthy Diets

Although each type of substance may have certain specific effects on your body, most of them have one thing in common — they all impact how the body absorbs nutrients from food sources. You might have observed that after a person consumes drugs and alcohol, their appetite for regular meals tends to decline. 

Addiction brings with it lifestyle changes. Sometimes one shows a tendency to over-consume fast food instead of a balanced diet. While one’s nutrient intake decreases, their frequency of substance use may increase. In active addiction, there is a tendency to use drugs and alcohol to replace food. As a result, addicted individuals often appear malnourished. 

Addiction not only harms one’s nutrient intake but also damages major organs of the body, such as the pancreas and the liver. Both organs are essential for normal digesting and breaking down toxins in the body. Some particular substances, such as opioids, may also contribute to eating disorders and constipation. These physiological health problems can lead to emotional and mental health issues, such as low self-esteem, anxiety attacks, and depressive disorders.

Nutrients That Help Recovery 

A healthy recovery diet can help the body detox and repair damage. For detox purposes, you can choose foods that help adjust the hormonal imbalance in the body. These include complex carbohydrates, such as peas, beans, lentils, and root vegetables. Additionally, you also need more nutrients to help the body heal while detoxing. 

Apart from the regular food groups such as grains, protein, vegetables, fruits, and dairy, you may also need to consider some vitamin supplements. Depending on which substance you were addicted to, they each cause the deficiency of certain vitamins in the body. For example, alcohol over-consumption often leads to Vitamin B deficiency. Supplementing other vitamins such as C, zinc, magnesium, and calcium can help your immune system. Foods that are high in antioxidants (such as berries) are also good for rebuilding the immune system.

Early recovery is a time of big changes as you are unplugging from drugs and alcohol. The body can react to these changes by showing withdrawal symptoms or infection. Certain foods can help alleviate these problems. For example, one should consume more whole foods that contain the amino acid tyrosine, which helps induce the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine. In early recovery, you might feel low levels of energy and motivation. These tyrosine-rich whole foods are a way to boost dopamine levels naturally.

Making Healthy Diets Part of Your Lifestyle

Eating a good diet should not stop once you leave treatment or move past early recovery. In fact, your long-term recovery depends on it. The best way to do this is to make a healthy diet a part of your post-addiction lifestyle. There are many ways to cultivate a recovery-friendly diet that help support your physiological and mental health. The most important thing is to keep yourself motivated to eat healthily. Make this a primary commitment and personal responsibility. 

Secondly, watch for signs of obsessive or over-eating. Some people may find themselves using food as a replacement for drugs and alcohol. The addictive lifestyle resumes when food becomes an addiction. Some people shift from substance addiction to sugar and caffeine addiction. You need to consider these unhealthy eating habits as harmful to the body as drugs and alcohol. Moderation is the key, and the body likes a natural rhythm.

Lastly, always remember the basic structure of a healthy, sustainable diet. It consists of natural, not processed, foods. It is complex with multiple categories, not overindulging in any single one. It is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. The goal for a long-term healthy diet is universal, not just for recovering individuals. Your goal of maintaining a healthy diet is just to restore the body’s natural rhythm of nutrition intake. Since our diet impacts our mood, whenever you experience mood swings or decreased energy, consider these as signs of the body’s signaling to you. Examine your recent diet and make adjustments. 

Do you know that addiction and an unhealthy diet can act as a vicious cycle? Have you suffered symptoms of malnutrition and eating disorders during active addiction? Do you know that a healthy lifestyle with a good diet can boost your chance of full recovery? There is a lot we can learn about nutritional aspects of recovery. At South Florida Intervention, we are glad to help you understand and cope with these challenges. Our experienced interventionists have helped many people navigate detox treatment and recovery. They match you with treatment plans with healthy diet coaching. Because we believe in a holistic approach to sustainable recovery, South Florida Intervention provides recovery coaching and nutritional counseling. We are also professionals in case management to ensure that your needs are all cared for. We also provide sober escort and parent coaching. Call us at (202) 390-2273. We want to hear about your challenges. We are committed to walking alongside you towards healing.