The Contribution of Nutrition
The role of nutritional education and support in addiction treatment is often overlooked, and that is a shame because the truth is good nutrition can be a very important element of long-term recovery. Not only do proper dietary habits help alleviate painful symptoms caused by chemicals doing damage to the body; they also help the body to actually repair and heal itself. The role of nutritional therapy in addiction treatment can be complex, because the nutritional risks vary depending on the particular substance and negative conditions that develop as a result.
Palm Partners Recovery Center recognizes the crucial contribution nutritional therapy makes toward comprehensive addiction recovery. Our program uses this knowledge to help clients not only to sustain a healthy recovery, but to also promote making healthier choices for a healthy mind and body. That is why we have tailored the variety of foods we serve to our clients to meet some common dietary needs for people struggling with substance abuse. We also offer groups to explain the importance of nutrition in recovery.
Lack of Nutrition and Addiction
What most people don’t realize is that lack of proper nutrition can actually contribute to substance abuse. Experts state that macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies can lead to feelings of:
- Low energy
Each of these feelings is often part of what cause individuals to start using drugs or alcohol in the first place. While there are usually other factors contributing to these problems, they are only made worse by the body not having a proper nutritional balance.
On the other hand, substance abuse itself generally leads to a lack of proper nutrition. This is usually either the result of not eating enough throughout the day, or due to an individual struggling with addiction eating foods that are low in necessary nutrients. Furthermore, there are specific substances that can suppress the appetite, while other substances can lead to an increase in appetite, causing weight gain. Either way, this imbalance can disrupt metabolic and neuroendocrine regulation, causing improper calorie consumption and impaired nutrient processing.
Prolonged substance use disorder can also have a devastating impact on vitamin and mineral deficiencies that threaten both physical and mental health. This damages vital organs and even the nervous system itself, all the while impeding the body’s natural immune system.
Using Nutrition to Fight Addiction
Proper nutrition and hydration are both essential to the substance abuse healing process because they help restore physical and mental health and improve the chance of recovery. The top ways nutrition is used to combat addiction include:
Low blood sugar, dehydration, high levels of caffeine, and an unbalanced diet are all factors that can contribute to drug cravings, suggesting that poor eating habits lead to an increased risk of relapse. Encouraging balanced meals and a consistent eating schedule can help decrease this risk. Generally, a diet relatively high in complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat and sugar is recommended to help sustain recovery.
There are two kinds of malnutrition related to addiction. First, primary malnutrition occurs when the substance replaces other dietary nutrients. The other is secondary malnutrition, which is what happens when the diet is adequate, but the individual still experiences improper nutrient metabolism, absorption, utilization, or excretion. Patients struggling with multiple addictions show increased deficiencies due to malnutrition. The goal of overcoming malnutrition in addiction treatment is to correct any deficiencies, while providing an adequate diet, and addressing any alterations that need to be made to the diet due to oral, digestive, or metabolic issues.
Preventing Metabolic Syndrome
Drug abuse, especially the abuse of alcohol, is commonly associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. This condition is characterized by increased abdominal obesity, hyperglycemia, abnormal cholesterol, and hypertension. Substance abuse contributes to this condition by increasing cell damage, reduced energy production, reducing antioxidant potential in cells, and enhancing excitotoxicity. It can be a curcial component of addiction recovery to counsel clients on lifestyle changes that decrease their risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is important. This includes encouraging exercise, dietary changes to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and maintaining healthy weight goals.
Balance in Eating Habits
Nutrition is also about helping people establish healthy and manageable eating habits. Often people who go through a detoxification period will gain weight through the process, as they turn to food instead of drugs to fill cravings. Biochemical changes in the body lead to increases in appetite, and many experience confusion regarding cues for hunger/fullness as they adjust. As we mentioned above, for some this weight gain can be beneficial and important, but for others is can create a new risk. Not to mention, eating disorders are extremely prevalent among the population struggling with substance use disorder. Many people struggling with addiction may not even realize they have an eating disorder. Helping people develop and maintain healthy eating habits is a vital part of promoting overall healing and wellbeing.
Supporting Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)
Pharmacotherapy and the use of medications is a common element of modern addiction treatment programs. Some medications are often utilized to improve mood stability and recovery success and to assist with any medical or mental health problems resulting from or co-occurring with detoxification. Meanwhile, Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has become increasingly popular in recent years concerning substance abuse. Nutritional programs should be aware of the side-effects of the medications, and the nutritional implications of these drugs. Then a nutrition specialist can offer some suggestions for dietary decisions that will help support overall health and wellbeing along with whatever medications are present.
Dietary Education for Addiction Treatment
By providing people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse with the proper education about nutrition, Palm Partners believes we give each person a better chance at having a genuinely happy future in recovery. If we want people to be successful in recovery, that doesn’t just mean being abstinent from drugs and alcohol. Being successful in recovery also means living a fulfilled, productive and healthy life. One of the most simple ways we can help our clients reach this goal is by teaching them about the positive and negative impact of what they put into their bodies.
Having true knowledge of how to take better care of yourself is at the core of recovery from addiction, so it only makes sense that helping people understand nutrition’s influence on drug abuse, and vice versa, would make a world of difference. For more information on how Palm Partners Recovery Center highlights the importance of proper nutrition in our treatment program, please call toll-free now to speak with an admissions coordinator.