Health And Nutrition

Health And Nutrition

Health and nutrition can enhance the recovery process and enrich quality of life – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases that have a wide-ranging negative impact on an individual’s well-being.

The essence of recovery is changing negative behaviors into positive ones.

Good nutrition, relaxation, and exercise all play an important role in successful change. Learning to make healthy food choices is important to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

Nutrition Is The Science Of Diet And Health

Substance abuse and poor health and nutrition often go hand-in-hand, one intensifying the other. Dietary imbalances, in particular those related tovitamins, healthy fats, good carbs and proteins, wreak havoc on the health of drug and alcohol abusers.

They are at risk of developing a wide variety of medical problems, including heart disease or diabetes. These are often accompanied by many psychological and behavioral issues.

Because of drug and alcohol abuse, users have neglected their diet and experience gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation (an inability to digest foods properly) along with a poor appetite.

As a result, they have a special need for foods that are high in nutrients to rebuild damaged tissues, organs and regain appropriate functioning of the various systems including the nervous and gastrointestinal systems.

Recovery from substance abuse results in additional demands on the body, including metabolism (processing energy), organ function, and mental well-being.

Proper health and nutrition helps the healing process.

Nutrients supply the body with energy and substances to build and maintain healthy organs and fight off infection.

The three basic nutritional components found in food that are used for energy are: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Some alcoholics ingest as much as 50 percent of their total daily calories from alcohol, often neglecting important foods.

Impairment Of Nutrient Digestion – Health And Nutrition

Nutrients are essential for proper body function; proteins, vitamins, and minerals provide the tools that the body needs to perform properly. Drugs and alcohol can disrupt body function by causing nutrient deficiencies.

Once ingested, food must be digested (broken down into small components) so it is available for energy and maintenance of body structure and function.

After digestion, food goes to the stomach and intestines, with help from the pancreas. The nutrients from digested food are absorbed from the intestines into the blood and carried to the liver. The liver prepares nutrients either for immediate use or for storage and future use.

Drugs and alcohol impair nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. In addition, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems.

For example, folate deficiency alters the cells lining the small intestine, which in turn impairs absorption of water and nutrients including glucose, sodium, and additional folate.


Research indicates that many alcoholics and drug addicts who are hospitalized for medical complications do experience severe malnutrition.

Substance abusers tend to eat poorly, often eating less than the amounts of food necessary to provide sufficient carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins A and C, the B vitamins, and minerals such as calcium and iron.

Nutrition Impacts Cravings For Drugs And Alcohol

Every newly recovering addict struggles with craving to use alcohol and drugs. Research has shown that a diet with the right types of high protein and high carbohydrate-rich foods can make a big difference.

Food affects mood. Along with amino acids, deficiency of nutrients like folic acid and the other B-complex vitamins also have a serious and negative impact.

Sugar and caffeine can contribute to mood swings, so intake of both should reduce during the early stages of recover.

Alcohol and drug use prevents the body from properly processing two important amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan. They are responsible for the production ofnorepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin.

These compounds are neurotransmitters that are essential for emotional stability, mental clarity, and a general state of well-being. Decreased levels of these neurotransmitters negatively affect mood and behavior.

Tyrosine is a precursor to the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine…chemical messengers that promote mental acuity and alertness.

It is one a nonessential amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and tofu.

Tryptophan is integral to the production of serotonin, which has a calming effect and is important for proper sleep. It is found in foods such as bananas, milk and sunflower seeds, as well as turkey meat.

Nutrition Deficiencies May Cause Relapse

Relapse to using drugs and alcohol is also more likely when blood sugar levels fluctuate due to the irregular intake of food, which is why regular meals are so important.

Addicts and alcoholics often forget what it’s like to be hungry and instead interpret this feeling as a drug craving, so they should be encouraged to consider the possibility that they may be hungry when cravings become strong.

During recovery from substance abuse, dehydration is common and it is important to emphasize adequate intake of fluids during and in between meals.

Appetite usually returns during recovery, which may cause a tendency to overeat, particularly for people who were taking stimulants. The person should be instructed to consume healthy meals and snacks and to avoid high-calorie foods with low nutritive value.

Principles To Help Improve Lasting Healthy And Recovery

  • Physical activity and adequate rest
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Nutritious meals and snacks
  • Reduce caffeine and eliminate smoking, if possible.

Vitamins And Minerals

Regular mealtimes are recommended daily. A meal plan that focuses on a low-fat diet, with increased intake ofprotein, complex carbohydrates, and dietary fiber is recommended.

Due to deficiencies in vitamins caused by irregular eating habits during the period of substance abuse, supplementation with vitamins and minerals during recovery may be helpful.

Specific vitamins supplementation may include B-complex, zinc, and vitamins A and C.

Benefits Of Multivitamins

In order for the human body to grow, to remain strong and healthy, it has to perform metabolism-the whole group of chemical reactions happening at the cellular level.

Vitamins are essential to this process, but these organic compounds don’t naturally exist in our bodies; we have to go out and get them.

Recovering addicts are typically low on, or virtually depleted of, many basic vitamins. Restoring the body with these vitamins is therefore crucial to addiction recovery.

Why Do We Need Fats?

A proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids not only contribute to the normal development of the body, but studies have shown they may provide a host of other benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers, as well as helping depression.

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in canola oils, soybeans, walnuts, and leafy greens like lettuce, kiwi, and very importantly, fish oils (which you get when you eat oily fish such as herring, mackerel, trout, salmon, sardines, and albacore tuna).

Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in a pill or gel tablet form. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in nuts, cereals (wheat, rice, oats, corn) whole-grain breads, vegetable oils, eggs and poultry.

What Are Good Carbohydrates?

The bloodstream delivers glucose to cells, where it serves as an energy source for metabolism.

The human body can typically maintain a rigid blood-glucose level, but an addict’s poor diet causes the blood-glucose levels to vary widely-and dangerously.

Drastic changes in the levels can adversely affect the mood and personal outlook of an addict in recovery. Focus on eating carbs that contain a low glycolic index.

Here Are Some Good Health And Nutrition Guidelines

  • Use breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran
  • Use breads with wholegrain, stone-ground flour, sour dough
  • Reduce the amount of potatoes you eat
  • Enjoy all other types of fruit and vegetables
  • Use Basmati or Doongara rice
  • Enjoy pasta, noodles, quinoa
  • Eat plenty of salad vegetables with a vinaigrette dressing

Why Are Proteins Important?

Addicts in recovery often have difficulty concentrating, in part because of the dopamine deficiencies they developed during their addiction.

Proteins rich in tyrosine, found in foods such as avocados, poultry, fish, yogurt, sprouts and garlic help the brain produce dopamine and can improve both the depth and the length of a patient’s concentration capacity.

Improve Your Chances For Success!

Learning and applying aspects of good Health and Nutrition become critical in the recovery process and is very instrumental in improving chances for success.

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