The Impact of Proper Nutrition on Your Recovery Journey
Addiction can compromise dietary habits and leave a person feeling run down and low on energy at a time when they need all their strength to survive and heal. Proper regeneration from drug or alcohol dependency requires a healthy mind and body. Good nutrition can play a vital role in helping those in recovery regain what they’ve lost. Without constructive changes in eating habits, it can be challenging to reach the peak of good health, even if someone is committed to overcoming their addiction in a recovery center.
People who abuse drugs and alcohol slowly destroy themselves by putting unhealthy substances in their bodies regularly. The same also happens when people eat junk food, fast food, and processed foods continuously.
Unfortunately, many men and women who abuse drugs and alcohol also abuse food, creating a doubly dangerous situation. Your recovery from substance dependency can be substantially aided if you make the decision to change your nutritional habits for the better. This decision is the first step on the road to sustainable, long-term wellness.
How Addiction Sabotages Good Nutrition
The nutritional habits of someone who has been struggling with addiction are almost always dreadful.
They may forget to eat properly, lack the energy to prepare suitable meals, or crave foods that are high in fat and sugar because their minds and bodies are hopelessly out of balance. Money may be short because of the substance abuse, either because all of it is spent on drugs or alcohol or because the substance abuse has led to chronic unemployment.
When funds are short, that can impact food purchasing decisions, as cheap foods are nutritionally empty. A deepening substance dependency can adversely affect their appetite, causing them to lose strength and weight at a dangerous pace. Conversely, in some instances, they may gain weight if they overeat junk food because it is cheap and easy to find.
People who abuse their bodies through compulsive consumption of drugs, alcohol, and nutritionally empty foods do so because they crave the immediate effects and sensations these substances can provide. They consume to excess when they’re feeling depressed, stressed, frustrated, or discouraged. Afterward, they will feel better—but only for a short while.
These habits perpetuate a self-destructive lifestyle. If left untreated, drug and alcohol dependency will corrupt every area of a person’s life, including their ability to take care of their physical and emotional health. Food is turned into yet another compulsive (but ineffective) coping mechanism, losing its role as a contributor to a person’s overall well being.
Addiction Plus Poor Eating Habits Equals Major Trouble
Poor eating habits are a natural consequence of drug and alcohol dependency. Food abuse combined with substance abuse can have dangerous long-term effects, even beyond the expected impact of such self-sabotaging habits.
Neglect of nutritional needs is hazardous in any instance. But when substance abuse is added to the mix, some of the worst effects of bad eating can be magnified. Malnutrition is one of those dangerous side effects.
Having excessive amounts of drugs or alcohol in your system can create a wide range of chemical imbalances and put a significant strain on your organs. Consequently, your body will become less and less efficient at digesting, absorbing, and using the small quantities of nutrients you choose to feed it. The effects of a bad diet are amplified as the body loses its capacity to process essential nutrients efficiently.
As malnutrition worsens, you may experience vitamin deficiencies, electrolyte imbalances, irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, indigestion or constipation, muscle degeneration, and mental confusion. These symptoms indicate the development of a severe medical problem that can take some time to overcome, even if the substance abuse is stopped and eating habits are changed.
A decline in immune system functioning is another dangerous complication caused by substance abuse and a poor diet.
There is a synergistic relationship between your immune system and the substances you put into your body. Your immune system needs to be fueled by optimal nutritional choices and also protected from toxic exposures to abrasive and poisonous chemicals (like drugs and alcohol). The immune response will lack strength and resiliency if you feed it the wrong substances, and that can leave you vulnerable to viruses and bacterial infections. You’ll become sick much more frequently, experience worse symptoms, and take longer to overcome your illnesses.
How Bad Nutrition Sabotages Recovery From Addiction
A poor diet can have several health consequences. It can increase the risk for:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood swings
- Cognitive decline
None of these outcomes is conducive to recovery from addiction. A person with a substance use disorder will be facing one of the most difficult challenges imaginable once they decide to seek help and pursue sobriety. Physical or mental health issues can undermine their determination, sap them of the energy they need to keep going once the recovery process starts, and in some cases force them to leave the recovery center to seek medical attention for serious medical conditions.
Very few people who manage to overcome their substance abuse issues on a lasting basis can do so while in poor health. Sustainable sobriety is a consequence of overall wellness and vice versa.
How Nutritional Therapy in a Recovery Center Can Boost Your Chances of Recovery
Most top-notch addiction recovery centers offer nutritional therapy as a part of their recovery curriculums. They also serve meals that are well-balanced and healthy, as they encourage and support their clients’ efforts to restore their minds and bodies to excellent health.
If you develop healthy nutritional habits after a period of addiction, you’ll feel fresher and more energized. You’ll also be proving to yourself that you can make positive changes and that you have the inner strength and determination to see your commitments through to the end. As you learn to think about food differently and take more control over your eating, you may begin to think differently about your addiction as well. If you can make positive behavioral changes with respect to your diet, there’s no reason you can’t get a handle on your substance use issues.
The best healing centers have adopted a holistic approach to healing and recovery. While their primary focus is on chemical dependency, they realize that sustainable recovery is best promoted through an enthusiastic and comprehensive embrace of wellness in all its aspects. Diet and nutrition are fundamental to living, and changing eating habits can have a profound effect on every part of a person’s life.
Preserving Your Sobriety and Maintaining Good Eating Habits
After you’ve completed a residential recovery program and returned to your home, you’ll need to stay focused on healing and regeneration. This step naturally means participating in an aftercare program that will help you stay drug- and alcohol-free and staying on the correct path nutritionally.
Either on your own, with the help of loved ones, or in consultation with nutritional experts, you should make an exhaustive list of all the foods you should be eating and those you shouldn’t. From then on, you should make all of your meal and snack choices based on the content of that list without variation. If you’ve decided to include the occasional indulgence in your food menu (i.e., the occasional ice cream cone, a trip to a fast-food restaurant every other Saturday, etc.), stick to your original plan and never overindulge.
If you remain faithful to your nutritional plan for the long term, it will help you preserve and protect your physical, mental, and emotional health. Good nutrition is its own reward since it can boost your mood and energy levels and leave you feeling more hopeful about everything.
But your success in changing your nutritional habits will also empower you as a person. You’ll build your self-esteem and self-confidence by proving to yourself that you can rise above your past mistakes and make dramatic improvements in your life. With your newfound inner strength, you’ll be able to overcome your substance abuse issues just as you did your harmful eating habits.