Self-care seems to be the first thing that suffers when in the throes of addiction. Even in recovery, it can be hard to motivate ourselves to take care of daily dietary and hygiene needs. These problems are exacerbated when there is a co-occurring mental illness. Our brains rely on healthy food consumption to obtain the proper nutrients needed to support brain chemicals, such as neurotransmitters and amino acids. Prolonged drug use creates permanent brain changes, and maintaining a healthy diet can make a huge difference when trying to heal your brain.
The Role of Nutrition in Recovery
Drug addiction takes a toll on a lot of people’s diets. When dealing with an addiction, we may choose to eat foods that are high in sugars or carbohydrates. Sometimes, it’s easier to just eat what we can get. But a poor diet, especially during addiction, has serious long-term health risks. For example, developing functioning hypoglycemia is common for people who abuse alcohol because of the highly refined sugars found in alcohol. While it can be managed with diet, many people who drink do not eat, which means they are at risk for vomiting, fatigue, and even loss of consciousness.
Poor nutrition can also affect your mood. For those already dealing with mood swings caused by drug abuse or the recovery process, exacerbating those moods may lead to eventual relapse. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands do not function at normal levels. One common reason for adrenal fatigue in recovering addicts is the stress put on the glands to manage the rise and fall of blood sugar levels. Adrenal fatigue can cause fatigue, restlessness, confusion, shakiness, frustration, irritability, difficulty remembering, anger, weepiness, and anxiousness. These symptoms can be enough to trigger a relapse.
Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial in recovery because they help restore physical and mental health and improve the chance of recovery. Drug abuse can cause issues with digestion, as well. Individuals who suffer from addiction typically have depleted levels of vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids and fats, which can lead to several mental and physical problems. Some drugs cause extreme withdrawal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, which depletes electrolyte levels. Staying hydrated is just as important to recovery as nutrition.
Medical Nutrition Therapy
Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) has been successfully used in the management of diabetes for several years. It can also be beneficial to teaching those in recovery how to eat healthily and stay hydrated. It is provided by a licensed dietician and involves in-depth nutrition assessments, establishes goals as well as a care plan. MNT is different from nutrition education because it functions on a clinical level. The first step of MNT would be a complete assessment of your nutrition and health, including lab tests. MNT also includes:
- Nutrition assessment – using the MNT Evidence-Based Guide for Practice/Nutrition Protocol, a registered dietician (RD) will assess your current nutrition habits, where you need to make the proper changes, and what changes you should be making.
- Nutrition Intervention – you and your RD can set goals, create a care plan, and establish nutrition interventions. You will probably follow-up over several visits for support with lifestyle changes in regards to any defined nutrition problems and medical disorders.
- Monitoring and Evaluations – your RD will do weekly check-ins to make sure you’re following your dietary care plan. Your dietician will most likely use a data tracking worksheet to document your changes, as well as make note of what else needs to be worked on.
- Outcomes Management – Using data tracking worksheets, your RD can create reachable and meaningful outcomes for the changes you are making. In other words, after monitoring your progress over time, the RD will assign outcome goals based on your progress thus far.
Easy Tips to Get Started With Healthy Eating
If you already have some idea that your nutrition is playing a role in negative emotions or triggers while in recovery, you can begin making necessary changes on your own without the help of a registered dietician. Something as easy as taking vitamins and supplements daily is a great place to start. There are many other self-care methods for maintaining proper health and nutrition. Here are three simple tips for healthy diet changes:
- Reduce caffeine – caffeine is a diuretic, which means if you are already dehydrated and low on electrolytes, caffeine will only exacerbate these issues. It is also linked with some heart and stomach issues, as well.
- Monitor your sugar – if you are dealing with functional hypoglycemia, monitor the number of sugars and simple carbohydrates you are eating. Try to balance those with healthy, lean proteins. This will prevent symptoms like nausea or fainting.
- Exercise – Regular exercise can boost your mood, increase energy levels, and improve your body image. It also helps with any weight gain due to drug abuse and strengthens the heart.
It can be hard for anyone to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, regardless of whether or not they are currently struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues. Maintaining a healthy diet is exceptionally difficult for those dealing with substance abuse or in recovery. Sometimes, our cravings can lead to bad eating choices. This is an aspect of self-care that usually suffers during addiction, and can continue to be neglected during recovery. However, improving your diet can ultimately improve your overall recovery.
At Avalon Malibu, we understand the importance of nutrition in recovery and offer nutritional assessment and guidance. Our highly skilled team can help you achieve your recovery goals, as well as find ways to make good choices and lead a healthier, happier life. If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction and it is affecting their nutrition, call us today at (844) 857-5992.