Contributed by By Sally Perkins
Although often overlooked, nutrition plays a key role in an addict's long term recovery process, according to Today's Dietitian. While teaching about the dangers of substance abuse, recovery specialists should also educate concerned individuals on the use of medical nutrition therapy in helping drug addicts. MNT for recovering addicts plays several major roles. Substance abuse destroys the gastrointestinal linings and severely damages vital organs such as the liver and pancreas. As well as helping to reduce drug cravings, food can assist in the repair of damaged organs by providing building blocks to help restore them. Nutrition also helps to treat resulting medical conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or low immunity. Lastly, food influences mood, and peak mental condition is essential if recovering addicts are to avoid relapse. A tailored diet devised and monitored by a dietitian is therefore very important. Recovering addicts should aim to take nutritious but easily digestible foods packed with vitamins and minerals, and also consider avoiding certain foods.
The Importance Of Taking Easily Digestible Foods
Most recovering addicts, especially opioid addicts, tend to suffer from intestinal distress, as stated by Aimee Noel, a clinical director from Sober College, a school of Addiction Studies. This is because substance abuse often leads to the development of gastrointestinal problems, which include (but are not limited to) damaged intestinal linings, constipation, irritable bowels, acid reflux, leaky gut syndrome, and bacterial overgrowth. Foods such as oatmeal, rice, bran, fruits, and fresh vegetables come highly recommended. This is because, apart from their high fiber content, they are also easy on the digestive tract. Food during detox should be introduced slowly, and the foods ingested should be easy to digest so as to prevent further damage to the gastrointestinal system.
The Importance Of Consuming More Vitamins And Minerals
Vitamin and mineral deficiency are among the most common health issues associated with substance abuse. The two occur for two reasons. One, it is common for addicts to have poor eating habits due to suppressed appetites, and often skip meals. This means they don't get enough nutrients in the first place. Two, substance abuse impairs the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12, thiamine and folate, as well as minerals Zinc, magnesium, and calcium, all of which are vital for normal body functioning. Vitamin B helps the body in producing energy from food. Calcium helps with strong bones and teeth, as well as electrolyte balance and muscle movement, while thiamine plays a neurological function in the body. Supplements can help in eliminating mineral and vitamin deficiencies, but this can also be achieved through a healthy, balanced diet rich in leafy vegetables, fresh fish, nuts, lean meat, dairy and poultry. For those who may struggle to create meals with the necessary balance from scratch, subscribing to tailored meal kits can make this achievable, while allowing individuals control over their diet.
Why Avoid Sugar And Caffeine
Many individuals trying to kick an addiction often use food, especially coffee and sugar, to replace the drugs. This is because they provide a certain high. Individuals in early recovery are advised to drink, at most, a cup of coffee daily, according to psychotherapist Anita Smith. Coffee and sugar cause a sugar crash in the body, which may lead to craving drugs and eventually relapse. When one consumes alcohol, the body converts it into sugar, hence spiking blood sugar levels. During recovery, drug addicts will in most cases come across issues like sugar cravings. This is because, after quitting alcohol, their blood sugar levels drop. Consuming too much caffeine or sugar, however, plays the role of the drug itself. Additionally, the sudden sugar crash quickly leads to feelings of anxiousness and depression, two feelings often associated with relapses. Intake of candy, confectioneries, desserts, and caffeinated products among other sweet things should, therefore, be limited. Nevertheless, recovering addicts should find other healthy ways of stabilizing their blood sugar levels.
The role nutrition plays in helping recovering addicts is too important to be overlooked. Rehab centers and recovery specialists should, therefore, employ the use of registered dietitian nutritionists. It is important to note that the nutritional needs of individuals differ. Essentially, MNT for recovering addicts should be tailored for each person to include vitamins, minerals, 30% healthy fats, 15%-20% protein, and 50%-55% complex carbohydrates. This can, however, vary depending on the substance abused and the resulting health issues. Either way, nutrition is instrumental in not only treating health conditions resulting from drug abuse, but also in helping maintain recovery.
Sally Perkins is a professional freelance writer with many years' experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family and traveling as much as possible.