Until recently, addicts could eat anything they craved. Anything was better than substance abuse, so addicts would turn to junk food and high sugar intake. However, newer studies have shown junk food and high sugar intakes can result in the same diseases as drug and alcohol abuse, including fatty liver, fat deposits in the blood stream, and inflammation.
Holistic programs today use a well-rounded approach to treat a patients’ mind, body and spirit as a whole. One such complementary treatment that produces successful results is known as nutritional therapy. It involves nutrition classes, healthy meal plans, and making healthy lifestyle choices.
Today, it is widely known that proper nutrition can significantly improve patients’ physical, emotional, and cognitive health. It has become an integral part of a rehabilitation process that helps manage cravings and promotes long-term recovery.
Nutrition and Addiction
Poor nutrition and addiction is a vicious circle that can be difficult to break, but essential to recovery. Proper nutrition addresses the key nutrients that are missing from the body due to poor diet and lifestyle choices. It can include amino acid dips, vitamin and mineral supplements, and intravenous nutrition.
Nutrition therapy applies nutrition science to help addicts correct their digestive system and liver damage done by the drugs they took. Holistic detox patients meet frequently with their nutritionist to design a proper diet plan that will not involve sugary, fatty, artificial, and caffeinated foods. These can only make drug cravings even more intense.
As a result, most rehabilitation centers employ an in-house chef that prepares healthy, well-balanced, and home-cooked meals for the patients. Rehab centers also help residents see the connection between good nutrition and addiction recovery so they can continue to implement the nutrition skills learned after they graduate from the program. Eating healthy foods will make the recovery process easier and more complete. It can work to heal the entire body and overcome addiction.
The Importance of Nutrition in Addiction Recovery
Restoring recovering addicts’ health through good nutrition is a smart way to lay the foundation for continuing recovery.
Addiction can lead to malnutrition. Those battling with alcohol addiction used to drink the empty calories found in wine, beer, vodka, and other liquor. As a result, many alcoholics fail to eat a proper diet rich in the nutrients our body needs in order to function properly. On the other hand, drug abusers entirely focus on finding their next fix that they hardly eat. By the time they enter into rehab, the malnutrition has taken a considerable toll on their overall health.
Addiction can also damage the immune system. A compromised immune system can increase the addict’s risk of developing breast, liver, lung, or colon cancer. Heavy use of drugs and alcohol can damage the liver and this increases the chances of developing liver cancer.
Most importantly, addiction can destroy an addict’s self-esteem. The physical effects are quite visible, such as rotting teeth, bloodshot eyes, scarred skin, weight loss, or yellowing complexion. Some of these physical effects can still be visible even after the addict has stopped using, making it very difficult to rebuild self-esteem.
When is Nutritional Therapy Helpful?
- Weight problems (weight gain, weight loss, sugar cravings, blood sugar imbalances, diabetes).
- Cardiovascular health (raised cholesterol, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome).
- Hormonal imbalances/women’s health: infertility, PMS, PCOS, endometriosis, menopause symptoms, recurring thrush, cystitis).
- Skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea).
- Mental health and general wellbeing (low mood, anxiety, fatigue, poor concentration_.
- Autoimmune conditions (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis).
- Digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, bloating, IBS, reflux, food allergies).
What are dieticians, nutritionists, and nutritional therapists?
Dietitians have qualifications in food, nutrition, and dietetics. They undertake a course of study that has included supervised professional practice in public health nutrition, food service management, and medical nutrition therapy. They have the required qualifications to work in private clinical practice, hospitals, and the medical nutrition industry. Dietitians prescribe dietary treatments for conditions such as diabetes, food allergies, cancers, overweight, and gastrointestinal diseases.
Moreover, nutritionists tend to have a broader, more general meaning than dietitians. Nutritionists study about nutrition science and may have a graduate degree or a Ph.D. There are also nutritionist certification boards which require applications to have an advanced degree, along with practical experience before taking their certification exam. Most nutritionists can offer nutrition education, as well as nutrition supervision. They work to improve the well-being of individuals, communities, and the population as a whole, through better food and nutrition.
Nutritional therapists work in private practice and see individuals on a one-to-one basis. They have a broad knowledge of nutrition science and may work with healthy individuals to prevent disease, minimize symptoms of a developed disease, and uncover contributing factors. They also recognize that each individual is unique and requires an specific set of dietary requirements.
Many holistic programs at various rehabilitation centers suggest macrobiotic diets, also called “the art of great life”. They consist of unprocessed, organic foods and promise a healthier, more holistic long-term lifestyle. Macrobiotic dieters learn how to eat regularly, chew their food well, listen to their bodies, stay active, and maintain a positive mental outlook.
Furthermore, macrobiotics is not only a proper diet, but a way of life since it also includes the spiritual part of living and it teaches individuals to see the bigger picture. It involves foods rich in nutrients that have balanced yin/yang properties. This macrobiotic diet focuses on eating foods that are whole, local, and in season, in order to get the ideal yin and yang balance.
- Grains: research shows that whole-grain foods can protect from diabetes, colon cancer, and possible Alzheimer’s disease. Grains should make up 50% of the meal, and brown rice, barley, millet, and whole wheat are highly recommended.
- Vegetables: thanks to their specific nutritional profiles, vegetables can improve one’s metabolism, reduce belly fat genes, and lower the risk of developing chronic diseases. Moreover, cooked and raw veggies should make up 30% of one’s plate, and leafy greens are strongly recommended.
- Beans: beans are super-foods that contain high fiber and protein. There is a wide range to choose from—black beans, navy beans, and kidney beans to name a few.Beans should make up 10% of the meal.
- Fruit: fruits are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients that can help you live longer, look better, and even prevent disease. Fruits should rarely be eaten in a macro diet and should not be eaten more than 3 times a week.
- Sea vegetables: these mineral-rich sea plants can prevent aging and chronic diseases, lower cholesterol, detoxify the body, and balance thyroid function. Some healthy sea vegetables include dulse, kelp, kombu, and arame.
- Soup: soups are also an integral part of a well-balanced diet and should be eaten daily. Recommended soups are those that contain grains, veggies, sea veggies, and beans.
- Fermented foods: There are many fantastic options when it comes to fermented foods, including yogurt, natto, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh.
- Condiments/oils: Recommended oils include sesame oil and corn oil, as well as miso paste, sea salt, tahini, veggie broth, and dried mushrooms.
- Fish: fish is loaded with important nutrients, such as protein and vitamin D. The macrobiotic diet allows individuals to eat fish at least 1-3 times a week.
- Whole foods: the macrobiotic diet encourages whole foods over processed foods.
Macrobiotic Diet Principles
- Enjoy eating and be thankful for your meals.
- Eat seasonal and local foods.
- Be mindful of quantity and quality.
- Avoid dietary extremes.
- Chew your food thoroughly.
- Reduce the volume of what you eat.
Macrobiotic Lifestyle Principles
- Be generous.
- Be responsible and admit faults.
- Discover life via personal experience.
- Develop your intuition.
- Be friendly.
- Respect all living beings.
For more information please call our Addiction Treatment Helpline at (844) 439-4765. This is a Free and completely confidential call. We are available 24/7. In many cases, your health insurance company will cover 100% of the treatment cost. So please call now.