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Recovery & Nutrition

Posted on 14/05/19

Chemical dependency not only affects a person’s outer appearance, but also their internal systems like metabolism, organ function, and mental well-being. Eating a proper diet during recovery can help the body get back to functioning properly. Recovery from chemical dependency is a gradual process, and nutrition is one of the many issues that require attention.

In order for the brain and body to function normally, it needs food. Like most things during active chemical dependency, proper diet and nutrition often fall by the wayside. Instead of spending time, money or energy on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, those suffering from chemical dependency use these resources to perpetuate their destructive drug or alcohol habit.

As a person with chemical dependency continues to neglect their nutrients, it will begin to interfere with the body’s overall well-being and ability to function. Some typical food-related behaviours that those suffering from chemical dependency are:

·       Failing to eat: Those abusing drugs or alcohol often have a suppressed appetite and will forget to eat while under the influence.

·       Eating poorly: During active addiction, most users will spend all their money on drugs or alcohol. This leaves little to no money to spend on healthy meals.

·      Binge eating: When coming down from a high, some people suffering from addiction will regain an insatiable appetite and continue to eat even after they are full.

Implementing proper nutrition can help someone recovering from chemical dependency heal faster and more effectively. When the body is out of balance, it throws everything off and nutrition can help bring the body back into balance to regain normal functions.

During recovery, you should eat a diet that will balance the levels of serotonin (a hormone that helps with relaxation) in the brain. This involves eating foods high in carbohydrates, especially the complex carbohydrates found in starchy foods like legumes (e.g., beans, lentils and peas), root vegetables (e.g., potatoes and carrots), pastas and breads. Eating these foods in combination with protein in your meals will keep you at your best.

In the first year after you stop using alcohol or drugs, your nutrition needs are higher than normal. You need to make sure you’re feeding your body good food on a daily basis. Even if you eat a healthy, varied diet while using drugs and alcohol, fewer nutrients are available to satisfy nutritional needs since a lot of those nutrients are being used to detoxify your body.

·      Try healthy choices for fast foods (salads, grilled chicken burgers, smoothies) if you don’t like to cook

·      Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups (fruits/vegetables, grains, dairy and meat or alternatives)

·      Eat food high in fibre, such as bran and oat cereals and muffins, legumes, fruits and vegetables

·      Eat breakfast and try not to skip other meals 

·      Slowly cut back to drinking less than two cups of caffeinated coffee, tea or pop a day

·      Limit sugar and sweets

·      Drink plenty of water

·      Take multivitamins (talk to your health care provider about the options)

·      Enjoy some form of activity every day

·      Learn new ways to deal with stress and anxiety

Nutrition helps people feel well and perform better overall in their lives. When a person feels better as they go through life, they are generally less likely to use damaging substances like drugs and alcohol. Properly balanced nutrition improves a person’s emotional health and physical health, and can actually elevate mood and prevent depression.

Sourced: Here to Help, Addiction Campuses, Rehab Centre

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