A recent article from US News and World report features recommendations from medical and mental health professionals on the ideal diet for recovering addicts and alcoholics. Now, this doesn’t mean diet in the conventional sense. There is no mention of Atkins, South Beach, Jenny Craig, or (shudder) Paleo. Their recommendations are more in line with giving your body the ideal nutrition it needs to begin the physical healing process, and promote your own recovery.
A Desperate Need for Nutrition
Most of us spent our time in active addiction or alcoholism giving little to no thought to health or nutrition. We were harming our bodies in a multitude of ways. First and foremost is obviously the regular poisoning of ourselves with excessive amounts of alcohol and harmful substances. The physical effects of addiction and alcohol abuse are well-known. But in addition to the drug and alcohol use, most of us entirely disregarded what was best for our bodies. Exercise is typically negligible, and if food is even regularly consumed, it is usually junk food or whatever is cheapest and most easily accessible. But nutrition is vital to making our bodies feel their best. The effects of a healthy diet affect not only our physical bodies, but mental and emotional health as well. The body is like a machine- it needs the right fuels to run properly and effectively. The better we eat, the better we feel. And this is never more important than when you are in early recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. The body is already operating at a deficit- physical withdrawal, paired with a history of insufficient nutrition and exercise, on top of the cycling emotions and mental strain that newly sober people typically experience, all combine to create a human system that is in desperate need of quality vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
Some Dietary Recommendations to Optimize Your Health and Recovery
One of the best things someone who is newly sober can do is to begin a regimen of self-care. This includes making sure that you are putting the best things you can into your body, so that your recovery process is supported and you feel the full benefits of finally leaving drugs and alcohol behind. The article, quoting Beth Kane-Davidson, director of a Maryland treatment facility, gives several recommendations for diet that a newly recovering person would ideally be following.
- Instill Healthy Routines Into Your Food Life
- Sugar is Not Your Friend
- Limit Caffeine
- Digestion is a Focus
- Vitamins and Minerals!!
Eating at regular times, and establishing a routine, is one of the key points mentioned. Forming these healthy habits early on, and training your body to expect regular intake of nutrition (instead of poisons) will not only help you with getting into healthy habits, but will optimize how your body processes food.
Ah, sugar. The old recovery standby. Having a craving? Grab some sweets! The problem is, sugar can be just as addictive as drugs and alcohol. Drug and alcohol use, particularly drinking, can cause your body’s blood sugar levels to enter a routine of spiking and dropping, spiking and dropping. This is terrible for your body, as well as for your general mental state. Sugar can actually activate the same areas of your brain that were responsible for your addiction, and the inevitable “sugar crash” can cause depression and resultant drug or alcohol cravings.
Another tough one. I know this blog writer was tossing down Monster energy drinks, Redbulls, and coffee in massive amounts in early recovery, the justification being, “This is what I can have now,” on top of feeling the need to stay awake for the new world of sober fellowship and fun I was being introduced to. (Also how I started smoking, but that’s a topic for another blog). However. As stated in the article, and as is well-known by nutrition and addiction experts, the newly sober should be limiting their caffeine intake to one cup per day. Don’t forget that caffeine is also a drug, and can cause sugar levels to spike- on top of causing withdrawals when you don’t have access to it. I’ve had caffeine withdrawal headaches and they are not fun, particularly when my body was still recovering. The crash, as with a sugar crash, can actually make you more susceptible to relapse.
You should be reaching for foods that are easy to digest. Particularly for people that are coming off of an opiate addiction, the body’s digestive system can be incredibly disrupted in late addiction/early recovery. Constipation while using, and nausea/diarrhea in early sobriety, are common. The article recommends foods that are easily digestible for recovering opiate users, including oatmeal/rice, and fibrous foods such as fruits and vegetables. These foods will help the body’s digestive system to regain normal functioning, and will mitigate stomach issues.
Obviously, your body is in desperate need of vitamins and minerals. In particular, newly sober people are often Vitamin B and Vitamin D deficient. Thiamine is also an important mineral that could help your body “bounce back”. On top of nutritional supplements that your doctor or addiction therapist may recommend, a balanced diet with leafy greens/vegetables, fish, poultry, avocados, fruits/nuts, and lean proteins can go a long way towards providing the necessary nutrients and helping the body to recover.
Help is Available
At Serenity Acres, our team of medical professionals (including a nutritionist!) are ready and waiting to get you the help you need to leave your addiction behind, and begin the healing process. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, call today for your free confidential assessment, to see if inpatient treatment may be the answer you are looking for: 1-800-203-2024.