The saying you are what you eat is one of the most common we hear in our lifetime. As children, our parents would often repeat that phrase ad nauseum in order to motivate us to eat those healthy things that crowded our dinner plates. While it may come off as simplistic, nostalgic and even a bit corny, there is a ring of truth to that statement. What we put into our bodies not only affects our physical being and the way we look, diet affects mood to an even greater degree. This is especially true for those who are navigating the often treacherous waters of early addiction recovery.
For those who are in the recovery community, there is a belief that is commonly held those in recovery should allow themselves to indulge in all the sweets, fats, and junk food they want when overcoming a drug and/or alcohol addiction. For those who are in early recovery, they may feel there is little to no harm with indulging in junk food and sweets–especially in relation to the bigger beast of addiction. This line of reasoning, however, can cause significant problems down the road. If a newly recovering addict does not address their nutritional needs, their diet can affect their mood to a degree in which they can relapse.
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Why Diet is So Important in Addiction Recovery
For people who enter drug treatment, they face significant nutritional dilemmas. First and foremost, the act of taking substances wreaks havoc on the body in a number of ways. For example, some substances such as alcohol blocks the body from breaking down and assimilating essential nutrients which results in nutritional deficiencies. On the other hand, opiates such as heroin and morphine tend to cause gastrointestinal issues, and nutrient depletion can occur due to the vomiting and diarrhea that occurs as a result of withdrawal.
Secondly, newly recovering addicts enter treatment malnourished or undernourished due to their lifestyle. Addicts are less likely to eat healthfully, and depending on the drug people can either eat too much or too little. An excellent example of this second point regards those who are alcoholics. At the height of their addiction, alcoholics often derive as much as half of their daily calories from alcohol itself. Ultimately, the need for the addictive substance is prioritized over the need for eating healthy and insuring they are taking in high-quality and nutrient-dense food.
In addition to detoxification, therapy and other treatment services, nutritional therapy is vital in not only improving physical health–diet also improves mood and can help give those new in recovery the boost they need to move forward with confidence. Additionally, research suggests that the having proper nutritional coaching during the early stages of treatment can increase participants’ success in achieving recovery.
How Diet Helps Improve Mood and Health
The main way which diet positively affects mood is the fact that proper nutrition helps give newly recovering addicts energy, helps rebuild and repair tissues and organs that were damaged due to substance abuse and it strengthens one’s immune system. Being able to create and stick to a balanced diet as part of an individual plan of recovery helps heal the body in mind, body and spirit–and once all three areas are adequately addressed the less likely those new in recovery to revert back to drugs and alcohol. Proper diet affects mood positively in the fact that it can alter the physiological and chemical structure of the brain, and certain foods can help increase the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin which can enhance mood.
Foods that are high in B vitamins such as almonds, spinach, fish, and whole grains ease symptoms of depression and helps build the cardiovascular system which helps boost energy. One of the biggest obstacles in improving mood in recovery regarding diet is not eating enough. Going long periods without food can cause a severe drop in blood sugar. A great tip to keep in mind is to eat several smaller meals each day and if the need to snack arises, people should eat healthy snacks such as carrots, grapes and almonds. It is also helpful to drink plenty of water in order to keep hydrated and to significantly reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugars and processed foods from their diet.
How Diet Can Negatively Impact Mood
The impact of one’s diet in their recovery cannot be stated enough. There are instances in which poor diet affects mood in a negative way. As mentioned in the previous section, those who don’t eat on a regular basis blood sugar levels plummet and it can cause wide swings in one’s mood. Another way in which diet negatively impacts mood is if people abandon taking in carbohydrates. While there are carbohydrates that should be avoided, the body needs carbohydrates in order to produce serotonin. Additionally, people who don’t eat foods like seafood which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are prone to depression and fatigue. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only found in seafood, they are also found in ground flaxseeds, walnuts, canola oil, and omega-3-fortified eggs. People who eat a diet that is high in saturated fat can also experience a drop in their mood. Meals that are high in fats will almost instantly make you feel sluggish because the body expends more energy in trying to process fat, and as a result people can feel more sluggish and tired.
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Proper Nutrition Is The Cornerstone of Long-Term Addiction Recovery
If you are looking for drug treatment for yourself or a loved one, it is very important to look for those facilities that offer effective nutritional intervention along with essential services such as medical detoxification, therapy, life skills training and relapse prevention education. The addiction professionals at FindAddictionRehabs.com realize that proper diet helps to restore the physical, psychological and spiritual well-being of those who are in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Call FindAddictionRehabs.com toll-free today and make the commitment to break the grip of addiction once and for all.