Addiction can have a detrimental effect on individuals’ abilities to make good decisions about their health and well-being. When addiction takes hold, it can become an individual’s entire focus, with factors such as nutrition becoming a distant thought. Additionally, some drugs such as amphetamines suppress the natural urge for hunger, resulting in poor nutrition or over-reliance on energy drinks or high-sugar, low-nutrition snack foods. This introduces another essential step in recovery, the nutritional therapy for addiction treatment.
Research indicates that addicts are often likely to experience widespread nutritional deficiencies of key proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. These not only prevent the body from functioning properly, but may interrupt the body’s natural chemical signals, reducing its ability to stave off the impact of the drug and potentially putting individuals at risk of even more entrenched addiction or serious outcomes such as illness and even death.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration notes that nutrition is a key wellness strategy and can help result in positive outcomes.
Health problems associated with addiction and poor nutrition
Alcohol is the most common substance abused in the US, and is also a major cause of nutritional deficiency. Alcoholics commonly suffer from low B-vitamin levels, resulting in anemia and neurological problems. Additionally, drug damage to the liver and pancreas can also result in improper nutrient absorption, as well as increased risk of complications such as diabetes or hypoglycemia.
Dehydration is also common among addicts, and can become a risk during withdrawal, with nausea and vomiting resulting in additional loss of fluids. Finally, poor nutrition can also compromise the immune system, putting the individual at risk of serious illness or medical complications.
The importance of nutritional therapy for addiction treatment
Many addicts grow up in environments where the importance of proper nutrition or the value of home-cooking isn’t emphasized. Additionally, their addiction may result in them spending time with individuals who do not value nutrition, or seeking out “quick” sources of energy; it may also suppress their natural desire to eat. This is especially true of substances such as amphetamines. Drugs such as marijuana, on the other hand, may increase addicts’ desire to snack, resulting in unhealthy food choices. For example, heroin addicts typically consume less than the recommended amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, and are more likely to reach for sweet snacks.
The withdrawal process for many includes nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal issues, which may reduce patients’ intake of nutrition. In others, withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety or restlessness may result in patients eating more – and often from unhealthy food categories that are high in fats or sugar, and which have impacts on the body’s natural serotonin levels, thus releasing a small “high”. Managing these changes with a nutrition program can help reduce negative outcomes.
Some addicts may simultaneously suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia nervosa or a binge eating disorder. These conditions may negatively affect an individual’s health and nutrition, as well as their ability to recover. A balanced nutrition program overseen by trained medical professionals may help support these individuals and help them overcome the nutritional deficiencies associated with their eating disorder.
Nutrition for recovering addicts
Nutritionists can play a key role in recovery programs for addicts. In many detox or rehab programs, they form part of the core team, assessing and rehabilitating nutrition needs, providing personalized diet plans and helping to plan healthy lifestyles . Their assistance can help improve overall patient health and improve sobriety and relapse outcomes.
Chronic malnutrition can damage the liver and brain, compromising not just an addict’s health, but also the signals these organs send relating to addiction and substances. By providing patients with essential nutrition, nutritionists can help facilitate physical recovery, allowing addicts to better participate in their treatment programs and enjoy better outcomes. Nutrition may also help reduce drug and alcohol craving, in turn reducing the potential for relapse.
Nutritional therapy for addiction treatment is an essential component of any holistic treatment approach. It provides patients with valuable insight into healthy living, and provides them with the tools they need to make the most of their recovery. A balanced diet can help improve an individual’s mood or energy levels, while also helping promote organ and tissue repair along with immune system repair. At Tampa Drug Treatment Center, we truly believe that these benefits can help facilitate successful treatment in the long-term.
There’s no understating the importance of nutrition in addiction recovery. Our programs cover nutrition for recovering addicts, as well as related lifestyle and well-being factors. If you or a loved one are addicted and need help, speak to us today about our holistic, proactive drug rehab programs at 1-877-640-7820.