Eating Healthy in Recovery: Does it help?
When it comes to recovery, many people assume that it’s all about going to rehab and addiction treatment. Of course, rehab is often an important component of recovery, but it’s far from the only piece to the puzzle. In fact, much of the rehabilitation process entail learning strategies and habits that will help a person to sustain his or her newfound sobriety for the long-term. To an extent, one might think of rehab as a bootcamp for learning the healthy habits of sobriety, particularly when it comes to taking caring of oneself and ensuring that basic needs are met. One of those essential needs is nutrition.
But is diet really that important to the recovery process? To what degree does nutrition affect a person’s rehabilitation from addiction? Should diet be a focus as a person transitions from rehabilitation to sustained recovery? Let’s take a moment to consider why someone in recovery should take care to maintain a healthy diet and what the benefit good nutrition may have to the longevity of sobriety.
Physical health in addiction
As a person develops an addiction, he or she becomes less and less concerned about his or her basic needs. The alcohol and drugs take an increasingly central role in the individual’s life, usurping much of his or her attention and leaving very little focus for things like mental health, physical health, and basic nutrition. Some substances can have a direct and rapid impact on health, which is the case with alcohol since it often causes an increase in weight gain and cocaine, a substance that inhibits appetite and affects nutrition in a different way. Over time, a person’s body begins to change, becoming less healthy and often experiencing a deficit in many key nutrients. Moreover, these nutritional deficits can trigger a chain reaction, decreasing cognitive functioning and other bodily systems.
The cumulative effect is that, as the individual becomes more addicted to alcohol or drugs, the secondhand effects of the addiction — poor physical health, poor nutrition, increasingly poor cognitive performance — continue to exacerbate these negative effects. In short, it’s a downward spiral.
Nutrition and recovery
There are a number of common misconceptions about addiction recovery, one of which is that going to rehab is effectively a cure for addiction. However, that’s not quite the case. In recovery, a person learns what led to the addiction, how to avoid those factors, and how to restore himself or herself to a state of overall health; the latter is particularly important, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
In many inpatient and residential addiction treatment programs, nutrition is a significant part of the rehabilitation process. The reality is that most individuals neglect their physical health over the course of addiction, and when they’re in active addiction for an extended period of time, they almost forget how to care for themselves. It’s for this reason that physical health, diet, and nutrition are of increasing importance to the recovery process. In effect, a rehabilitation programs uses nutrition to help individuals in recovery regain their health; meanwhile, during the rehabilitation process, individuals are re-learning how to address these needs, which will be particularly important as they proceed to more advanced stages of recovery.
Although there are many reasons why nutrition is important to recovery, it’s particularly important because it precipitates strong cognitive performance. The nutrients that a person needs to maintain a state of overall health are obtained from foot; therefore, when an individual eats a poor diet, he or she suffers from poorer cognitive functioning, which makes it much less likely that he or she is able to maintain his or her sobriety. In fact, being in a state of poor nutrition inhibits the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food; in other words, as a person’s nutrition worsens, his or her ability to obtain nutrients from food decreases. As such, nutrition is an important part of rehabilitation because it helps a person’s body become better able to absorb essential nutrients. Further, when there’s adequate nutrition, the individual’s cognitive performance improves, facilitating a more effective recovery and stronger chances of being able to maintain lasting sobriety.
There are also some pretty basic benefits to having good nutrition as an individual proceeds from active addiction through rehabilitation and into lasting recovery. For one thing, a well-rounded diet helps to repair the damage that the body sustained from habitual substance abuse. Further, it enhances an individual’s immune system, protecting him or her from illnesses and allowing the individual to recover from general illnesses quicker. A healthy diet also improves mood and energy levels, which can contribute to a successful and long-lasting recovery since many individuals relapse due to things like fatigue, general feelings of unwellness, and poor mood.
Luke Pool is a grateful member of the Recovery community. He has found his purpose in life by helping those who suffer from the diseases of addiction. He uses blogging and social media to raise awareness about this epidemic, affecting every part of this country. Now working for Stodzy internet marketing, he is able to pursue his passion by informing as many people as possible about addiction. Originally from Austin, Texas he now lives in South Florida.
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