Contributor: The Refuge – A Healing Pace’s clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC
When a person is battling an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol and seeks out treatment to end the destructive pattern of substance abuse, the first line of defense for a severe addiction is often detox. The process of detoxification, which occurs under the supervision of doctors and nurses in a medical setting, involves stabilizing a person as the harmful toxins that caused the addiction exit the body.
Stabilization during detox can include pharmaceutical intervention and regular monitoring of a person’s health status so as to minimize the risks associated with withdrawal. And while the purpose of this process is to assist an individual in being able to subsequently engage in therapeutic interventions to recover from an addiction, an important, and sometimes forgotten, element of recovery is the inclusion of good nutrition and healthy eating habits.
How Abuse Damages Health and Good Nutrition is Needed
The long-term abuse of substances is widely known to wreak havoc on an individual’s health. Aside from the direct harm drugs and/or alcohol causes to a person’s vital organs and mental health, implementing and sustaining good nutrition often falls at the wayside. The consumption of certain substances can cause a person to refrain from eating or drinking or to consume foods or beverages that do not meet the nutritional needs of the human body.
Why Dehydration and Malnutrition Often Become a Problem
Furthermore, there are certain side effects of substance abuse that compromise an individual’s ability to eat and drink properly, which can further hinder a person’s ability to get the vital nutrients required to sustain a healthy lifestyle. For example, if a person drinks too much alcohol, nausea and vomiting are likely outcomes. This means that any kind of food or drink that was consumed prior to the individual becoming sick as a result of his or her alcohol consumption is now lost because of the body’s response to the alcohol.
Good Nutrition Is Essential During the Recovery Process
The aforementioned concerns pertaining to nutrition are those commonly seen in people who are in the throes of an addiction. However, during and after the detoxification process, when the body is being or is now freed from drugs and/or alcohol, good nutrition is not only necessary to sustain life, but is imperative for the recovery process.
While engaged in a treatment program, people wishing to achieve sobriety are often focused on managing cravings to use and developing the skills needed to recover long-term. This process often challenges these individuals to make lifestyle changes that encourages healthier ways of managing stressors in order to avoid being caught in the grips of addiction yet again.
However, learning healthy eating and drinking habits are just as important in the recovery process.
The Role of a Balanced Diet and Good Nutrition
People who are not grappling with chemical dependency concerns are strongly encouraged to eat fruits and vegetables, protein, and other essential nutrients in order to be healthy and recovering addicts are not absolved of this concept.
A balanced diet not only sustains one’s body, but it can also be a preventive measure to avoid certain diseases, cancers, and other such health risks that can cut a person’s life short.
Those who abuse substances, or individuals with a history of chemical dependency concerns, possess an increased risk for the development of a number of long-term health risks and, by improving one’s nutrition, these risks can be substantially lessened or avoided altogether.
Learning the Importance of Good Nutrition
Nutrition experts and mental health professionals alike agree that learning about the importance of good nutrition and healthy eating habits should play an integral role in the recovery process.
Education pertaining to healthy eating in conjunction with skill-building for remaining sober can ultimately help a person refrain from becoming entwined in the cycle of addiction. The following are suggestions from experts in nutrition for how one can provide his or her body with the necessary provisions for being healthy:
- Consume well-balanced meals rich in protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates up to four times per day
- Include foods that are low in fat and sugar in each meal
- Refrain from overeating during meal times
- Avoid drinking beverages that lack nutritional value
- Remember to drink an adequate amount of water to prevent dehydration
- Consume vitamins or supplements so that the body is still getting the necessary nutrients that could be lacking in certain foods
Exercise at a Part of Recovery
Experts on nutrition also recommend a daily dose of exercise in order to maintain the healthy function of one’s vital organs as a way to prolong one’s life. Additionally, mental health professionals suggest seeking additional support from said experts should a person require assistance in discerning what kind of foods and how much food is considered healthy.
Individuals who are reshaping their lives without the presence of drugs and/or alcohol can greatly benefit from receiving such guidance and are of the belief that the more one learns about living a healthy lifestyle, the greater the chances for remaining sober.
Seeking Treatment for Addiction
If you or a loved one is hoping to recover from an addiction, seeking and receiving chemical dependency treatment can be one of the best decisions made for the betterment of your or your loved one’s future. Treatment of this kind will not only elicit new skills for abstaining from the use of substances, but a person can come to understand addiction, what led to this type of destructive behavior, and how to best achieve a healthy lifestyle.
For the most favorable treatment outcomes, it is imperative that an individual consider care options that include holistic treatment that incorporates nutrition education and that is also geared towards healing the whole person. By receiving this type of all-encompassing care, a person battling an addiction can come to realize a life that is truly rehabilitated.
About the Author:
This blog was written by The Refuge – A Healing Pace’s clinical team member Heather Wilk, MA, NCC. Heather has several years of experience working in the field of mental health as a psychotherapist and has her Master’s degree in Community Counseling from Concordia University – Chicago.
With an awareness that addiction and trauma are closely linked, The Refuge – A Healing Place offers superior care for those who wish to recover from chemical dependency concerns and overcome trauma from the past.
The approach to treatment featured at this exemplary center is holistic in nature, with care focused on healing the whole person and not just the strife occurring in that individual’s life. The staff of caring professionals employed at The Refuge are expertly-trained to care for every need of every client who receives these beneficial and life-changing services.
At The Refuge, true healing and lasting recovery are achieved because of the attention paid to each person’s mind, body, and spirit.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on February 28, 2015
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 11, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com