Addressing Nutritional Health in Treatment

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Addressing Nutritional Health in Addiction Treatment

Drugs and alcohol can deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals. Prolonged use of harmful substances can lead to health complications. One way to combat nutrient deficiency is by developing healthy eating and drinking habits. It is important to discuss the importance of maintaining healthy levels of vitamins and minerals, how nutrients are impacted by substance abuse, and how a nutritional assessment and guidance program can help get a client back to health.

Healthy Foods: A Basic Need

Access to nutrient-dense foods is a basic need for all human beings. Food not only provides energy; food offers vital ingredients that are used to start chemical reactions that produce or break down compounds the body needs for different purposes. Humans have a built-in mechanism that allows the storage of nutrients for future use. 

Without appropriate levels and types of vitamins and minerals, the body’s structures will deteriorate, and life-supporting processes will start to lag behind and eventually fail. 

What Are Vitamins and Minerals?

Vitamins are organic compounds that are made within the body of plants and animals. Minerals are inorganic because they are instead found in Earth’s natural assets like the soil, water, and rocks. Plants absorb minerals from the ground, and animals consume the plants (or other animals). 

For water-soluble vitamins and macro-minerals, relatively large amounts are needed daily to stay healthy. Fat-soluble vitamins and trace minerals are required in smaller quantities but can still lead to serious health complications if a person is deficient. 

Each type of vitamin and mineral has a unique function in the body. All are essential to life as they regulate and support many physiological systems, such as metabolism/catabolism, immunity, bone health, and neuromuscular function. 

How Alcohol Affects Nutrients

In the United States, alcohol abuse is one of the top causes of nutritional deficiency. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse (NIAA), “alcohol interferes with the nutritional process by affecting digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients.” This toxin can lead to inadequate amounts of B vitamins and zinc in the body by preventing their absorption and use.

Not only that, but those who have an alcohol use disorder tend to have poor eating habits as well. When alcohol becomes the central part of a person’s diet, they are essentially starving themselves of nutrients (alcohol does not have any vitamins or minerals). This secondary effect can lead to dangerously low levels of other nourishing compounds generally obtained from food. 

Health Complications

The following are some health conditions that can result from nutrient deficiencies caused by alcohol abuse: 

  • irritability 
  • depression 
  • dehydration 
  • malnutrition 
  • lower immunity 
  • night blindness
  • softening of bones
  • wounds slow to heal
  • neurological damage
  • worsened absorption
  • gastrointestinal problems

Nutrients Are Affected by Drugs in Similar Ways 

Addictive substances impact processes involving nutrients in similar ways. Yet, specific vitamins and minerals are particularly vulnerable to the abuse of certain drugs.  

Cocaine use disorder is associated with vitamin C deficiency. Meth use disorder can lead to B12 deficiency and contribute to mental health disorders and memory loss. Both stimulants suppress appetite and can cause other health problems like anorexia and severe weight loss. 

Opioids can cause deficiencies for the same reason, and individuals also tend to lose a lot of weight. They may develop gastrointestinal problems, constipation while using, and diarrhea during withdrawal.

Marijuana is different because it increases appetite. This may cause individuals to become overweight or malnourished from eating the wrong foods (e.g., junk food). Marijuana use disorder has been linked to zinc deficiency.

Get Back on Track to Health 

Insufficient levels of nutrients can lead to cognitive defects, mental health disorders, and life-threatening medical conditions. Yet, there is reason to be hopeful. Poor eating habits caused by substance use disorders can be reversed by entering a nutritional assessment and guidance program. 

What to Expect

Treatment facilities like Avalon Malibu work one-on-one with clients to first detox the body from toxins. Clients are medically supervised, which ensures a safe and successful withdrawal. 

They are assessed for malnutrition by a licensed dietitian, and, if needed, a nutritional support program is recommended. Many clients enter treatment with deficient levels of B vitamins and protein. It is essential to stabilize vitamin and mineral levels and increase protein intake to prevent health complications that could interfere with progress in early treatment.

Diet education is provided to clients in order to establish a strong foundation for understanding why their eating patterns are important and how it contributes to their mental and physical wellbeing, particularly in the context of addiction. Clients are given feedback to implement practical strategies to improve their habits. A nutritional plan is integrated into clients’ addiction treatment plans. 

This program is not only focused on the nitty-gritty of nutrition itself. It also incorporates intrapersonal aspects, such as learning how to build self-discipline, commitment to a healthy lifestyle, and the value of a healthy self-image.

The abuse of drugs and alcohol deprives the body of nourishment, whether it be from a suppressed appetite or dysregulated processing of vital nutrients. Medical and mental health complications can put an individual at high risk for hospitalization and death. Getting sober and regaining energy is possible through specialized treatment to address these concerns, including prioritizing diet and exercise. Avalon Malibu is a world-class substance abuse treatment center for adults. We also treat mental health conditions that often co-occur with addiction and poor nutrition that almost always accompanies. Our recovery program aims to help clients rebuild healthy eating habits while detoxifying the brain and body. Clients will refuel their cells, regain their metabolism, improve digestion, and enhance their immune system. The ability to recover long-term from addiction depends on a strong and healthy body and mind. Call (844) 857-5992 to enroll. 

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