If you’re in recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction, your diet should play an important role. It can be tempting to give in to cravings for sugar and junk food since you’re making such a big sacrifice in giving up substance abuse, but it’s better to resist these urges.
When you eat well you will feel good and the better you feel, the less likely you are to relapse. Furthermore, your addiction has left your body in a bad way. You may have nutritional deficiencies and you have probably been eating low-quality foods. Work on your diet as an aid to your successful recovery.
Addiction in general can cause you to have poor nutrition. As you focus on drugs or alcohol you neglect the other things you put in your body. You probably ate whatever was close to hand, cheap or convenient and paid little attention to eating nutritious foods. Alcoholics tend to develop deficiencies in vitamin B6, thiamine and folic acid, which can cause anemia and other issues. Alcoholics may also experience deficiencies in fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A.
If you have been abusing opioids like heroin or narcotic painkillers you may have experienced a lot of diarrhea or vomiting. This can cause any number of deficiencies, but most importantly leads to an imbalance of electrolytes like potassium and sodium. Stimulant abuse usually decreases appetite, which can lead to unhealthy weight loss and a variety of nutritional deficiencies. Marijuana abuse has the opposite effect and can cause you to be overweight or obese.
It is important that you have a doctor, nurse or nutritionist assess your current nutrition levels and any deficiencies so that you can plan a diet based on your particular needs. In addition to any deficiencies that you have, you may need to eat certain types of food to support treatment of any addiction-related conditions. For example, if you are recovering from alcoholism you may have weakened bones or early osteoporosis. This means you need to include calcium in your diet.
Even if you have no specific deficiencies to correct or illnesses to consider, working on good nutrition is important. When you pay attention to your nutrition and eat well you will start to feel better, which will help you resist those urges to start using again. If you add regular exercise to a healthful diet you can expect to see huge improvements in your mood and physical well-being. Here are some important general guidelines to follow as you plan your new recovery diet:
- Eat regular meals and snacks. Three meals a day with one or two small snacks will keep you satisfied all day and will help you resist grabbing junk food when you’re hungry.
- Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time. If you have to make a last-minute decision about what to eat, you might not make the best choice, especially when you’re feeling hungry.
- Eat lean proteins like fish and poultry, low-fat dairy, beans, and soy.
- Eat plenty of fresh or plain frozen fruits and vegetables.
- Eat whole grains instead of white or processed grains. Choose whole wheat breads and pastas and brown rice, for example.
- Include healthy fats in your daily diet. These include nuts and natural nut butters, avocado, olive oil and coconut oil.
When you start eating better, you’ll start to feel better. And when you feel better, you’ll find that your urges to use drugs or alcohol are easier to control. Resisting those urges to relapse is the most important thing for your recovery, but a good diet can help and is worth spending some time and energy on.