Eating a healthy, balanced diet helps with addiction by allowing your body and mind to perform at their best and heal more quickly. When it comes to addiction recovery, healthy eating helps in many ways, including stabilizing mood, increasing energy, improving focus, and helping you resist cravings for addictive substances and behaviors.
On the other hand, unhealthy eating makes addiction recovery difficult by making you prone to depression, fatigue, distraction, and cravings. Substance abuse disorders can lead to nutrient deficiency since the victim is more likely to develop bad eating habits like skipping meals.
This article provides you with information on healthy eating and its advantages when it comes to addiction recovery. For other solutions that may be able to ease your journey to recuperation, you may want to visit websites such as Jacksonhouserehab.com.
What Does Healthy Eating Mean?
Your body requires certain types of nutrients in order to stay in excellent condition, and you can acquire an adequate amount every day from the food you consume. Healthy eating refers to getting enough of each nutrient required to function well and stay healthy. Of course, it’d be best for you not to consume excessive amounts of any nutrient as doing so may end up harming you in the long run.
Healthy eating is also about getting the right amount of calories to be able to perform physical and mental activities alike and to sustain the ideal body weight. Just like with nutrients, it’s a must to avoid the intake of too many calories that may lead to unhealthy amounts of body fat.
How Do Nutrients Affect The Body?
To understand the link between nutrition and addiction recovery, you have to know the purposes that each nutrient serves in the body. There are six groups of important nutrients found in food, and they can either be macronutrients or micronutrients.
Macronutrients are nutrients that your body requires in large amounts daily to function properly. Micronutrients are equally important, but the body requires only small amounts of them to remain healthy. Examples of macronutrients are fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and water. On the other hand, micronutrients include minerals and vitamins.
This type of micronutrient is divided into two categories: trace and major minerals. Major minerals include:
These enable your body to sustain good hydration levels while promoting healthy hair and bones. Meanwhile, the trace minerals required by the body are:
Consuming enough trace minerals leads to:
- Proper blood clotting
- Healthy blood pressure
- Good oxygen transfer
- A healthy immune system
- Tooth decay prevention
The human body requires 13 different essential vitamins to remain healthy, and they can be categorized as water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble vitamins are:
- Vitamin B-1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B-2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B-3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B-5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B-6
- Vitamin-B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B-9 (folate or folic acid)
- Vitamin B-12 (cyanocobalamin)
- Vitamin C
Fat-soluble vitamins are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin K
Getting enough vitamins is important since they help:
- Develop strong teeth and bones
- Support the immune system
- Promote healthy hair and skin
- Facilitate calcium absorption
- Enhance the functions of the brain and nervous system
Also known as carbs, carbohydrates are among the nutrients often targeted for elimination by most diet enthusiasts. However, carbs are important for the function of the central nervous system and the brain. They’re so essential that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 45% to 65% of one’s daily calories to be derived from carbs.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial to differentiate between less healthy simple carbs and beneficial complex carbs. Foods containing added sugars and refined flour should be avoided, while incorporating complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and starchy vegetables into their diet is especially advisable for individuals recovering from addiction.
Proteins are considered the building blocks of the body. Though they’re closely linked with muscle building, they’re found in each body cell, from bones to skin to hair.
Proteins are made up of a variety of amino acids. Your body can make amino acids on its own, but some can only be sourced from food. That’s why protein-rich food should be part of one’s diet during the process of addiction recovery.
- Fatty Acids And Fat
Fat has received a bad reputation for quite a while since it’s associated with weight gain and poor health. However, there’s a distinction between unhealthy saturated fats and healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats are necessary for:
- Muscle function
- Hormone production
- Brain function
- Blood clotting
- Immune function
- Blood sugar regulation
- Vitamin and mineral absorption
Though your body can withstand malnutrition for weeks, if not months, extreme dehydration can lead to death within days. Water makes up around 60% of the body and is crucial in various biological processes. For instance, it facilitates brain function, flushes toxins, improves mood, and transfers nutrients between cells.
It’s recommended that an adult drink six to seven glasses of water daily to keep their body hydrated and in great shape.
Role Of Nutrition In Neuroplasticity
Neuroplasticity is a major concept in addiction recovery. It refers to the ability of the brain to create new connections and rearrange old ones, especially following an injury, a disease, or a change in the environment. Addiction development is an example of neuroplasticity.
After addiction forces changes in the brain, it negatively affects neuroplasticity and makes adoption to sobriety challenging. Additionally, the adoption developed by the brain disrupts important neural pathways, reducing neurotransmitters and their ability to move through the brain.
According to brain imaging studies, drug addiction interferes with the connectivity between various brain parts, so it’s more difficult to balance healthy neurotransmission during recovery. Fortunately, proper nutrition can improve neuroplasticity by helping the brain reload normal amounts of neurotransmitters.
Here’s how proper nutrition restores plasticity to the brain:
- Amino acids: With low amino acid levels, the brain isn’t capable of producing the required amount of neurotransmitter dopamine, which leads to severe cases of cravings, aggression, and negative mood.
- Carbohydrates: Other than being the body’s main energy source, carbohydrates help the brain produce serotonin. Serotonin is essential for a stable mood, reduced cravings for drugs, and healthy sleep.
- Omega-3s: Omega-3s are associated with decreased inflammation and help the brain increase neurotransmitter uptake.
- Omega-6s: These fatty acids help improve the function of neurotransmitter receptors, thus boosting brain activity.
- Dietary fat: Dietary fats ease the regeneration of neuroplasticity since they reduce inflammation and protect the integrity of cell membranes in the brain.
What You Need To Eat During Recovery
A well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals from the recommended food groups—vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, and lean protein sources—is the best meal plan for any person to follow. However, when recovering from substance use disorder, your doctor may recommend a more restricted but healthy diet if you’re intolerant to some food groups such as dairy products.
See to it that you stick to whole foods and do away with processed ones since they can lead to health issues such as obesity over time. Whole foods are vegetables, fruits, dairy products, proteins, or grains that either haven’t been processed in any way or have been minimally processed.
While each whole food can help in addiction recovery, some are more suitable for early recovery since their nutrients can boost mood and brain health, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and speed up the healing process. Those that are included in rehab plans for recovering substance users are the following:
- Whole foods that are rich in antioxidants: Antioxidants aid in rebuilding your immune system after addiction-related damage while speeding up the body’s cleansing process during detox and withdrawal. Good sources of antioxidants are berries such as strawberries and blueberries, artichokes, pecans, and onions.
- Whole foods rich in L-glutamine: L-glutamine is an amino acid with immunity and antioxidant benefits. It also reduces sugar cravings, which is common among recovering substance users. High sugar intake can lead to higher rates of anxiety, inflammation, and depression, which can negatively impact addiction treatment.
L-glutamine can be found in large amounts in dark, leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and parsley. You can also get a fair amount of it from beans, carrots, beets, celery, Brussel sprouts, papaya, chicken, beef, fish, and eggs.
- Whole foods containing the amino acid tyrosine: Tyrosine contributes a lot to the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter dopamine, which occurs in very low levels during early recovery, leading to low energy, apathy, and motivation levels. Low levels of dopamine can also result in depression and substance cravings. A good amount of tyrosine can be found in bananas, lamb, sunflower seeds, soybeans, pork, lean beef, cheese, and whole grains.
- Whole foods that contain tryptophan: Tryptophan is an amino acid that increases the levels of the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter serotonin. This neurotransmitter in healthy levels encourages a happy, positive mood. Tryptophan is found in turkey, cheese, oat bran, pork, lamb, tuna fish, lentils, and beans.
- Whole foods with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): GABA is a neurotransmitter that encourages relaxation and calm. At the early stages of recovery, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia are common symptoms accompanying withdrawal. Foods such as shrimp, kefir, and cherry tomatoes can increase GABA levels, easing withdrawal symptoms.
What A Recovery Meal Plan Could Look Like
Patients with substance use disorder are required to consume foods that can increase their weakened immune system and alleviate withdrawal symptoms. The following is a sample meal plan for individuals in recovery:
- Breakfast: A fruit smoothie with protein powder, kefir, bananas, unsweetened almond milk, blueberries, and oats
- Morning snack: A slice of whole-grain bread topped with natural peanut butter and honey
- Lunch: A plate of dark leafy greens such as spinach with tuna or chicken salad on the side
- Afternoon snack: A handful of sunflower seeds and assorted nuts
- Dinner: Salmon, whole grains, green salad with pecans, Brussel sprouts, and goat cheese
Remember that there are many healthy meal plans for persons recovering from substance use, so the one above can serve as a guide and be altered in countless ways.
Maintaining Good Nutrition During Addiction Recovery
After completing a substance use treatment program, it’s important to maintain good nutrition at home. Though it can be challenging, it’ll get much easier to continue eating healthy and restore your physical and mental balance with the following tips:
- Consult a dietitian: The nutritional needs of persons in recovery may differ from those of ordinary individuals. Though you might be done with detox and other treatments, your body requires time and energy to get back to its original form. Seeking a dietitian’s help is important in assessing your nutritional needs, getting the right dietary plan, and working with someone who’ll guide you on what to eat as you recover.
- Stock your refrigerator with healthy foods: Sticking to a healthy diet can get difficult when you’re surrounded by junk or highly processed food. However, if you stock your fridge with healthy options such as vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains, you’ll be more encouraged to consume them every time you get hungry.
- Create a meal plan: Ensuring that you stick to healthy eating can be easy if you follow a specific meal plan. For instance, you can write down a schedule of meals for each day so you aren’t caught off guard and hungry with no idea of what to eat. You can also choose to prepare meals ahead of time so you can easily access healthy food throughout the day.
- Incorporate physical exercise: Healthy eating is a great way of ensuring that you remain in excellent health. However, when it’s paired with physical exercise, you might be able to see and feel the results more quickly. Healthy eating will give you plenty of energy, while physical activity will allow you to be more relaxed, put you in a better mood, and promote better sleep.
Recovering substance users require good nutrition for much-needed energy during recovery. Since many of them have led unhealthy lives that have resulted in nutritional deficiency, it’s important to ensure that they consume a healthy diet during recovery. Healthy eating boosts mood and improves the immune system, benefits that such individuals require.
If you’ve just started or are in the middle of a treatment program, consume whole foods every day to supply your body with the right amount of vitamins and minerals. By focusing on nutrition during recovery, you’ll see changes in many aspects of your life, from your physical condition to your emotional state to your spiritual well-being.