Nutrition: Healing The Body After Alcohol and Substance Abuse

women smiling while making nutritious food

Your body is a war zone. Consistent alcohol or substance abuse erodes your organs’ ability to take in and process vitamins and minerals. Similar to cancer or other diseases, alcohol and substances take over, breaking apart bits and pieces of your body. Both alcohol and substances can eat away at the brain and other organs or linings. Over time, the body shows signs of decay and malnutrition. The result is a body riddled with disease and pain.

The damage done by drinking or substance use is not permanent. A comprehensive approach to recovery includes building the body back up through proper nutrition. A proper diet with nutritional supplements begins the healing process for those with less severe damage. Those who suffer from severe damage to their body may require short-term intravenous therapy to provide the body with needed nutrients. Nutrition needs are determined by whether a person drank or used substances.

Lack of Self- Care

Alcohol is calorie-dense. Alcohol has seven calories per gram of alcohol second only to fat, which has nine calories per gram. The result of drinking empty calories is that the drinker feels full. The decrease in appetite because of drinking leads to inadequate nutrient intake and, eventually, malnutrition—the feeling of being full yet not being nourished results in unhealthy weight.

Often, alcoholism is portrayed as a person with red eyes, cheeks, and/or nose with a belly that protrudes against their clothes. Functional alcoholics don’t always look like this. They may appear fit and healthy, but the damage sustained by long-term abuse or dependence still exists.

Opiate and cocaine users focus on the cycle of getting high, crashing, and seeking a new high. They do this to the point of forgetting to eat or forgetting to take care of themselves. Alcohol or substance users may skip meals or fast to increase the feelings that occur during their use. Any or all of these habits affect gastrointestinal and brain function.

Damage to the Body

Continued drug or alcohol abuse damages the digestive system. Symptoms of a damaged digestive system are:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Indigestion
  • Loss of appetite

Other effects on the body include:

  • Damage to the liver and reducing its ability to store nutrients
  • Lean tissue and muscles breakdown
  • Suppression of the immune system

Alcohol, painkillers, and heroin damage and can shut down the digestive process. When the digestive process stops, the brain doesn’t receive vitamins or minerals.

Alcohol and heroin use also can damage the inner lining of the intestines. Vitamins and minerals aren’t absorbed by the intestines, causing a lack of nutrients sent to the brain. A healthy gut equals a healthy brain.

Fresh foods rebuild organs and tissues damaged by alcohol or substance abuse. In time, the nervous and gastrointestinal system receives the vitamins and nutrients they need repairing caused damage by alcohol or substance abuse.

Proper Nutrition and Recovery

The damage from alcohol or substance use is reversible. A well-nourished brain means a decrease in withdrawal symptoms and a higher chance of remaining in recovery. Natural foods retain good fats, macronutrients, and micronutrients that are vital to the body.

At the beginning of treatment, it is essential to learn about dietary habits. Eating nutrient-dense fresh food provides what the body needs to heal—putting aside processed food filled with fat and sugar benefits the body—processed food strip necessary micronutrients from foods. Healthy fats convert to trans fats, which create barriers to enzymes.
Healthy calorie consumption is vital and is easily accomplished by eating foods such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Nuts

With time and knowledge of how to eat well, you will see a difference in how your body and mind function. Healthful eating affects moods, creating positive feelings. Learning to make healthy food choices can initiate the path to healing.

How to Be Healthy

You are learning how to choose healthy foods while in treatment. A healthy diet builds a foundation for recovery. Changing habits pose challenges. Learning how to make a satisfying meal takes time. Meals, when prepared correctly, are filled with necessary vitamins and minerals.

The education process—combined with psychological and social education—teaches self-care. Eating healthy, exercising, and having hobbies are essential during recovery. When combined, the recovery process is more durable. Your body is no longer a war zone; it is a place of healing and good health.

Every treatment program should view you as an individual. We understand you have different needs, so we use different approaches to help you in your recovery. We are here to help and want to aid you in your search for answers.

The Mind-Body Connection

Proper nutrition will aid in initial recovery and sustained recovery. While understanding how nutrition plays a role in the recovery process, it is also important to understand why nutrition must be used in conjunction with a treatment program. Mark Hyman writes in his book, The Ultramind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First:

The chemical imbalances underlying “psychiatric illness” can now be seen as linked to more systemic chemical, metabolic problems, which can be treated at the bodily level. While just treating the brain chemistry can lead to drug dependence, treating systemic chemistry can fix the brain chemistry imbalance and lead to real sustainable healing.

Addicts abuse alcohol or substances in an effort to treat brain chemistry. The attempt to mask feelings and ease anxiety, depression, or other psychological conditions creates dependence. Through comprehensive treatment, including learning about nutrition, the body can heal.

Addiction robs a person of many things. The damage done to the body may appear overwhelming, but with the right tools—such as therapy and nutrition—it can be healed. Nutrition is important in healing after recovery. Long-term alcohol or substance dependence breaks down the body and mind. Understanding how alcohol or substance dependence affects organs, the gastrointestinal system, and brain chemistry is necessary in order to understand the importance of a proper diet. Learning how to cook, shop, and replace fatty, sugary foods with fresh, healthy foods allows the body to heal itself. The body is an amazing organism that can repair itself while providing the necessary functions for life. To learn more about how nutrition can aid in recovery, call Achieve Concierge. We offer appointments with a Registered Dietician to help guide you in healthy eating habits. Do you want to know more? Contact Achieve Concierge today by calling (619) 393-5871.

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