Nutrition and Diet Counseling
Alcohol and drug addiction and abuse take a major toll on the human body. Recovering from alcohol or drug addiction is a gradual process, and nutrition is one of the many issues that require attention. Alcoholism is especially hard to recover from as the detoxification stage is complicated (requiring careful monitoring, medications, and support) and alcohol itself is difficult to avoid in the course of everyday socializing. Food is vital in helping the body rebuild itself and maintain health.
Substance Abuse Effects on Nutrition:
- Consume less food in most cases
- Choose foods that are less nutritious and/or may skip meals
- Increase the speed at which your body uses up energy
- Increase the loss of nutrients through vomiting and diarrhea
- Damage your gut so that it can’t absorb the nutrients in food properly
Food influences the way the brain functions. When your body isn’t producing enough brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) or the chemicals are out of balance, you can feel irritable and anxious. You can suffer from food cravings, anxiety, and an inability to sleep. The resulting stress can also affect memory and/or make people paranoid, tired, dissatisfied, or depressed.
What and how to eat during recovery
During recovery from addiction, 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), kinds of pasta, and bread. Eating these foods in combination with protein in your meals will keep you at your best.
Deficiencies in B-complex vitamins such as thiamine, folate or folic acid, and B12 are common with alcoholism, and inadequate stores of other B vitamins and vitamin C frequently occur. Chronic alcohol consumption also increases the loss of minerals like zinc, magnesium, and calcium from the body. Iron is an exception to this and is rarely deficient because alcohol damages the stomach lining, thereby increasing iron absorption.
The first year of recovery and nutrition
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.
Malnutrition during alcohol use shows up in several ways. In the short term, you may become very tired and have a weaker immune system which means that you?re more susceptible to infections. Other symptoms include dental problems, digestive problems (e.g., diarrhea, constipation, and gas), skin conditions, and changes in the way foods taste. During long-term alcohol use, there are risks for brain damage, nerve damage, liver disease, heart and pancreas problems, and certain types of cancer. These problems need to be identified and treated during the recovery process ideally by a team of health care professionals.
In the early stages of detoxification and addiction recovery, you need to introduce meals slowly, since your body might not be used to digesting food. It’s a good idea to start off with small and frequent meals. Some people may start to gain weight. If you want weight management advice, see a nutritionist. If, however, gaining appropriate amounts of weight bothers you or your eating behavior seems out of control, you may need professional help for body image and/or disordered eating problems.
Food shouldn’t replace drugs as a coping mechanism. Sugar and caffeine are common substitutes used during recovery from addiction because they produce highs and lows. These low-nutrient foods can prevent you from consuming enough healthy food and they affect your mood and cravings. However, these foods are preferable to starting alcohol or drug use again.
A diet for recovery should include:
- Complex carbohydrates (50% to 55% of the calories you consume), which means plenty of grains, fruits, and vegetable
- Dairy products or other foods rich in calcium (calcium-fortified beverages, tofu, kale), two to three cups per day
- Moderate protein (15% to 20% of calories): two to four ounces twice a day of meat or fish (or another high-protein food such as tofu)
- Fat choices (30% of calories), preferably good oils such as canola, olive, flaxseed, and those found in fish
Supportive structures and services must be part of the addiction recovery diet
Behavioral interventions are of limited use without supportive social groups and structures that improve access to safe and nutritional foods, alleviate poverty, and treat additional mental health issues. Health care providers and different community-based agencies, including alcohol and drug treatment-specific organizations such as Road to Recovery Wellness Center, have services in mental health, nutrition, and food provision, as well as other social services. These are great tools in the addiction recovery process, and they can provide holistic care and support if you are recovering from addiction.
Nutrition Tips for Recovery
- Try healthy choices in place of 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 fiber, such as bran and oat cereals and muffins, legumes, fruits and vegetables
- Eat a healthy breakfast and try not to skip other meals
- Slowly cut back to drinking less than two cups of caffeinated coffee, tea or soda
- Limit sugar and sweets
- Drink plenty of water
- Take multivitamins
- Exercise daily
Learn More About Our Other Levels of Care
Are you or your loved one suffering from the negative consequences of alcohol or drug addiction?
Call our office and our caring and professional staff will help you get started on your Road To Recovery. We provide both addiction treatment and housing services and help individuals and families take the first step toward recovery from addiction.
Road to Recovery Wellness Center
412 SE 6th ST.
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301