Since we were little kids, we have been told that eating a well-balanced diet is the key to health and happiness. Whether it was our parents telling us we had to finish our dreaded vegetables before getting up from the table or the tv commercial for milk with the tagline “Milk: it does the body good,” nutrition contents and facts are everywhere. There’s a good reason for it too. Without proper balance and nutrition, our bodies can’t function properly. Nutrition and addiction to drugs are two things that go against one another’s interests. This is because nutrition helps repair the body while addiction to drugs helps damage the body. That’s why nutrition for recovering addicts is useful. It helps repair the damage that was previously done to the body through substance abuse.
When someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, his or her nutrition tends to fall by the wayside. That’s because the sole goal of an addict is to obtain substances by any means necessary. That’s just one of the many reasons why nutrition is such a big part of the overall treatment and recovery process.
The body and mind must have the proper vitamins and nutrients to function at their best and get back on track. Let’s take a deeper look at the correlation between nutrition and addiction and why nutrition for recovering addicts is useful.
Why Nutrition and Addiction Are So Important
It’s important to know why things like vitamins and nutrients are so important. It’s no secret that in order for our bodies and our brains to function, they both need food and water.
Without food and water, our bodies would wither away and we would die. It’s more than just putting food in our bodies. It’s also about the type of food we put in our bodies.
If you have eaten something and felt great and more energetic afterward, it’s your body telling you it likes what you gave it. On the other hand, if you eat something and your body reacts negatively to it, it’s telling you that it doesn’t like what you gave it.
This is why the body needs a variety of foods to thrive. For example, carbohydrates provide the body with a short-term burst of energy. It does this while certain types of proteins and fats are preserved by the body and used at a later time.
How Does Addiction Affect a Person’s Overall Diet and Nutrition?
Let’s face it, it can be a challenge to maintain a well-balanced diet during our day-to-day lives. There are plenty of temptations out there. Even when we are thinking and acting clearly.
Now, imagine the difficulty in maintaining a proper and well-balanced diet when that is the furthest thing from your mind. It’s no wonder that people suffering from addiction tend to let things like proper diet and nutrition fall by the wayside.
Any money or time people would spend cooking or even just getting healthier food is spent either getting high or getting their next fix. As people focus more and more on their addictions and less and less on living a healthy life, their bodies will slowly start operating at less than 100%.
This might mean that they stop eating entirely while under the influence. It can also mean that they are simply eating the wrong types of foods or even binge eating in spurts, continuing to eat even when their bodies want them to stop.
How Do Nutrition and Addiction Affect the Body and the Brain?
As we mentioned above, those suffering from addiction tend to neglect things in their life. Some of these things are self-care, diet, and nutrition.
What once might have been a priority largely becomes an afterthought. This is when the number one goal is to get high by any means necessary. Let’s take a look at some of the different ways that addiction and the lack of a proper diet can affect the body and brain.
Weakened Immune System
When the body’s immune system is weakened, it can’t fight off things like disease, illness, and infection. Nutrition and addiction also affect a person’s immune system.
While substance abuse can do damage to the body’s immune system, so can the lack of a proper diet. When the body isn’t functioning at 100%, the body’s immune system can’t do its job as well.
Malnutrition occurs when the body isn’t getting the proper balance of vitamins and nutrients. This can occur because someone either stops eating, doesn’t eat enough, doesn’t eat the right foods, or binge eats.
As malnutrition sets in, it can cause the body to slowly break down over time. Some of the negative effects of malnutrition on the body include:
- Muscle atrophy
- Vitamin deficiency
- Irregular heart rate
- Irregular body temperature
- Weakened or suppressed immune system
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Cognitive impairment
When the body and the brain are getting hit with harmful substances, while also not getting the vitamins and nutrients that it needs, it can cause a chemical imbalance in the brain. The damage that it can cause to the brain’s neurotransmitters can affect the way the body and mind function.
Many substances of abuse can result in the body becoming dehydrated. This can be as a result of a side effect associated with substance use. It can also be because, while on that substance, the body can’t aboard the proper amount of nutrients that it needs to stay hydrated.
When the body is dehydrated, it can’t get the electrolytes and other nutrients it needs to get hydrated. This can result in an electrolyte imbalance. Severe electrolyte imbalance can cause the body’s vital organs to malfunction. It can also cause seven shut down entirely, which can lead to seizures and even cardiac arrest.
Do Certain Substances Do Damage To the Body In Different Ways?
While the issues we discussed above are generic for most substances, certain substances have a unique set of side effects that are associated with them. Let’s take a look at some specific popular substances of abuse and how they can affect the body’s overall performance.
For those who find themselves addicted to alcohol, not maintaining a well-balanced diet can be particularly problematic. Prolonged alcohol abuse can cause damage to the lining of the stomach. This can hurt the body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients.
Alcohol can also cause significant damage to the pancreas. The pancreas is responsible for the digestion of things such as liquids, proteins, carbohydrates, and hormones that balance blood sugar levels. If enough damage is done to the pancreas, it can lead to an irreversible condition known as alcohol-induced pancreatitis. Because of all the negative effects that alcohol abuse causes on the body, proper nutrition for recovering alcoholics is vital.
One of the more common malnutrition-related side-effects that opioid addicts experience is chronic constipation. That’s because one of the side effects that opioid use has on the body is the partial paralyzation of the stomach.
Those suffering from chronic constipation often abuse laxatives to find some sort of relief. While this might solve the constipation issue, it can lead to a larger set of issues. These include chronic heartburn, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, electrolyte imbalances, and heart palpitations. Proper nutrition for recovering addicts that use opioids can help repair the damage that opioid abuse has caused to the body.
One of the more common side effects associated with stimulants is the suppression of the person’s appetite as well as dehydration. This can lead to vitamin deficiency and even malnutrition. In addition, prolonged stimulant use can result in things such as hair loss, tooth decay, and even death.
Why Is Nutrition for Recovering Addicts Is So Important
As you can see, substance abuse can be very taxing on the body. The overall substance addiction treatment and recovery process is no cakewalk either when it comes to the way it strains the body. This is especially true in the beginning when the body is undergoing detox and ridding itself of harmful substances.
Getting the body back to its optimal functionality is key to successfully undergoing treatment. In order to be of sound mind and body to successfully complete treatment, the brain and body have to be working in harmony together.
A proper and well-balanced diet can go a long way to helping in achieving that goal. This is especially true since nutrition and addiction deeply affect one another.
As your body begins to heal through nutrition, not only will you have a new outlook on life, but you will begin to notice other improvements as well including:
- A stronger immune system
- Better memory and cognitive skills
- Improved mood
- More energy
- Reduced risk of disease and sickness
Want To Know More About Nutrition for Recovering Addicts?
A proper and well-balanced diet is one of the many keys to living a happy and healthy life. Something as simple as just eating right can improve your overall well-being and give you a brand new outlook on life. That’s why at Grace Land Recovery, we make food and nutrition such a major part of the recovery process.
In addition to your treatments, we will make sure that you are eating well-balanced meals as well as show you the ways to continue to live a healthy lifestyle when you go back home.
If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction and could benefit from one of the many treatment plans we offer, contact us today. You can also contact us to inquire about nutrition and addiction.