Drugs and alcohol damage your body. When you are amid an addiction, you are not necessarily concerned about cooking your next meal or looking at proper nutrition – your focus is on getting your next fix. While you aren’t paying attention, this lack of nutrition can damage your body. The good news is that there are ways to heal you – inside and out.
You know the saying, “you are what you eat.” Why wouldn’t you want to eat good to feel good?
How addiction damages your body
Addiction makes it hard for your body to work as it was meant to. Despite the fact that you may forego eating and focus your eyes directly on your drug of choice, your body may no longer be able to absorb the nutrients it needs even when you do provide them. Here are a few ways in which your addiction may have damaged your body:
- Alcohol causes major nutrient deficiency. This can affect your nervous system, your liver, and your pancreas. Alcoholism can also lead to diabetes, hypertension, seizures, malnutrition, and permanent cirrhosis of the liver, amongst other ailments.
- Opiate use affects the gastrointestinal system. Vomiting and diarrhea are very common withdrawal symptoms and can lead to malnutrition and nutrient deficiency.
- Cocaine and Methamphetamines suppress your appetite. You may forget or choose not to eat for several days at a time, leading to malnutrition.
These are just a few of the ways in which substance abuse can wreak havoc on your body.
The important nutrients for healing
Your body needs nutrients to stay healthy and function properly. In fact, when you lack specific nutrients, your body begins to shut down or malfunction. For instance, excess consumption of alcohol makes it difficult to absorb nutrients such as vitamin B6. Lacking this vitamin can lead to a disease call Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome that affects the brain. Scary, right?
Let’s take a look at the nutrients that are most important for healing your body.
- Carbohydrates. These provide your body with much needed energy, as well as balancing out the brains neurotransmitters and balancing blood sugar.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B6 and B12, and amino acids help keep your system and brain balanced and functioning in a healthier manner. In addition, they assist with your mood and help keep you focused, which is important when you are trying to maintain a successful recovery.
- Protein helps repair your body.
- Water is essential. Our bodies are almost three-fourths water and, when we are dehydrated, our body cannot function properly.
How to eat for your health in recovery
With so many foods on the market and so many fad diets, it is hard to know what is true and what is not. Because you are in recovery and you are seeking to obtain maximum nutrition, you will want to focus on a whole food diet. Eating whole foods means removing all the processed foods that contain all types of chemical from your food choices. This ensures that you are just eating the best of the best for you.
There are five food groups:
- Whole grains
- Lean meat
Eat a variety of foods from each food group focusing primarily on the fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meat. Try to include foods of all colors.Avoid foods that are high in fat, high in sodium, and contain added sugars.
Tips for nutritional health in recovery
It can be overwhelming to change your eating habits, especially when you are focused on maintaining your recovery. After all, you are in the process of starting your life over in a new way. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, there are tips you can follow that can help you focus more on your successful recovery and less on your eating habits.
- Eat whole foods. Avoid packaged foods and avoid any and all fad diets.
- Keep a journal. Write down the foods that you eat and how they make you feel.
- Eat slowly and learn to enjoy your food.
- Avoid junk and fast food. Carry healthy snacks with you for times when you find yourself in a bind.
- Spend a couple hours one day each week preparing meals and snacks for the week.
- Form a group with others in recovery, getting together to enjoy healthy meals and positive socializing.
- Eat six smaller meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals. And never, ever skip a meal.
Find what works for you and stick with it. Also, talk to those around you to discover new tips, new recipes, etc.
But I don’t want to eat healthy
You may not want to, but you need to. Individuals who have successfully battled their addiction, but do not treat their body in a healthy manner, can find recovery to be a struggle. When we eat bad, we feel bad. You just went through treatment and made a huge positive change in your life – why would you not want to become the best version of yourself?
Successful recovery requires whole body recovery. Do not put healthy nutrition on the backburner. You have come much too far to let your bad eating make you take two steps back in recovery.
Many times, those in recovery search for something to replace their addiction. Some may turn to art, others may turn to running or exercise, and yet others may turn to food. Take caution to not let food become your craving.
Minor cravings can be ok – we all have a sweet tooth every now and then. But you know when your craving gets out of hand because you have tools and skills from recovery that can make you aware of this situation. Food cravings can lead to overeating which can lead to obesity. Do not turn to food for comfort from your addiction.
Changing your eating habits can be frustrating. However, letting your body heal from the damage your addiction caused can make you feel like a new person over time. Having great nutritional health can lead you to a healthy body and a healthy mind. Stick with it – your body will thank you!