When you are recovering from alcohol or drug abuse, the main focus is on avoiding the substance that caused the problem in the first place.
However, there is another important aspect of recovery that may be overlooked or neglected. What you eat and even when you eat can have a tremendous impact on your successful recovery.
Nutrients are depleted by substance abuse
It is safe to say that anyone who has actively abused drugs or alcohol for any length of time is undernourished. There are two reasons for this. First, the drugs and alcohol often replace regular meals, and may even affect appetite, so there is a lack of nutrients available to your body. In addition, nutrients can be depleted by the stomach upsets and diarrhea that may accompany the substance abuse.
Drug and alcohol use results in poor absorption of nutrients
To make matters worse, alcohol and drugs can also damage the body’s ability to absorb and use the nutrients in the foods you eat. This is particularly true of the B vitamins and certain proteins. For this reason, a recovering addict has an extra special need for nutrient dense foods that will heal the damaged tissues and organs and allow the body to function as it should.
Mood swings affected by food
Aside from the malnutrition associated with substance abuse, food can also affect mood and cravings. If you feel good, you are more likely to overcome cravings, particularly in the early days of recovery. Mood swings can cause cravings and make it more difficult to resist the substance that was the basis for your addiction. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help balance the brain chemistry and minimize the changes in mood that can hinder your progress.
Although eating healthy is only one aspect of a successful recovery from substance abuse, by taking care of your body your chances of success will be greatly increased.
Here is a list of recovery diet tips to help you have a successful recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.
Click here for a printable copy of this list.
-Eat regularly. You are less likely to experience the cravings and low blood sugar that can lead to relapse if you eat regular meals each day.
-Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can be a problem during recovery so be sure to drink lots of water—filtered, if possible.
-Eat protein rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, seafood, beans, nuts, seeds and tofu. You need protein to produce the chemicals in your brain that make you feel good, as well as to replace tissues damaged by the substance abuse.
-Eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables either raw or lightly cooked-at least five servings a day. They are loaded with the vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that you need to recover and feel good.
-Eat fiber foods, including whole grains and beans to help restore health and tone to your digestive tract that may have been damaged by substance abuse.
-Eat healthy fats for flavor, satiety and good health. This includes foods such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Fats are important for the health of your cell membranes, which is basic to how you feel, and thus to your recovery.
-Enjoy a small piece of good quality dark chocolate. It can enhance your mood as well as please your taste buds. Just don’t overdo!
-Take a good quality vitamin/mineral supplement with particular emphasis on Vitamin C, B vitamins and zinc to restore the levels of these vitamins in your body. Although, it's always better to get your vitamins and minerals from foods, a supplement can help fill in the gaps until your nutrient status is reestablished.
-Limit saturated fat by choosing lean meats and dairy products.
-Limit processed and packaged foods. These are generally loaded with sugar, salt, trans fats and other chemicals that may slow your physical recovery. They will also fill the place in your diet and food budget that should be taken by the nutrient dense foods that are necessary for good health.
-Limit caffeine. It can affect your mood and irritate already inflamed digestive tissues.
Some other tips that are not food related:
-Get enough sleep.
-Stay physically active, preferably doing activities that you enjoy.
-Stop smoking if it will not inhibit your recovery.
-Get support from a group who can understand and encourage you.
-Nurture you spirit with prayer and by helping others.
Get answers to your healthy eating questions.