As children, we are told to eat our vegetables. Depending on our upbringing, our grasp of nutrition has hopefully become a little more sophisticated since then. We know that eating a well-balanced diet with correct portions helps us to feel good and be healthy. However, within substance use, we often lose sight of our health in general. As we turn our sights to treatment, we should also turn our minds to our nutrition. Eating healthy can actually help our minds and bodies to heal from substance use.
When we use substances, the substances themselves can cause deficiencies in our bodies. For example, alcohol use can cause deficiencies of vitamins B1, B6, and folic acid. This can then lead to anemia. Other deficiencies can occur as well as the damage that occurs in the liver and pancreas, which is very common.
Meanwhile, opiates can impact the gastrointestinal system, which leaves us with a lack of nutrients overall, as well as an imbalance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and chloride. Various substances can cause deficiencies in different ways. In fact, there are even cases of malnutrition associated with substance use, particularly the longer our substance use occurs.
These types of deficiencies in our bodies can cause even more problems, including depression and other mood disorders. This makes it even more important for us to heal by using a diet that is healthy and can replace the various nutrients that we are lacking due to substance use. Replacing nutrients becomes an essential part of the healing process.
Reversing the Damage
There are a lot of different ways that substances damage our body, including damage to the liver, kidney, pancreas, our immune system, and even our brain. Much of this damage is unfortunately not reversible. However, by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet in recovery and beyond, we can reverse some of the harmful effects on our body.
For example, we can boost our immune system and increase brain function by being vigilant with our diet. Our doctors can do testing to determine where we are deficient and what our body needs, but nutrition is key in repairing some of the damage caused by substance use.
Metabolism and Appetite Regulation
Many substances impact our body’s metabolism and also our appetite regulation. For example, when using methamphetamine, most people do not eat at all while using the substance. Even when not using meth, it can impact appetite regulation enough that severe weight loss occurs. In fact, many stimulants suppress our appetite, which can cause malnutrition.
As we seek treatment for substance use, it becomes very important to regulate our diet carefully in order to normalize our metabolism, as well as provide the important nutrients the body needs to heal. Eating healthy, regular meals and snacks can help our body to control appetite regulation. This helps to not only regulate our weight properly to prevent unwanted weight loss or gain, but also to promote regular exercise and sleep. All of these physical components are necessary for our bodies to properly heal.
Helping Prevent Relapse
Our bodies crave foods as well as substances. Substance use often leads to our bodies craving unhealthy foods, such as sweets. There is also evidence that as we seek treatment for our substance use, there is sometimes a form of addiction transfer in which we crave foods and use them instead of our substances. This obviously creates more problems for us physically, as we risk weight gain, obesity, and even diabetes.
Using foods in place of our substances, or any type of addiction transfer puts us at higher risk for relapse. When we are careful and eat a balanced and nutritious diet in recovery, we not only support increased physical benefits as mentioned, but we also help to regulate our food intake. If we are able to manage our food cravings with a healthy diet, we also help to decrease our cravings for substances, thus helping to prevent relapse.
Commitment to Self
At the end of the day, the most important way that eating healthy helps us to heal is that it demonstrates our commitment to ourselves. When we take the time to find out about our body’s needs and replace the nutrients lost during substance use, we are showing ourselves that we are worth it. When we take measures daily and continuously to repair any damage we may have done to our bodies by choosing a diet that helps us to heal, then we are continuously telling ourselves that we love ourselves.
Eating healthy can help to normalize our appetite, preventing further health problems. We can also prevent a transferred addiction in our diet and help to prevent relapse as we treat ourselves to a new, nutritious way of life. As we consciously and carefully make food choices every day to improve our health, we are constantly rewarding our choice to recover from substance use. Eating healthy creates a perpetual opportunity to tell ourselves how valuable we are and to give our bodies healing.
Learn about how a healthy diet can help you heal at AToN Center. Call (888) 535-1516 today. We teach nutrition hands-on with healthy foods and even allow you to help grow your own food on site. The habits you can build around food at AToN are habits that will help you heal now and for the rest of your life.