No matter the duration of your substance abuse, your body has been put through a lot. Detoxing your system of drugs and alcohol is the first step to recovery, but it’s important to replace all of those toxins with healthy nutrients so that your body can repair itself and continue to live a long and healthy life.
Unfortunately, it takes more than sobriety and the lack of dangerous substances to have a healthy body. Without a healthy diet, you put yourself at risk of illness, exhaustion, weakness, and more. Focusing your recovery efforts on cultivating a healthy diet can not only be therapeutic, but it can be an excellent educational opportunity, too! Only good things can come from treating your body right through a proper diet.
With prolonged drug use and abuse, your eating habits have likely changed drastically. Many drugs either suppress the appetite all together or have the opposite effect (marijuana). If Alcohol was your drug of choice, you may have found yourself eating unhealthy foods after a night of drinking or noticed some weight gain due to all of the calories and sugars in alcohol.
Drugs also have the ability to affect your body and diet in the following ways:
- Cause you to have an irregular eating schedule
- Cause your body to use up energy (calories) faster
- Cause you to lose nutrients though vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Cause damage to your stomach lining making it difficult for you to eat certain foods or keep food down at all.
When your diet gets out of whack, it can affect the way that your brain functions, too. Your chemicals begin to be imbalanced and you may find yourself feeling angry, anxious, restless, forgetful, tired, or depressed.
Using Food as Therapy During Recovery
It is absolutely possible to eat foods that help to rebalance the chemicals in your brain. Foods that are high in carbohydrates (legumes, pasta, bread, and root vegetables) help to balance serotonin and create feelings of relaxation. When combined with adequate levels of protein, you’ll have a meal that keeps your body full and feeling amazing!
Alcohol and drug abuse can also cause a deficiency in essential vitamins like thiamine, folate, folic acid, Vitamin C, and B12 as well as a deficiency in essential nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and calcium. When you’re in recovery, it will be very important for you to have a diet that is high in essential vitamins and nutrients. This means increasing your whole foods (fruits and vegetables) intake and/or using supplements. It’s important to note that you should check in with a doctor and possibly have a blood test to see exactly which nutrients you need and how much of each.
After a short period of substance abuse, you may find that your body feels run down. This means that you are getting weaker because you are replacing healthy foods with drugs and alcohol, giving your body very little to use as fuel. When this happens, you are putting yourself at risk of having a weak immune system and more serious illnesses down the line.
Prolonged substance abuse can cause serious damage to your teeth and gums, stomach and digestive tract, nervous system, and vital organs. Not to mention the dangerous situations that you may find yourself in when intoxicated!
Once you’ve fully detoxed from drugs and alcohol, it’s important to get a full health screening to check for diseases and certain types of cancer. From there, you can work closely with a doctor and/or nutritionist to create a diet plan that works best for you.
Reintroducing Healthy Foods
Jumping back into a healthy routine after a period of substance abuse isn’t going to be easy. A qualified health professional will be able to help you slowly reintroduce meals that will agree with your body so that you don’t feel sick, gain weight, or cause more damage to your body. It’s possible that your body will respond negatively to certain foods or has developed allergies to things that you used to be able to eat with no issue.
If you lost a significant amount of weight from substance abuse, you may find that you’re gaining a healthy amount of weight back. This experience can be a bit shocking to some people, so it’s best practice to implement a diet that won’t add too many calories too quickly. A nutritionist can help you move in a slow and steady fashion until you’re confident that you can maintain a healthy diet on your own.
Below is a general guide for a healthy diet during recovery:
- 50% of your daily caloric intake should be from complex carbs
- 2-3 cups of calcium-rich foods per day
- 15-20% of your daily caloric intake should be from protein sources (2-4 ounces of meat, fish, tofu, or a comparable food per day)
- 30% of your daily caloric intake should be from healthy fats – found in fish oil, avocados, and olive oil
- If you aren’t into cooking, try a healthy meal delivery service
- Make sure your diet is diverse – plenty of different fruits, vegetables, grains, and protein sources
- Make sure you’re getting plenty of fiber
- Eat a healthy breakfast, snack throughout the day, and don’t skip meals
- Cut back on caffeine intake
- Limit sugar intake
- Drink plenty of water
- Find a way to exercise every day – even if it’s just going for a walk.
With this guide for a healthy diet during recovery, you will have something to keep your mind and body focused on during the journey that lies ahead!
Let Intrepid Recovery Assist
Whether you are in search of inpatient or outpatient treatment services, Intrepid Recovery can help you get your diet back on track. Our live-in patients have access to three chef-prepared meals a day while our part-time patients have access to health professionals that can offer actionable advice. If you are interested in either one of our programs, or have general questions about addiction and recovery, call our 24/7, free and confidential helpline!