When dealing with addition recovery, it is easy for any thoughts about nutrition to fall by the wayside. However, maintaining proper nutrition during the aftercare process can ensure your body is healthy and can make the recovery process easier. While many people may overlook a well-balanced diet as part of addiction recovery, food and nutrition are both vital components to helping the body stay strong and function to the best of its ability.

The Effects of Substance Abuse on Health and Nutrition

While it may be hard to see the direct affect drugs and alcohol play on one’s diet, they can take an extreme toll on your health by producing detrimental life changes such as eating unhealthy foods and irregular eating patterns. Also, substances can directly hurt major organs that your body relies on to function, such as the liver.

Someone who is battling addiction may not have the time, resources, or energy to plan and think about the nutritional value of their meals or their water intake. When the majority of their energy is devoted to obtaining substances, it is easy to ignore everything else going into one’s body.

How Alcohol Effects the Body

According to the National Institute of Health, repeated alcohol abuse is one of the main causes of nutritional deficiency in the United States. The consumption of alcohol can lead to deficiency of very important vitamins like B1, B6, and folic acid, which can later result in harmful health effects like hematologic diseases such as anemia and permanent brain damage due to neurologic problems.

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In addition, alcohol can permanently damage vital digestion organs such as the pancreas and the liver. The liver removes toxins from harmful substances in the body and the pancreas converts food into energy. However, when these organs are damaged from alcohol, and can no longer properly function, there can be a serious imbalance of calories, protein, fluids, and electrolytes.

More than this, malnutrition, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, liver damage, and seizures are all permanent health complications that can result from an addiction to alcohol. Also, birth defects can occur for women to consume alcohol during their pregnancy.

How to Boost Nutrition After Addiction Treatment

Eating a well-balanced and nutritional diet can greatly improve your overall health. When trying to recover from addiction, it is beneficial for your body to be in the best shape possible and receive the nutrients it needs to function at its highest potential. For example, it is very helpful to eat foods that will balance out the levels of serotonin, a chemical that produces happiness and helps with relaxation, in the body.

This may look like eating foods loaded with complex carbohydrates such as legumes (like include lentils, beans, and peas), root vegetables (like potatoes, onion, and carrots), and breads. Eating these foods with protein every day will ensure your body is getting the proper sustenance to function at the best of its ability.

While a healthy recovery diet may look different for everyone, it should follow these general tips:

  • 50% to 55% of your diet should consist of complex carbohydrates as outlined above, including lots of grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • 15% to 20% of your diet should be protein, which can be any type of meat, fish, or high-protein alternatives such as tofu.
  • 30% of your diet should be healthy fat choices such as good oils (olive, flaxseed, and those found in fish) and dairy products that contain high levels of calcium.

Some other general guidelines for a well-balanced diet include:

  • Try to eat 3 meals a day and avoid skipping breakfast
  • Eat a variety of foods from the different food groups such as fruits/vegetables, grains, dairy and meat (or alternative proteins)
  • Drink water all day
  • Attempt to limit the amount of sugar and sweets
  • Reduce your caffeine intake (including both coffee and soda)
  • Stay active every day

It is important to remember that while these tips may be very important and useful in the addiction recovery process, following these general guidelines can lead to a healthier and well-balanced life overall. While the term “diet” is used often, these tips should not be rigid rules to follow, but rather smart lifestyle changes that will benefit your health for years into the future.