If your loved one is abusing drugs or alcohol, food can become an inconvenience in his or her life instead of a source of health and vitality. As the addiction grows, other parts of their life take less priority – such as work, relationships and even food. Sometimes it’s the drug that directly affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, while other times it can be a simple lack of self-care that causes malnutrition.
While nutrition not be on your mind when your loved one enters a drug treatment program, it will be very important while in rehab and throughout recovery. Maintaining good eating habits will be crucial to staying sober and healthy moving forward.
Why Malnutrition Happens
People who have addictions typically suffer from some type of malnutrition. This could be due to1:
- Consuming less food
- Choosing foods that are less nutritious or skipping meals altogether
- An increased speed at which the body uses up energy
- A loss of nutrients through vomiting and diarrhea
- Damage to the gut so that it cannot absorb nutrients in food properly
- Binge eating
Effects of Substances
Depending on what your loved one is addicted to, this can determine what form of malnutrition they are suffering from. Different substances causes different nutrition issues:
Alcohol abuse is one of the major causes of malnutrition in the United States. It depletes the user from B vitamins, which are crucial for brain and nerve function. It can also cause the sufferer to become overweight with an excess of abdominal fat, which leads to high cholesterol, heart disease, and heart attack or stroke.
Stimulants such as cocaine, crack, meth and hallucinogenic drugs like ecstasy increase the body’s metabolic rate. Those who use these drugs are often underweight and eventually become sleep deprived, malnourished and dehydrated.
3. Opioids and Prescription Drugs
These are central nervous system depressants that slow down functions like digestion. This can cause constipation, appetite loss, electrolyte imbalances and malabsorption of nutrients.
Nutrition and Recovery
Because addiction causes dangerous problems from poor nutrition, your loved one must learn healthy eating habits while in rehab. This is a crucial skill they must learn in order to live a healthy life once recovery begins.
If your family member or friend has poor dietary habits during recovery, they are more likely to relapse. As a person begins to feel better because of a healthy diet, they are less likely to start abusing substances again2. In order to this he or she should:
- Stick to regular mealtimes
- Eat nutritious meals and snacks
- Choose foods low in fat
- Get more protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber
- Take vitamins and mineral supplements if directed by their healthcare provider
- Exercise and get enough rest
Benefits of a Good Diet
A diet rich in fresh, healthy foods will help in addiction recovery by:
- Boosting endorphins
- Improving mental clarity
- Reducing cravings
- Building strength
Find Holistic Treatment Today
Nutrition is an essential aspect of addiction recovery, and healthy eating habits must be practiced to maintain a sober lifestyle. At Footprints, we believe a balanced diet is a key part of the holistic addiction treatment approach and provides the groundwork for a healthy, drug-free life. Contact us today to learn more about our individualized, holistic approach to addiction treatment.
1. The Role of Nutrition in Recovery from Alcohol and Drug Addiction. www.heretohelp.bc.ca. (accessed Dec 10 2018).
2. Substance Use Recovery and Diet. www.medlineplus.gov. (accessed Dec 10 2018).