Nutrition in recovery is not the first thing people think about when trying to stay sober. Not surprisingly. Instead, the concerns tend to be related to withdrawals, cravings, therapy, medications, and support. Of course, these are vital, but so is nutrition.
It is rather unfortunate that many people overlook nutrition. In addition to adequate sleep and regular exercise, a proper diet helps boost your overall wellbeing. In turn, this helps with your recovery.
Even though we all talk about eating healthy, nutritious meals, how many people practice this? For the most part, people eat what makes them happy. In a lot of cases, also what is quick and easy to prepare. Little wonder why fast food is a staple for many people. Sadly, this trend tends to be worse in people struggling with illicit substances.
Did you know that addiction to drugs and alcohol can lead to poor nutrition? Indeed, this can take a significant toll on your body.
How Do Drugs and Alcohol Affect Your Nutrition?
There are several ways substance abuse can cause malnourishment. It is essential to know this to help improve your nutrition in recovery. Below are some of these issues:
- Consuming less food: When you use drugs or alcohol heavily, your appetite may decrease. You may also simply forget to eat regularly.
- Overeating: In some cases, abusing drugs can make you overeat. Marijuana, for example, can make you have “the munchies.” Eventually, you may become overweight or even obese. Obesity can lead to several medical issues.
- Eating poorly: When you abuse drugs and alcohol, you may prioritize these over your food intake. You may also tend to look for quick and easy to prepare meals. These may not be nutritious or healthy.
- Malnourishment: Drugs and alcohol can affect your ability to absorb nutrients from food. Thus, you may become malnourished from a poor diet and also poor absorption.
- Loss of nutrients: In some cases, substance abuse can cause vomiting and diarrhea. These lead to a loss of nutrients from your body.
- Damage to your body organs: Abuse of some substances can damage your liver, intestines, and stomach lining. This situation can affect how you digest, absorb, and store nutrients from food.
- Damage to your immune system: Studies show that drugs and alcohol can affect your immune system. Thus, you become more likely to develop infections and diseases. In turn, this affects your consumption of food.
Your body must maintain the right balance for you to be healthy. Food helps with this and influences the way your brain functions. When your body is not producing enough “feel-good hormones” (brain neurotransmitters), this can affect your mental health. Depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric disorders can contribute to relapse. As such, nutrition in recovery remains vital to your sobriety.
Alcohol and Nutrition
Excessive alcohol consumption tends to cause poor nutrition. Firstly, there is a tendency to skip meals and focus on quick, non-healthy options. Secondly, alcohol damages the lining of your stomach and intestines. As a result, your digestive enzymes are affected, leading to poor absorption of nutrients.
The pancreas is an organ that produces a lot of essential chemicals in your body. Alcohol can cause severe damage to this organ. When this happens, there is severe impairment in your digestion.
Alcohol also damages the liver. This organ is responsible for breaking down toxins in your body, including drugs and alcohol. Damage to your liver can create a severe imbalance in your body function.
Long term use of alcohol leads to a severe deficiency of vitamins such as folic acid, thiamine, and Vitamin B6. Lack of these vitamins can lead to problems with your nervous system, cause anemia, and other medical conditions.
Secondhand drinking refers to the impacts on an individual brought about by someone’s drinking behaviors. This condition can lead to physical abuse, emotional abuse, marital issues, and neglect. Unfortunately, it can also hurt nutrition if the victim helps with meal preparation.
A severe complication of thiamine deficiency is Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This disease causes learning and memory problems. This condition is yet another reason why nutrition in recovery is vital.
Opioids and Nutrition
Opioids can slow down some of the body’s functions. They can cause your digestion and metabolism to become less efficient. Thus, your body may not be able to absorb nutrients properly. Constipation is fairly common in people who take opioids. Some examples of opioids are morphine, heroin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, and oxycodone.
Opioid withdrawals have many uncomfortable symptoms. Some of these include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. When these happen, you can lose a lot of fluids and nutrients. Consequently, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance may occur.
Stimulants and Nutrition
Some examples of stimulants are methamphetamine and cocaine. Studies show that these drugs can send signals to our brain that decrease our drive to eat. People who binge on meth or cocaine can sometimes go several days with minimal food and sleep.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can occur from poor diet during binges. Over time, severe weight loss and malnutrition are common.
“Meth mouth” is a condition that arises from abusing methamphetamines. It leads to poor dental health and tooth decay. The pain and missing teeth that come with this condition can affect food intake. Professional treatment of meth mouth will help with nutrition in recovery.
Marijuana and Nutrition
Marijuana can increase your appetite significantly. In many cases, people end up consuming mostly junk food. As we know, such food contains empty calories and lack essential vitamins and nutrients.
Over time, weight gain can occur from eating large quantities of unhealthy food. Consequently, obesity may follow with its risk of multiple ailments. Some of such associated disorders include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and gallstones.
How Does Nutrition Help With Recovery?
Using drugs and alcohol for long periods puts a lot of stress on your body and mind. It takes some time for you to heal after you become sober. Proper nutrition can help with this recovery process. There are several benefits of a healthy diet after long-term drug use. Some of these include:
- Improvement in your mood.
- Increased energy levels.
- Repair of your damaged body tissues and organs.
- Less likelihood of relapse due to better mood and increased energy.
A nutritious diet will foster your mental and physical health. This change will, in turn, improve your chances of long-term sobriety.