Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of addiction recovery. The brain, along with every other organ in your body, needs certain minerals, vitamins, and nutrients to function well. Unfortunately, addiction interferes with your nutrition levels, making you more susceptible to physical ailments, cognitive decline, mental illness, and emotional distress. Luckily, establishing a balanced diet can help repair the harm that addiction can do to the body. Increasing your nutrition levels can also:
- Boost your immune system
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Help rebuild your physical strength
- Enhance your mental health
- Improve your mood
- Help you recover from illnesses and injuries
- Increase your energy levels
- Improve your overall well being
Staying sober may not be the easiest process, but establishing and maintaining a balanced diet can certainly improve your recovery journey.
How Proper Nutrition Benefits Addiction Recovery
Even after you’ve stopped using drugs and alcohol, you need to be mindful of your eating habits. Research continues to show that increasing your nutrition levels can increase your chances of long-term recovery. Here’s how.
1. A Balanced Diet Can Help The Brain Relearn Healthy Habits
When you abuse drugs and alcohol, the brain learns and memorizes many unhealthy habits. In fact, addiction actually “teaches” the brain to need drugs and alcohol to feel and function normally. Luckily, the brain can change and “unlearn” these harmful associations and habits. The brain’s ability to change and learn new patterns is called neuroplasticity.
Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain can “re-learn” and master healthy habits even after being negatively impacted by addictive habits. Eating a balanced diet and increasing your nutrition levels can help enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity. Here’s how this nutrition helps support the brain’s recovery process.
- Carbohydrates help the brain produce serotonin, which works to lessen cravings for drugs and alcohol. As the cravings diminish, the brain has more time and energy to focus on creating new neural connections. Eating a moderate amount of carbohydrates can also help stabilize your mood and promote healthier sleep patterns.
- Healthy fats help reduce inflammation and protect cell membranes which can help lessen the amount of time your brain needs to learn new, healthier habits. Avocados, sunflower seeds, olive oil, almonds, pecans, walnuts, salmon, tuna, soymilk, and peanut butter are all sources of good, healthy fats.
- Amino acids help balance the brain’s dopamine levels, which motivates the brain to change, learn, and repeat healthier habits. Red meat, chicken, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, quinoa, chia seeds, beans, legumes, fruits, and vegetables all contain a good amount of amino acids.
Recovering from addiction and restoring the brain to health can be a long, multifaceted process, but eating a balanced diet can help the brain become accustomed to healthier lifestyle habits.
2. A Nutrient-Rich Diet Can Help Re-establish Your Physical Health
Abusing drugs and alcohol wears the body down. Abusing addictive substances can damage nearly every organ in your body, as well as increase your risk of catching an infectious disease or developing cancer. Luckily, eating healthy can help restore your physical health.
Restoring your physical health to pre-addiction levels may take time, but filling your diet with nutrients, minerals, and vitamins can help heal much of the damage addiction causes. Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, arugula, cabbage, and broccoli contain nutrients that decrease inflammation, heal wounds, and boost your immune system. Berries have a wealth of antioxidants that help support the body’s natural recovery processes. Nuts and seeds also help fight infection and diseases.
The food choices you prefer are up to you, but if you’re looking to recover your physical strength, you need to eat high-quality:
- Protein to help build up your muscles and bones
- Vitamin C and zinc to help promote healing throughout the body
- Vitamin D and calcium which are associated with healthy bones
- Magnesium which can help stabilize your hormonal, immune, cardiovascular, and neuromuscular functions
- B vitamins to help boost your energy levels, build muscle, and repair bodily tissues
- Potassium which regulates fluid levels and nerve functions in the body
3. A Balanced Diet Can Improve Your Mood and Mental Health
Recovering from addiction can also affect your mood and mental health. Detoxing from addictive substances can trigger a wide variety of withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, paranoia, depression, and anxiety. Resisting cravings can make you moody and irritable. Luckily, eating the right foods can help balance your mood and improve your mental health.
According to one particular study, people following the Mediterranean and traditional Japanese diets tend to have a 25 to 35% lower risk of depression than those who follow the modern American diet. Data from another study reveals that foods high in zinc, magnesium, omega 3, B vitamins, and vitamin D3 may help ease anxiety, relieve depression, and boost mood.
Maintaining your blood sugar can also help boost your mood. When your blood sugar fluctuates, so does your mood. Rapid changes in your blood sugar levels can trigger “hanger,” anxiety, irritability, worry, and mild symptoms of depression. Fortunately, eating lean meats, quinoa, low-fat yogurt, lentils, oatmeal, and berries can help you maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
4. Increased Nutritional Levels Can Help Improve Your Memory
Abusing substances can also negatively affect your memory. Fortunately, increasing your nutrition levels can help enhance your memory and combat short-term memory loss. Studies show that eating a lot of foods high in vitamins C, D, E, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and polyphenols can help protect against and possibly reverse the cognitive decline associated with addiction.
5. Healthy Eating Can Increase Your Energy
No matter what aspect of recovery you’re facing, rehabilitating your life requires physical, emotional, and mental energy. Complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water a day can help boost your energy.
In addition to stabilizing your blood sugar levels, complex carbohydrates take a longer time to digest, giving your body a greater amount of energy for longer periods. Lean proteins like nuts, eggs, and fish provide your body with even more energy than carbohydrates. Your body also needs healthy fats to absorb the vitamins you consume in order to protect the heart and brain. To help maintain your energy, try to eat a source of protein, healthy fat, and a complex carbohydrate at every meal.
6. Maintaining A Balanced Diet Can Help You Sleep Well
You may not realize it, but sleep is an important part of recovery as well. Poor sleep patterns, restlessness, and insomnia can make you want to turn to drugs and alcohol to temporarily escape your sleep challenges. Luckily, you can avoid that type of temptation by eating foods that promote and encourage healthy sleep patterns.
Studies show that eating foods high in magnesium can help improve the quality of your sleep by reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Eating a good amount of protein before bed might also help you rest well. In addition to helping increase your energy levels for recovery, getting a good night’s rest can help:
- Boost your immune system
- Improve concentration
- Improve your mood
- Enhance your emotional wellbeing
- Heal your physical body
- Prevent relapse
Treatment That Can Help You Recover From The Inside Out
Here at Soba Recovery, we believe in treating addiction holistically. This means our approach to treatment includes detoxification, behavioral therapy, counseling, sober living, alternative therapies, relapse prevention education, and of course, nutritional counseling. Developing a balanced diet is one of the easiest ways you can help reverse some of the damage caused by addiction. Increasing your nutrition levels is also a good way to keep your spirits high and rebuild your strength. Let us help you live the sober life you want and deserve. Contact us today if you’re interested in a holistic approach to treatment that can help you recover from the inside out.