4 Tips to Optimize Nutrition During Addiction Recovery

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Tips to Optimize Nutrition During Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery follows a long path where one may encounter several roadblocks. You may struggle with the temptation to pick the habit again and deal with withdrawal symptoms. A full-blown relapse is even worse. However, the right mindset and therapeutic approach can help you deal with these challenges and stay committed to sobriety.

Addiction rehab often focuses on therapeutic interventions, and nutrition is often an overlooked part of recovery. Research validates that proper nutrition can go a long way in helping the healing process. From providing your body energy to cope with the recovery process to slowing down withdrawal symptoms, it can help in several ways.

In this article, we will dig deep into the significance of optimal nutrition during addiction recovery and highlight the steps to optimize it during rehab.

woman outline with fruit in the picture as her body with quote saying 'your body is a finely tuned vehicle, give it good fuel and it will take you places'

The Impact of Substance Abuse on Nutrition

While each substance has its specific health effects, most of them have similar outcomes when it comes to nutrition. You may experience one or more of these nutrition-related symptoms during your drug or alcohol rehab journey:

  • Poor eating choices, such as a diet high in sugar and unhealthy fat and low in essential nutrients
  • Loss of appetite because most substances suppress hunger or cause people to forget about eating
  • Gastrointestinal disorders that prevent the GI tract from effectively absorbing nutrients in food
  • Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar due to a lack of proper or adequate diet
  • Damage to the vital organs responsible for nutrient breakdown and processing

According to the Canadian Centre for Addictions, nutrition should be at the forefront of rehab programs. Encouraging patients to develop healthy food habits helps build defenses against relapse and withdrawal symptoms. It can also enable them to manage weight, detox faster and fight depression during the challenging recovery journey.

Maintaining Optimal Nutrition During Addiction Recovery

Nutrition plays a significant role in addiction recovery. Research shows that establishing a well-balanced dietary intake and providing tailored nutrition education can improve recovery outcomes. Another study on nutrition and recovery from substance use disorders (SUD) highlights that addiction treatment is more effective when integrated with nutritional support. 

Fortunately, most evidence-based treatment programs value the significance of nutrition during recovery. As a patient, you can do your bit besides seeking dietary guidance and sticking with it. A collaborative effort can set you on the right track. Here are a few measures to ensure optimal nutrition during addiction recovery.

Seek Expert Advice

The first step is to seek expert advice to understand your unique nutritional gaps and requirements. A physician can help you discover them by reviewing your health history and checking specific issues related to substance abuse. 

For example, some people gain weight after abusing alcohol, depressants, or sedatives. People using stimulants lose weight due to appetite suppression. Many patients struggle with co-occurring eating disorders. Additionally, nutritional deficiencies may vary according to the substance one is addicted to. A physician can check these factors to personalize treatment.

Besides seeing a physician, you should also get an appointment with a qualified nutritionist to draw a dietary roadmap for your journey. A nutritionist can analyze your nutritional needs and design a meal plan to target specific deficiencies. They also consider specific factors, such as your stress levels, while recommending a plan.

Focus on a Balanced Diet

Studies show that substance abuse can affect a person’s eating behaviors, food preferences and appetite regulation. The last thing you want is to fall into a vicious circle of poor diet induced by addiction and vice versa. A balanced diet can be your savior because it replenishes your body with essential nutrients, providing strength and energy to beat addiction.

A well-rounded diet has all nutrients and a variety of whole foods. These include complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of dietary fiber. This variety of meals gets you enough of the essential nutrients for overall well-being and healing.

Besides a nutrient-dense diet, you should also prioritize good hydration. Water helps flush out toxins from the body and accelerates the recovery process. Infused water and herbal teas are great for detoxing and promoting hydration.

Integrate Supplements

Even a balanced diet with all the essential nutrients may not be enough to cover drug- and alcohol-linked nutritional deficiencies. You may need supplementation to address the gaps your diet cannot fill. For example, many people require supplements such as B vitamins, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids during the addiction recovery process.

Since individual needs vary, there is no one-size-fits-all supplementation program, even for healthy individuals. Your nutritionist is the best person to determine your requirements and provide personalized recommendations for supplementation. They can track the effects of supplement intake during the rehab journey and adapt it according to your changing needs.

Practice Mindful Eating

Eating the right diet is only a part of the nutrition equation during addiction recovery. You also need to practice mindful eating to ensure the best benefits of your diet and prevent unhealthy binging. With mindful eating, you can develop a healthy relationship with food. 

Here are a few tips to adopt these practices:

  • Eat slowly, savor every bite and pay attention to fullness cues
  • Avoid waiting until you are starving and stick with regular mealtimes
  • Eat until you feel full rather than stuffed
  • Maintain a food log and ensure healthy choices
  • Track what emotions trigger food cravings and devise strategies to avoid them
  • Keep unhealthy foods out of sight
  • Find something else to do when a craving hits

Emotional eating tendencies are common during rehab because people tend to eat more when they feel stressed or bored. You may gain weight with such habits, and losing it can translate into extra struggle during an already challenging rehab journey.

The Bottom Line

Nutrition can support your addiction treatment plan in many ways. But most people fail to pay attention to this factor. Look for a rehab program that prioritizes good nutrition and helps you optimize your diet to achieve your sobriety goals. 

With a healthy and nourished body, you will be able to sustain results for the long haul. Moreover, good nutrition strengthens your mind enough to deal with cravings and temptations. 

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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