Your body has been through detox for substance abuse. Now it’s time to detox from the poor eating habits you developed while you were using. You may have binged on fast food or not eaten enough. Your gastrointestinal system may be damaged from the abuse to your body, or you may have fatigue and low blood sugar. While you were using, nutrition probably wasn’t one of your top priorities. Now you have to change that and get back on track both chemically and naturally through proper nutrition. What you eat is a huge factor in your recovery. Trying to make a major change in your dietary habits overnight probably won’t work. It takes time and effort to develop those habits and start living a healthy lifestyle.
Make Nutrition a Priority
While we all can benefit from good nutrition, there are certain extra needs you have in recovery, especially while in your first year of sobriety. Those recovering from a substance abuse problem will want to include foods that help balance their levels of serotonin. That means eating more complex carbohydrates such as legumes, root vegetables, and whole-grain pasta or bread. Legumes include beans, lentils, and peas.
Your overall health was probably compromised while you were using, so you’ll want a balanced and nutritious diet to get back on track. While there are many low-carb and keto-type diets out there that are trending right now, you want to keep your complex carbohydrates around 50% to 55% of your diet. “Forbes” magazine cited a study that showed too many — and too few carbs — increased mortality, so it’s important to seek them in moderation. Sources of healthy carbohydrates include whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. However, you’ll want to avoid sugar and white bread or flour. It’s also important to round out your diet with some dairy or calcium-fortified beverages and consume at least three cups per day. Keep protein to moderate amounts of about two to four ounces twice a day, and make the fats in your diets mostly good oils such as canola oil, olive oil, flaxseed oil, and the natural omega fats found in fish, particularly salmon.
When you abuse alcohol, you develop deficiencies in the B vitamins. You will likely need to replenish such B vitamins as folic acid, thiamine, and B12. Adding more whole grains to your diet can help meet these needs but you may also want to consider taking a supplement. To boost vitamin B even more, eat potatoes, beans, and tempeh. You may also need an extra boost of vitamin C; with calcium-fortified orange juice, you can kill two birds with one stone. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage are also rich in vitamin C.
Chronic alcohol abuse also tends to deplete the minerals in your body. It’s a good idea to supplement the minerals zinc, magnesium, potassium, chromium, and calcium, as previously mentioned. For zinc try oysters, shrimp, peas, potatoes, and beef round steak. Magnesium-rich foods include dairy, leafy vegetables, and seafood. Supplement potassium with bananas, potatoes, oranges, and sunflower seeds. Chromium, which supports blood sugar levels, can be supplemented with whole green wheat and rye bread, foods made with cornmeal, and shellfish.
There is one exception to this rule—iron. Abusing alcohol can cause damage to the lining in your stomach, and iron has an increased absorption rate with alcohol use.
Getting Healthy Again
While you may feel like you just have to eat right to get your health back, it can take up to 10 weeks for your body to start absorbing nutrients properly again when recovering from alcohol abuse or addiction. Be intentional in your eating choices and make a conscientious effort to balance your diet. Remember that supplements are meant to enhance a healthy diet, not replace it and you still have to eat right.
Another problem with chronic substance abuse is your body may be in adrenal fatigue. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to eat regularly and eat a balanced diet. If you’re experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue, stay away from caffeine, chocolate, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, as well as junk food in general. Any doctor or nutritionist would be telling you to do that, anyway.
In general, getting back to the basics of good nutrition is how you get your body back in shape nutritionally after substance abuse. Don’t skip meals, particularly breakfast, and be sure to have plenty of healthy snacks on hand. If you are tempted by vending machines at the office, make sure you take enough snacks to work that are good for your body and won’t make you feel worse. With good nutritional planning, you can get back and maintain the health you had before you begin abusing substances and maybe even better.
Everyone can benefit from making certain changes in their lifestyle to adopt healthier eating habits. For those in recovery from substance abuse, their body may need a little extra TLC to get back into a healthy state, especially at the beginning of recovery. Knowing where your deficiencies may lie can help you target those areas, and simply eating a healthy balanced diet that includes superfoods will go a long way to getting your health back quicker. Here at Everlast Recovery Center, we know the importance of nutrition to success in sobriety, which is why we provide homestyle meals to our patients and guests to support them during recovery. Taking a whole-body approach to recovery, including nutrition, is one of the things that help supplements our various therapies. At our Riverside, CA facility, we can get you back on the right track to a healthy and sober life. You don’t have to go through this alone. Call us today at (866) 338-6925.