While healthy eating is crucial for all of us, nutrition plays a particularly key role in those who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Many individuals suffering with an addiction tend not to eat very well. While some substances suppress the appetite, others trigger overeating.

Effects of Addiction on the Body

Substance abuse can cause a range of both long and short-term health issues. Here are some of the most commonly abused substances and how they affect physical health:

Opiate Drugs
Opiates like heroin, morphine, oxycontin and codeine can damage the intestinal organs. Users experience constipation while using them as well as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea while in withdrawal from them.

Alcohol can damage a number of internal organs, namely the liver. However, it can also effect the pancreas, which regulates fat and sugar levels in the body. Alcoholism can also lead to diabetes, heart problems, malnutrition, cognitive disorders and seizure.

Stimulant drugs such as cocaine and meth tend to decrease the appetite, causing users to become underweight and malnourished. Since energy and alertness is increased, sleep patterns are disrupted, which can lead to malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.

Cannabis commonly stimulates an increase in the appetite which can cause addicted persons to crave fried, fatty, salty and other unhealthy foods.

Benefits of Nutrition During Recovery

From repairing the body to increasing a boost in mood, good nutrition assists many facets of the recovery process:

Organ and tissue rejuvenation.
During an addiction, vital systems and organs can become damaged. Proper diet and nutrition is essential for the body to be able to repair and restore itself during the recovery process.

Mood stabilization.
Consistent nutrition is key to consistent moods and well-being. While substance abuse may have altered the brain’s structure and overall chemistry, good nutrition helps to restore it.

Immune system support.
Addiction can wear down a person’s immune functioning significantly and leave them vulnerable to illness and disease. Good nutrition helps to restore this vital system to optimal health.

Increased energy levels.
When energy levels are balanced and consistent, the risk of cravings and relapse is greatly reduced. Optimal nutrition supports good energy levels all day long, which helps to facilitate the rehab process.

Nutrition and Recovery: Detox

The recovery process has several stages, the first of which is detoxification, or detox. This is the phase in which the patient purges all of the chemical substances out of their system. Detox takes place under medical supervision in which trained professionals monitor the health, well-being and nutrition of the person as they detoxify from the drug. Adequate nutrition is especially crucial at this phase, since the stronger and healthier the person is, the better they will be able to handle this physically taxing process.

Nutritional Support During Rehab
After detox, rehab can begin. Rehabilitation involves therapy as well as behavioral and cognitive counseling in both group and one-on-one settings.

The goal is for the patient to glean insights and self-awareness that allows them to heal the emotional issue or trigger at the root. Optimal nutrition assists patients in being able to process and heal difficult emotions and traumas without becoming too overwhelmed. Ideally, new patterns, habits and behaviors are then formed to replace the destructive ones from the past.

A New, Healthy Approach to Life
These new habits include nutritional ones as well. Addicted individuals often get off-track in terms of their diet and overall health due to focusing on their substance of choice. During rehabilitation, forming healthy eating patterns contribute to both an easier time coping during rehab as well as creating a solid, healthy foundation from which to live going forward. Armed with healthier eating habits and better nutrition, blood sugar and moods become more stable, reducing the risk of cravings and relapse.

Optimal nutrition is crucial to all phases of addiction recovery. It helps to replenish and repair the body during detox, regulate the mood during rehab, stabilize energy levels and reduce cravings going forward. A healthy diet and nutrition plan should be a component that creates a foundation for every addiction treatment program.