Nutrition and recovery are not always talked about in the same sentence. Sometimes it is hard to look at the ways a person puts food into their bodies that ultimately takes away from their recovery. Sobriety is more than just not drinking or not using substances, it is about stabilizing mood, fighting off weight gain (or loss), dealing with issues around appetite, medication challenges, and more. The impact of substance use alone on nutrition is hard because it causes such disruption to people’s digestive tracts. Healing from it takes time. With the right attention to food and nutrients, a person can ultimately heal.
Impact of Drugs on Nutrition
Substance use can lead to malnourishment over time. Alcohol and substances take away water that helps with hydration, affects the kidneys, liver, heart, and other organs. Overall nutrition is generally poor simply because substances take away healthy nutrients from the body even if the person is eating healthy while addicted to drugs or alcohol. Some of the impacts come from consuming less food that is necessary. A person may lose a lot of weight or not have an appetite.
They may also stress eat more as they get deeper into addiction and find it harder to quit using substances. Marijuana use can give people “munchies” or a desire to eat more than necessary. Obesity can come with other medical issues. Poor eating habits and malnourishment are just a few other challenges. The body needs proper nutrients to survive. The situation with addiction may affect digestion, absorption, and storing of nutrients from food. Damage to the immune system may also occur. Without the right balance, the body can become more inflamed and less healthy over time.
Alcohol and Nutrition
Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to poor nutrition. Skipping meals, not eating well, or experiencing intestinal damage from alcohol can lead to poor nutrient absorption. The pancreas can become inflamed and not work as well. Impaired digestion and damage to the liver that breaks down toxins impacts how nutrients are absorbed. Long-term alcohol use leads to deficiencies in vitamins like folic acid, thiamine, and vitamin B6. This leads to issues of anemia and other medical conditions.
Not only does alcohol over-consumption lead to malnutrition, but it may also lead to drinking behaviors that impact mental and physical health. It might lead to hurting others by accident or in the midst of an argument. It can lead to impaired judgment, putting the person at further risk of using other substances as well.
Nutrition and Opioid Use
A person who uses opioids often struggles with proper nutrition. Their organs don’t work the same as they should, causing disruption to digestion and metabolism. The body may not be able to absorb nutrients well. Constipation is common for people who take opioids. Morphine, heroin, fentanyl, and oxycodone often disrupt the body’s nutrient cycles. Withdrawal is uncomfortable and may cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Loss of nutrients and fluids may occur. Getting healthy in recovery from opioid use requires mental, physical, and nutritional changes. The goal is to get the body in alignment so everything is working together in a holistic way to bring positive change.
When a person uses marijuana, they end up consuming lots of salty and high carb foods. Their use can contain empty calories and lack the nutrients needed to feel healthy. Weight gain may occur from eating unhealthy foods if they use marijuana too much. This may also be in conjunction with alcohol use, smoking, or other drug use that keeps their body from being healthy. Other health conditions can arise but it depends on the individual and how they are using substances or eating.
The change to a healthy diet depends on a person’s drug use history and current medications. A nutritionist who understands addiction may be able to offer support and help. To start eating healthy, a person should look at salt, fat, and carbs in their diet. Cutting back a little at a time is a good start. Eating vegetables, leafy greens, legumes, and healthy protein is also good. A healthy diet rebalances the body and mind as they get what they need to feel healthy, less lethargic, and also less moody. A healthy, nutritious diet can improve mood, energy levels, repair organs, and increase energy over time. This gives people a chance to feel more rested, with more even moods, and an ability to deal with triggers and stressors in recovery that might otherwise be challenging.
To find support for a healthy diet, speak to a doctor, nutritionist, or recovery program specialist who understands addiction and recovery. They can point people to the right resources to invest time in reorganizing a diet plan that works for them and helps them feel better while also dealing with their health in a more holistic way. Recovery is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Everyone will need something different while in recovery. It takes time to deal with the challenges of everything but a healthy diet should be one of the main goals to develop over time that helps keep a person feeling healthy for a long time to come.
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