Nutrition, Substance Abuse, and Addiction
With substance abuse and addiction, an individual’s body is drained of the nutrients needed to support individual cell health. This lack of nutrients in the cells further depletes a body’s reserve nutrients and can even lead to the breakdown of a person’s organs.
When an individual ceases abusing substances, they stop doing damage to their immune system, organs, and cells. However, it is important to rebuild the body’s health, and good nutrition promotes this process of healing and recovery.
Recovery begins to change things and can reverse some of these adverse effects by nutrition.
How Substance Abuse Affects a Person’s Nutrition Habits
When under the influence of substances or addiction, a suitable diet with nutrient-rich food is simply not a priority. Money, time, and energy are spent in order to find and use the substance of choice. As a result of this, one’s nutritional and dietary habits suffer. Unhealthy eating habits can include the following:
- Binge eating or overeating. When coming down from a high, a person may try to satisfy their cravings for more drugs by eating more food.
- Not eating enough or malnutrition. Many commonly abused substances and alcohol function to suppress the appetite.
- Eating unhealthy food leading to nutrient deficiencies. These may include fast food, foods with high sodium, processed foods, and inexpensive “junk” foods that are convenient but provide no benefit to the body’s natural systems.
Even if a person is living a so-called “normal” life and is functioning in society, one’s eating habits have to propensity to change drastically during substance use. Moreover, the longer someone makes poor dietary decisions about the food they are eating, the more likely they are to struggle with adverse health consequences.
Adverse Effects of Poor Diet and Nutrition
The longer one has lived with addiction or substance abuse, the longer they have likely had unhealthy eating habits. Over time, this can do immense damage to the body, organs, cells, and day-to-day quality of life. How it impacts a person depends on a number of factors, which may include the amount of time, severity of nutrient depletion, and the type of substances that have been used.
The most common results from unhealthy eating habits and nutrient deficiencies can include:
- Unhealthy weight loss
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses
- Muscle and bone degeneration
- Low body temperature, which can limit optional cell health
- Cognitive impairment, which may include slower cognitive processes and speaking difficulty
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Heart diseases, including heart failure, palpitations, and higher risk of stroke
- Compromised immune system, which increases the risk of infection and illness
How Good Nutrition Optimizes Recovery
In a study published by the Journal of Traditional Medicine and Clinical Naturopathy, researchers found that proper nutrition is central to the success of the recovery process and prevention of relapse. The cognitive clarity, mental focus, and strong immune system facilitated by proper nutrition all contribute to the recovery process.
Since poor nutrition and dietary habits can lead to both physical and psychological deficits, a person’s body is often physically unable to resist cravings during the recovery process.
How Can Someone Recover Physically from Substance Abuse?
Professional treatment is the best place to start. Since the body is a complex mechanism, it is best to seek out the advice and treatment of professional experts on how to rejuvenate one’s physical, mental, and emotional faculties after substance abuse and addiction.
Once a person has completed treatment, often in a treatment or recovery center, they can gain further understanding on how to strategize meeting their needs. This includes making a plan toward good nutrition, healthy eating habits, and overall stability.
Many people see a return of appetite during the recovery process once symptoms of withdrawal subside or cease altogether. Here, it becomes essential to begin to seek support from nutrition and dietary professionals. With their help, a person can learn how to eat as well as what to eat in order to improve their health, not just “survive.” A person’s nutrition plan might include tasks such as:
- Healing a vitamin or mineral deficiency with natural supplements or certain fruits and vegetables
- Consuming enough calories to stimulate the body’s natural metabolism and to maintain energy levels suitable for one’s age and weight
- Eating nutrient-rich foods in order to promote healthy cognitive function and the processes the body needs to heal itself
- Offering treatment options for any physical conditions or complications that have occurred due to substance abuse, such as organ damage or muscle degeneration
- Making creative meal plans based on tastes a person enjoys—this will encourage the person in recovery to continue with their healthy eating habits and even begin to crave healthy food.
When a person becomes stable at a recovery center, they may find themselves ready to regulate their own eating and dietary habits with the skills and discipline they have gained. By learning more about nutrition, what the body needs, and how to establish good bodily care will help prevent relapse and encourage autonomous, healthy living.
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects to the success of the recovery process. Finding the place and support is the key to breaking the cycle of substance abuse addiction, as well as the unhealthy eating habits that often accompany them. After all, who doesn’t want to live a vibrant, healthy life?