Drug and alcohol abuse and addiction can impact the brain and body in many ways. Physical health is impacted by the substances themselves and also by lifestyle choices, which can include poor diet.
Nutrients are provided to the body in the form of foods that are eaten. When someone is battling addiction, food choices are often unhealthy. They don’t provide the body with what it needs to function properly. Drugs and alcohol can also deplete the body of nutrients. This can interfere with organ function and immune system abilities, and it can lead to malnutrition and poor physical and mental health as a result. More than 20 million U.S. adults dealt with addiction at the time of the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
Addiction is a chronic disease with far-reaching ramifications, including poor nutrition and overall health.
Nutrition programs during recovery can help to reset the brain and body, helping a person to heal and improving overall health and quality of life.
Nutrition and diet can play a big role in a person’s health and well-being. Drug and alcohol abuse can interfere with this in many ways.
Common drugs influence the body in different ways.
During recovery, nutritional imbalances and malnutrition can be addressed with a nutritional program that caters to the individual’s specific needs.
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In general, nutrition programs during addiction treatment programs will be considered either primary or secondary.
Secondary: A secondary nutrition program helps to reduce stress and cravings while improving overall health through a well-balanced diet. These nutrition programs offer nutrition counseling and meal planning to help a person make healthy choices.
Foods and meals that are nutrient-dense can help to improve moods while providing the brain and body what they need to heal.
One of the things impacted by substance use is the chemical balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemical messengers help to regulate thinking and emotions, and their levels are disrupted by drug addiction.
Foods that are high in vitamins like folic acid, amino acids, omega 3s, dietary health fats, and carbohydrates provide fuel for the brain and body, helping to balance things out. Trained nutritional counselors and dieticians can create balanced meal plans and a structured diet to aid in recovery.
Nutrition programs in recovery can take many forms. They may be group education classes on proper nutrition and diet planning, more medically based, available through individual counseling, or part of a structured inpatient or residential treatment program.
The journal Today’s Dietician explains that nutrition education and nutrition counseling programs improve sobriety rates and enhance recovery.
A nutrition program can lead to healthy lifestyle changes, which can have these positive results:
A nutrition program in recovery can provide tools to improve physical well-being. It can also help to regulate cravings and manage stress to better cope and minimize relapse in recovery.
Nutrition education and counseling set a person up to be able to know which foods to eat and which to avoid during healing to improve physical and mental functioning. This can be done in a group or individual setting during an addiction treatment program, and it is often in both settings.
Individual nutritional counseling can deal with the specific needs of an individual. Specialty needs, such as allergies, intolerances, or preferences, can be addressed.
Group education allows people to support each other, offering tips and strategies for healthy choices.
Depending on the level of malnutrition caused by drug and alcohol abuse, the nutrition program may need to be more medically based. In this type of program, medical, mental health, and nutrition or dietary professionals will all work together to make a plan for improving health through medical and nutritional means.
Nutritional programs that are part of a highly structured inpatient addiction treatment program often include strict meal times and diets with specific calorie intakes and selections. These meal plans can be adjusted to suit specific dietary conditions and requirements.
During the initial evaluation for an addiction treatment program, discuss any meal or dietary conditions, preferences, and restrictions so that the diet plans can be sensitive and conducive to healing and specific needs.
A comprehensive addiction treatment program often includes therapeutic, supportive, and medical care as well as guidelines for overall lifestyle improvement. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reports that when nutrition education and counseling is part of a substance abuse treatment program, outcomes are improved and recovery is enhanced.
Nutrition programs can help to address medical and mental health conditions that have been exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse. Proper nutrition can aid in restoring physical and mental well-being for an improved quality of life in recovery.
(September 2017). Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm
(January 2019). Substance Use Recovery and Diet. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-FFR1-2016/NSDUH-FFR1-2016.htm
(January 2019). Substance Use Recovery and Diet. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002149.htm
(December 2014). Substance Abuse and Nutrition. Today’s Dietician. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120914p44.shtml
(April 2004). Nutrition Education is Positively Associated With Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Retrieved March 2019 from from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15054346