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dietary nutrition

When the subject of substance abuse, drug addiction and recovery come up, most people wouldn’t immediately think of healthy (or unhealthy) nutrition and diet as linked. Diet, however, plays a much greater role in these subjects than many people may have known. For many addicts healthy food and proper nutrition fall by the wayside at some point along their road of abuse. For others, they may never have had or learned healthy eating habits. In practically all cases though, drug abuse and addiction lead to some form of malnourishment in the body.

Susan Peirce Thomson is one of many people who during her struggle with addiction to drugs suffered dangerous weight loss due to the effects of drugs. Unfortunately, she got hooked on crystal meth at a young age and was addicted for many dark years during which she experienced massive weight loss from malnutrition. This was often contributed to by the effects of drugs causing her to forget to eat for long periods of time as well as the need to get more drugs being more important than the need to eat. Susan has since recovered from her addiction and diet and nutrition played and continues to play a major role in her success. To read Susan’s full story, click this link.

Unhealthy dietary practices can cause numerous undesirable symptoms in the body. Some of these  symptoms can include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems (Insomnia)
  • Negative mood swings
  • Low energy levels

If these symptoms sound familiar, they should. They are also very commons side effects of drug and substance withdrawal. This commonality of symptoms can make things even more difficult on someone who is trying to come off of a drug and for any medical staff monitoring them to properly diagnose their symptoms and help them with the correct treatment.

Therefore, one of the first things that should be done with someone looking to recover from a drug addiction is to evaluate their diet and nutrition and to make adjustments as necessary to give their body the tools it needs to get through the difficult process of withdrawal and recovery.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Dietary Options

It is probably easy to think of examples of unhealthy foods and drinks, but here are a few examples of unhealthy foods:

  • Junk food or fast food. Fast food is cheap easy to get. Many addicts may eat nothing but fast food when they eat at all.
  • Sweets. Especially for those struggling with an addiction to heroin or other opiates, it is common to eat lots of foods and candies that have a very high sugar content.

Healthy food can sometimes be a confusing subject as everyone’s body is different and there are so many opinions out there about what is, and what is not “healthy.” It is recommended that anyone seeking health advice regarding their diet consult with their doctor or healthcare provider.

For some, it may even be helpful to consult with a nutritionist to come up with healthy dietary guidelines to follow during and after your recovery. There are however a few simple dietary guidelines that should help everyone to get an idea of what might be good for them. The Human body typically needs a few basics in order to maintain proper function. These basics include:

Vitamins and Minerals

The human body does not require large amounts of these vitamins and minerals, but it does need them and begins to fail when they are not present. Low levels of some vitamins can even cause symptoms like depression, low energy, and insomnia. Many people are able to get the trace amounts of vitamins they need from foods that contain them, and others take multivitamin supplements to ensure they are getting what they need.

Healthy sources of necessary vitamins and minerals from food include:

  • Whole grains and minimally processed whole grain products
  • Dairy such as milk, yogurt, etc
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Peas

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the body’s source for most of its energy. Insufficient carbs in one’s diet can cause mental fog, moodiness, low energy, anxiety, and depression. People who don’t have enough carbs in their diet can also experience cravings for carbs which can be very similar to and can even be mistaken for drug cravings.

Good sources of carbohydrates in food include:

  • Potatoes
  • Minimally processed whole grains and whole grain products (Breads, cereals, etc…)
  • Whole fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat dairy

Fiber

Fiber is another type of carbohydrate that instead of being digested and converted into energy, passes through the digestive system and helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol as well as aiding in the digestion of other foods. A lack of good fiber in the diet then causes things like constipation, high blood sugar, and elevated cholesterol.

Some good sources of dietary fiber include:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Brown rice
  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Oatmeal

Protein

Protein in the diet allows the body to build and strengthen itself. It also enables the body to produce the hormones it needs for proper function. Low hormone levels can also cause feelings of depression, anger, and anxiety. Protein also boosts the body’s immune system which can be very beneficial for someone whose immune system has been weakened by drug use.

Healthy food sources of protein include:

  • Low-fat meats such as chicken and fish
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Eggs

Fat

Hearing that you may need to eat more fat might sound a bit counter-intuitive at first but not all fats are bad, and in fact, the cells and organs of the human body actually need a certain amount of healthy fats to run. Of course, as we well know, too much unhealthy fat leads to obesity and a host of other ailments.

Some foods that contain healthy fats include:

  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fish
  • High-quality Omega Fatty Acid supplements

Water

Water is one of the most basic components of a healthy body. Water makes up the majority of the body itself. It is used by every single organ, cell, and system of the body. Needless to say, not enough water in your diet can cause many ailments including headaches, tiredness, and dizziness.

As far as sources of water go, nothing compares or comes close to as good as just drinking water. Experts differ on how much water an adult should drink per day, but it is at least 8 8oz glasses per day and depending on the size and weight of your body it may be even more.

Some other sources of water include:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Soup
  • Cucumbers
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries

However, as mentioned above nothing really holds a candle to simply drinking some water. There are lots of drinking liquids on the market that are advertised to be “SUPER HYDRATING” or some such thing, but in fact, they usually do little for the body when compared to water and many of them actually work against the body due to their high sugar and sodium levels.

Healthy Choices, Healthy Life

These are some things to keep in mind when going to rehab or recovering from addiction. If you put sufficient healthy foods in your body while in rehab it will remove malnutrition stress from the recovery equation. Eating right is not only the healthy choice it will likely also increase your chances of successfully recovering from an addiction. For more information on the different addiction treatment methods available, and for more help, contact New Beginnings today.

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