Many factors can affect your recovery and maintaining sobriety, but did you know that gut health may be a key factor? Your intestinal flora could play a major role in determining whether you succeed in recovery or in overcoming a mental illness. Gut health may be ravaged by substance abuse. Getting your gut in order may also improve your overall health.
What Is Gut Health?
When we talk about gut health, we’re talking about the lining of your digestive tract and the balance in bacteria. You need a balanced environment for your digestion and absorption of nutrients. Having a healthy balance of probiotics and prebiotics supports a healthy inflammatory response and supports our immune system. Certain foods and dietary supplements can boost the flora in your intestine. Supplements can be expensive, but you can eat certain foods to get the same effect.
What Substance Abuse Does to Gut Health
When you suffer from a substance use disorder, many of the good bacteria in your gut can be depleted. The digestive tract is responsible for your absorption of nutrients, and alcohol causes inflammation in the gut so that your body can’t get what little nutrients you’re putting into it.
On the other hand, if you’re experiencing substance abuse, this can add considerable stress to your life, which increases your secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone. Its effect is allowing the toxic substances you’re taking in to be absorbed more readily.
Problems in your gut health, or microbiome, have been linked to several health problems but also to mental health disorders. One study linked gut health with eating disorders. Could this be one of the keys to recovery?
Unhealthy Eating During Substance Abuse
You probably engaged in unhealthy behaviors when you were abusing substances, like skipping meals or eating foods that weren’t nutritious. You may have had gastrointestinal issues that affected your nutrition and absorption. Eating a healthy balanced diet was not exactly your priority, to say the least.
For those recovering from alcohol abuse, certain nutrients are likely missing. Things to focus on in recovery include getting enough of your B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It takes time to rebuild your body nutritionally after the devastating effects of substance use disorder. Consulting with a nutritionist is never a bad idea.
What You Can Do
Taking a good probiotic is a great way to start. Putting back some of the good bacteria into your gut helps reduce inflammation and supports digestion. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps settle down your digestive system and can boost your mood.
Eating a balanced diet is important, but be sure to thoroughly clean all your produce as you don’t want to introduce unhealthy bacteria into your gastrointestinal tract.
Some foods that can help with their digestive system include anything that has been fermented, as well as certain fruits and vegetables. Fresh sauerkraut boosts the good bacteria in your intestine, as well as kimchi, if you like it. Garlic and onions are healthy for the digestive system, and eating asparagus (especially raw) and pineapple. Food and drinks with ginger can help aid your gut health. Not only does ginger aid in digestion, but it provides a healthy dose of vitamin C, magnesium, and other trace elements. Apple cider vinegar has been touted as a miracle cure for a lot of health problems, and gut health is no exception. It may be a bit much to try to drink it as is, but adding it to salad dressings or vegetables before roasting is a more tolerable way to ingest it.
What if You Don’t Address Gut Health?
One of the most important things linked to poor gut health is depression. This isn’t good for anybody but is especially dangerous for anyone in recovery. Depression can lead to mood swings, sleep problems, and a generally unhealthy state where you’re always getting sick. It has also been linked to more conventional health problems such as anxiety, diabetes, and chronic fatigue.
Foods to Avoid to Improve Gut Health
It’s no surprise that high-fat foods and fried foods make this list. They are generally bad for your health, and cutting them out of your diet or reducing them is a good thing. You may be surprised to learn that dairy and berries also make the list. Berries have been touted as great antioxidant food but also listed as bad for your gastrointestinal health, likewise with chocolate, especially chocolate that isn’t dark or has a lot of sugar. Coffee also makes the list, as well as alcohol.
The health of our gastrointestinal tract, or gut health, is linked to many diseases and mental illnesses. Substance abuse is no exception. If you want to get healthy in recovery, know that your history of substance use disorder has damaged your overall nutrition and gut health. Addressing this problem can boost not only your health but your chances of being successful in recovery and avoiding relapse. Likewise, ignoring the damage done can affect your physical and mental health. At Everlast Recovery Centers, good nutrition and homestyle meals are part of our inpatient program and supplement more traditional therapies. After a substance use disorder, you need to get strong again, and we offer the tools for you to get healthy at our Riverside, California, facility. When you’re ready to make a change in your life, we will be there to help you along the way. Call us today at (866) 338-6925.