You know the saying, “your body is your temple”, well for those of us who have spent the last, however many years, putting poisons and random substances into our bodies, it is important that we now make up for lost time. Now let me be clear, I’m not telling you that you have to go vegan or eat only locally grown cows, but maybe just try to limit the Cheetos and McDonalds and energy drinks for breakfast to say… once a week? A healthy diet while in addiction recovery plays a very important role in your success.
A Healthy Diet in Addiction Recovery is Important
Research has proven that what we eat and when directly correlates to our overall well being, duh. So that being said, we already have enough mental and physical obstacles that can slow down our recovery process, is switching to a healthy diet really such a hard thing to do?
Yeah, actually, it kind of is! And here is why; As humans, when we eat, which we must do to survive, our brains produce dopamine, which makes us happy and excited, or if you are me, makes you do a little dance while you eat.
Now for many of us, we have become accustomed to a less than substantial dietary pyramid…pizza, ramen, cookies, candy, ice cream (is this still just me?) and the thing is, these high fat, high sugar, processed foods react in our brains the same way that drugs and alcohol do. When we eat something that has a high sugar level, that dopamine level skyrockets, eventually leading to a sugar crash. So when we are kicking drugs and booze, our brain will naturally settle for an alternative, sugar and junk foods, it gives us the same sort of release that our previous substances provided.
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Reasons Why Nutrition Plays an Important Role in Addiction Recovery
Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to recovery or you have been drug/alcohol-free for a few months, nutrition plays an important role in recovery. Here are a few reasons why:
- Addiction often leads to malnourishment. For those with alcohol addiction, drinking the empty calories that are found in wine, beer, and liquor, creates the false illusion of feeling full. Unfortunately, as a result, many alcoholics fail to eat a healthy diet while they are in active addiction, because the alcohol tricks their body, and also because they usually can’t eat until they have begun drinking.
- As with alcoholics, drug abusers usually feel nauseous or unable to eat until they ingest their drug of choice first. The primary concern on their mind is usually the next fix, rather than the next meal.
- With an internal system that is already plagued by diarrhea, indigestion, constipation, and nausea, adding in the non-healthy food items that are usually the most affordable options for addicts, throws an entirely new obstacle in the bodies fight for regularity.
- Although many of us who are now sober can joke about how we never got sick when we were using, the reality is that addiction can actually severely damage one’s immune system. We only THOUGHT we were never sick because we just masked our symptoms with drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse and the malnutrition that follows completely disrupts the body’s natural defenses against viruses, bacteria, etc. A compromised immune system is often what can lead to kidney and bladder infections, liver damage, throat problems, and stomach issues. Excess stress and alcohol can lead to loss of hair and prematurely balding, in addition to other symptoms related to the skin.
- Addiction can severely damage your liver. Heavy use of drugs or alcohol combined with a decrease in nutrients lowers your liver’s ability to filter toxins. The process triggers a dangerous one-two punch to your body by causing the liver to swell. When this occurs, it increases the likelihood of developing liver cancer and also reduces an already lackluster appetite.
- Addiction destroys your self-esteem. The physical effects of addiction are often quite visible, such as bloodshot eyes, rotting teeth, scarred skin, significant weight loss, or a yellowing complexion. Unfortunately, some of those markers of addiction are still visible after you’ve stopped using and are on the road to recovery, making it very difficult to rebuild your self-esteem.
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Helpful Tips to Get You Started
So If you are wanting to change to a healthy diet and how you eat, here are some helpful tips to get you started.
The Good Fats: Fish, Nuts, Veggies, these are foods that are high in healthy fats and omegas. They are good for the heart and memory function. –Foods like Salmon, Almonds, and Avocado is high in omega 3’s, protein, and B12, which provide natural energy and boost brain functioning. They reduce inflammation, which is important because chronic brain inflammation contributes to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, and even dementia.
The Antioxidants: berries, kale, etc. They are bursting with flavonoids, a group of potent antioxidants that protect brain cells from oxidative damage. They also contain Vitamin C, which acts as a natural antidepressant by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin.
The Proteins: Meat, Nuts, Veggies, etc. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. … Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. It provides us with the energy we need to live on a daily basis. People who lack protein in their diets often report fatigue, frustration, confusion, etc.
The Fermenters: (no, not the booze) microbiome, the bacteria that reside in our intestinal tract. This community of microbes has a powerful and unexpected influence over our brain, causing science to refer to the gut as the “second brain” or the “backup brain. Gut bacteria make over 30 neurotransmitters including serotonin, norepinephrine, acetylcholine, dopamine, and GABA. These bacteria influence your health, your mood, and even the kinds of decisions you make. Foods high in these probiotic fibers include asparagus, bananas, garlic, lentils, mustard greens, onions, tomatoes. Eating probiotic foods alone can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Freedom From Addiction
If you have found yourself or a loved one suffering from alcoholism or addiction, you are not alone! If you are ready to change your life and live free of addiction, then FindAddictionRehabs.com can help. We give you the jump start to recovery you need. Our holistic program is unique in that it doesn’t just treat the addiction, it treats the whole person. For more information on our program, call 1-877-959-7271 today.
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Anna M. joined Find Addiction Rehabs with extensive experience in the field of addiction treatment. As a former Nurse Practitioner in Miami, she found her passion for addiction treatment when a family member was lost to his disease. With each article and resource, she hopes to save other families from experiencing the anguish of a loved one’s passing due to drinking or drugs.