Studies continue to show that a healthy, balanced diet is an effective tool that can be used to prevent disease, slow aging, and heal the body and mind. When an individual enters recovery, they need to be prepared to work not just on overcoming the urge to use drugs or drink, but also to heal their mind, body, and spirit. This is done through an integrated treatment plan that uses a variety of means, including therapy, exercise, meditation, adequate sleep, and a healthy diet. In fact, researchers emphasize that one of the main pillars of total health and wellness is proper nutrition, and more and more treatment centers are helping clients realize the benefits of nutrition during and after treatment.
There has been much research in recent years on the benefits and importance of good nutrition. We now know that eating a variety of healthy foods that are packed with vitamins and minerals will not only make us look and feel great but will help us combat certain diseases and prevent others. What we eat impacts our entire body – it affects our health, our mood, our energy level, and our brain functioning.
Addiction and Malnutrition
People often eat poorly because of emotions, stress, and other factors, and those struggling with drug or alcohol addiction are no exception. At times, an addict will binge eat unhealthy foods because of cravings brought on by substance use. Other times, they might not eat at all because their substance masks their hunger or fills them up with empty calories. Many addicts are deficient in essential nutrients, including zinc and vitamin B. Low zinc levels can lead to poor vision, sores on the skin, confusion, depression, and intestinal problems. A shortage of vitamin B in the body can slow the production of dopamine, which leads to increased cravings, severe mood swings, and depression. Likewise, individuals with severe fluctuations in blood sugar levels, such as often occur among addicts, are more likely to experience cravings, GI upset, and mood swings.
Food is Fuel
Alternatively, when people eat well, they remain healthier in the long run and are in better control of their own health. Some would even say food is like medication for certain health issues. Geisinger Health System, located in Pennsylvania, has recently begun incorporating the Fresh Food Farmacy among its hospitals. This program provides healthy foods including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-sodium options to patients, and they are already seeing positive results. “We are far away from prescribing diets categorically to fight disease,” Dr. William Li, a heart expert and author of Eat to Beat Disease, told TIME Magazine. “And we may never get there. But we are looking to fill in the gaps that have long existed in this field with real science. This is the beginning of a better tomorrow.”
To reverse the effects of a poor diet, experts recommend fruits and vegetables, which are high in necessary vitamins and antioxidants and help provide energy and healing to bodies in recovery that need it. Foods high in protein help the body produce dopamine, which is especially important to those going through withdrawal from drugs that inhibit the body’s normal production of this feel-good chemical.
Benefits of eating healthy foods:
- Reduces risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
- Promotes healthy metabolism and increased energy
- Slows the progression of cognitive decline
- Improves emotional health
- Decreases depression and reduces stress
Different foods produce different benefits, and researchers and treatment providers all have their own beliefs and findings of what foods are best to eat. In general, most experts agree about the following classifications of food:
Good foods for health and brain function:
Foods to avoid:
- Simple carbohydrates
- Trans fats
- Processed foods
A Holistic Treatment Plan that Works
Along with nutrition, experts say that adequate sleep, positive social activities, spiritual growth, and physical exercise are all important during the recovery process. Various lifestyle modifications help the entire individual heal, build strength, and become better prepared to face the challenges of rehab. A wide focus on whole health is one of the best ways to facilitate lasting recovery.
Focusing on whole body healing is important during recovery, but it is also vital to life and success after treatment. The newly sober individual who has learned the importance of eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, remaining socially active, and caring for their own spiritual wellbeing will find they are better prepared to face each new day. Maintaining a sober lifestyle long after recovery can be difficult, but with a stronger body and mind, it is achievable.
Even though researchers are finding vast benefits to nutrition, exercise, and mediation to those in recovery, it is important to remember that these alone are not enough to heal addiction. Instead, they fill a supportive role in the recovery process. Therapy, counseling, and even medications at times are necessary to the individual’s recovery, and there really is no substitute for hard work and proper healing with the help of a trained professional. With the help of therapy, skills development, and a focus on emotional and physical healing, an individual can rebuild their health and prepare themselves for a sober life.
Nutrition and Recovery at The Ridge
The Ridge is a state-of-the-art treatment facility that offers the very best therapy and counseling available. Our experienced staff members are compassionate, professional, and will help you or your loved one learn how to overcome addiction.
The Ridge is a drug and alcohol treatment facility located near Cincinnati in Batavia, Ohio. Our program focuses on whole-person health, and we understand the importance of proper nutrition during rehab. Our private chef prepares nutritional meals for our clients that are rich in nutrients, whole grains, and amino acids, and are specially designed to promote healing and reduce cravings. We also incorporate physical exercise, meditation, social activities, and time spent outdoors in our program, which help create balance in our clients’ everyday lives.