Portrait of beautiful young woman eating cereals and fruits at home.
Published On: October 8, 2021|Categories: Recovery|

While there are definitely some organs that take the brunt of the harm addiction does, drugs and alcohol negatively impact your whole body. Reversing the effect of toxic substances is no small task, but the right nutrition can help.

If you’re in the process of recovering from drug or alcohol addiction and you’re wondering how food can help, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll share how healthy eating and addiction are related, plus some tips to get started towards building habits that will heal your body and mind.

Eating and addiction

While each substance and person is unique, drug and alcohol abuse has some common effects on it’s victims. First, appetites change when a person is intoxicated. Many experience loss of appetite, or are only able to stomach certain things.

Lifestyles changes that result from addiction can also cause poor diets. An addiction can make someone forget about food, or make them prioritize using a substance over eating regular meals. Stimulants, for example, may make a person stay up for days while decreasing their appetite. This can result in drastic weight loss. Marijuana, on the other hand, can cause a person to overeat. Addiction can also cause financial difficulties in obtaining sufficient or healthy food.

Moreover, drug or alcohol use can change a person’s metabolism, meaning a person will expend energy at a faster rate than they would otherwise. This can result in nutritional deficits, leading to other issues such as irritability and fatigue and more severe consequences over a longer period of time.

Alcohol specifically can wreak havoc on an individual’s eating. When a person drinks heavily, he is filling his stomach with empty calories and missing out on important vitamins, minerals and nutrients. According to the National Library of Medicine, an alcohol addiction most often results in vitamin B1, B6 and folic acid deficiencies. 

Drinking too much alcohol harms the pancreas and the liver, too. Sustained damage to these organs can affect how the body absorbs toxins, metabolizes fat and balances fluids and protein.

Proper nutrition also plays a key role in regulating mood, and when you feel better you’re less likely to use substances. This cycle also works in the opposite direction; poor nutrition can contribute to a depressed or irritable mood, which increases the likelihood of someone using drugs or alcohol. Adjusting your diet can affect the whole chain.

How to build healthy eating habits

Eating and addiction have a dual-relationship, with each affecting the other. In order to improve your overall health, it’s important to work on both and the best way to do that is to get connected to professional treatment.

When you start addiction treatment, you’ll have access to nutritional help. Some recovery programs offer classes on healthy eating where you’ll learn to plan meals, balance nutrients and get enough calories from the right food. You may also be able to work with a registered dietician so you can get individualized help for your specific needs.

You can also make changes outside of formal treatment that will impact your recovery.

Here are some tips to support healthy eating and addiction recovery.

  • Research foods loaded with B vitamins and add them to your shopping list
  • Find healthy recipes that are easy to make
  • Build up a repertoire of cooking skills so you don’t compromise health for convenience
  • Find snacks that are nutritious, affordable and convenient
  • Work to cut empty calories and fast food out of your diet
  • Substitute soda, sugary coffee drinks and energy drinks with water
  • Eat three meals a day with snacks in between
  • Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating and addiction

One of the most important tools you can learn to impact your recovery is mindful eating for addiction. The practice of mindful eating means you make a deliberate effort to focus on the sensation of eating and how food makes your body feel. When you’re practicing mindful eating, junk food will be less enticing because you’ll be more aware of how crummy it makes your body feel. Good foods will be more appetizing because you’ll notice the energy you have afterwards.

Mindful eating during recovery can give you the boost you need to feel at home in your body again. You’ll gain mental clarity and learn to appreciate the moment, both skills that will help you stay away from substances. Harvard Health lists eight steps to help you get started with mindful eating for addiction.

Eat good, feel good

There’s no doubt that eating healthy foods can help you in your recovery. However, eating right alone isn’t enough to heal the root of an addiction. A balanced diet should always be an adjunct treatment to behavioral therapies.

At Rehab After Work, you can get both. Rehab After Work is an outpatient treatment facility for those struggling with addictions. Flexible scheduling, compassionate treatment providers and a variety of program options will get you feeling healthy and strong in no time. Get the help you need to break free from drugs and alcohol and call 610-644-6464 today.

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