The Importance of Good Nutrition in Recovery

Michelle Rosenker

August 16, 2019

Substance use disorders possess the potential to completely and entirely devastate every aspect of one’s wellbeing — including their diet. When someone is hooked on drugs or alcohol, chances are he or she is not focused much on maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet. Instead, it is more likely that the user is eating whatever he or she can get along the way or whatever is easiest to put together home. Also, since active substance abuse occurs around-the-clock, it is common for a user to eat at random times during the day and night.

When someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol and decides to get help, it can be easy to think that once the use stops, the body begins functioning normally again. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth, as certain substances can damage and deplete the body to the point where professional intervention is needed to rebuild a healthy body. For example, consider how the following substances impact the body:

  • Opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers often cause constipation, especially when they are being abused. This gastrointestinal issue can cause someone to lose their appetite entirely or not want to eat much of anything because of that bloated feeling.
  • Cocaine and other stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin speed up bodily functions to a point where they actually suppress one’s appetite. Therefore, someone who is abusing a stimulant may not even think about eating much and skip meals or forego snacks, leaving space for malnourishment to develop.
  • Marijuana increases appetite, which is great for those who utilize this drug for medicinal purposes because they struggle eating due to a diagnosed health problem, however it is not so good for those who are abusing it recreationally. Getting stoned on marijuana often results in wanting to eat more food that one normally would when not under the influence, therefore if someone is abusing this substance regularly, he or she is consuming food at an excessively high rate. This can lead to obesity and diabetes.

So, when someone reaches out for addiction treatment and ends his or her active abuse, it is not only important that he or she works to prevent him or herself from abusing those substances again, but it is also imperative that he or she focuses on how to incorporate good nutrition into their recovery.

Benefits of Good Nutrition in Recovery

Studies suggest that maintaining a good and well-rounded diet can help prevent against certain physical health problems like heart disease and some cancers, while it can also help to improve basic human functioning by promoting restful sleep and increased mood. When it comes to those in recovery, these benefits (plus several others) could not be needed more because of the shape that they are in post-active addiction. At this time, instilling healthy eating habits can help to lay the foundation for a successful recovery.

Consider the following:

  • Issues such as sleep problems (such as insomnia or over sleeping) can be prevented when the right foods are being consumed. This is important for those in recovery because productive sleep can keep those in recovery energized and focused rather than cause them to be lethargic and unmotivated.
  • Eating well helps to prevent relapse by keeping recovering users in a healthy physical state, which in turn helps to improve the mental state. When one’s mental state is able to be managed well, relapse becomes less of a threat.
  • Maintaining a balanced diet is not always easy, but once someone knows how to do it, it becomes habitual, which can have a domino effect in other areas of one’s life. For example, someone with a good diet is more likely to want to exercise, which can quickly become a beneficial “habit” in his or her recovery.
  • Poor diets have shown to increase headaches and a general feeling of being unwell, which can erode away at one’s resolve when in recovery. It can become easy to make excuses for using again if it helps to alleviate physical pain or distress
  • Specific foods can help do specific things in the body. For instance, someone who is in recovery from alcohol use disorder may very well have a thiamine deficiency. Thiamine works to keep the tissues of vital organs healthy, so not having enough in the body can cause major health problems. Good nutrition in recovery can help to reverse those deficiencies, which can also reverse the risk for further health problems.

Another reason why good nutrition is so important in recovery is because many people who are healing from their substance use disorder are also healing from a co-occurring eating disorder. Learning how to utilize food as a way to care for the body is critical, especially when helping those who have struggled with anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders. Establishing good habits surrounding diet is a necessity in this case.

Eating Healthy in Melbourne

Long-Term Impacts of Good Nutrition in Recovery

Recovery is a constantly evolving process, meaning that individuals who are no longer abusing drugs or alcohol are going to need to work on their recovery on a regular basis. Part of this work will include sticking to a healthy diet for the long-term, as doing so can help with the following:

  • Improve the health and functioning of vital organs
  • Help reduce illness
  • Aid in the development of other healthy habits that can be carried out long-term (such as getting enough sleep)
  • Continue to support a life of sobriety, as giving in to a poor diet can also lead to giving in to substance abuse

JourneyPure in Melbourne Can Help

If you are looking to stop your substance abuse and begin recovery, look no further than our Melbourne location. We can help you end the physical act of abuse and begin focusing on the treatments that will aid in the development of a happy, healthy life free from drugs or alcohol.