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Dietary management of substance use disorders

Posted on 02-23-2016 Posted in Physical Health, Recovery, Substance Abuse - 0 Comments

dietary management

Research shows that nutritional management can help a recovering addict during his or her journey of recovery.

Nutritional deficiency during an addiction recovery is a two-edged sword.

First, the ingestion of a drug or alcohol in itself damages the body. Alcohol, for example, hinders nutrient breakdown and absorption. Substance abuse causes vitamin and mineral deficiencies that threaten physical and mental health, damage fundamental organs and the nervous system, and diminish immunity. Opiates can cause gastrointestinal issues, and withdrawal may cause severe vomiting and diarrhea that depletes nutrients.

Second is the promotion of an unhealthy lifestyle, either as a result of not eating enough or eating foods that are low in needed nutrients. With chronic drinking, alcoholics derive as much as half of their daily calorie intake from alcohol itself. Certain substances, such as stimulants, may repress appetite and disrupt metabolic regulation, constituting inadequate calorie consumption and nutrient processing. Other substances may lead to an increase in appetite, causing weight gain.

This usually translates into poor eating patterns, lack of exercise and changes in sleep patterns. The result can be a greater risk of long-term health problems, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension and eating disorders.

Why is nutrition important?

Nutrient deficiencies can elicit symptoms of depression, anxiety and low energy, all of which can result in initiation of drugs or alcohol usage or trigger a relapse.

Nutrients give the body energy, help build and repair organ tissue, and strengthen the immune system. Proper nutrition and hydration are vital for substance abuse treatment because they help refurbish physical and mental health and enhance the chances of recovery.

Several treatment programs acknowledge nutrition because a healthy lifestyle endorses mental health, improving health conditions and deficiencies simultaneously.

One-on-one nutrition counseling and education programs incorporated into substance abuse treatment have been shown to considerably improve sobriety success rates. It is essential for patients dealing with substance abuse, just like those with diabetes, to get nutrition education that tackles their individual risk factors and enhances the chances of recovery.

Medical nutrition therapy

Medical treatment through nutrition therapy should target the following goals:

  • Restore and nourish the damage done to the body by substance abuse
  • Mood stabilization and stress reduction
  • Constraining cravings for drugs and alcohol
  • Address co-occurring conditions
  • Promote well being and a healthy lifestyle

The role of the dietician

It is important to collaborate with a trained nutritionist who can address individual dietary needs in recovery. Despite its importance, the dietician’s role is often missing from patients’ long-term recovery process. Nutrition therapy for substance abuse is complex, as the risks are influenced by the substance of choice. Negative repercussions are common, including poor support system, co-occurring disorders and financial constraints.

Nutritional Guidelines for Recovering Addicts

  • Eliminate excess sugar and use of processed foods
  • Incorporate whole grains
  • Focus on how much you eat and when you eat it. Prioritize frequent, evenly dispersed meals
  • Because alcohol and opiates severely affect the stomach, intake of probiotics is essential in such cases
  • Protein is vital, as it helps repair body tissue and damaged organs
  • Minimize caffeine consumption
  • B vitamins are essential during detoxification to ensure proper brain function

Sovereign Health is a leading behavioral health treatment provider for patients with substance abuse and mental health disorders. Our evidence-based treatment is based on an all-inclusive and holistic approach, including nutrition therapy, to ensure an all-encompassing and sustained recovery. If you or a loved one is currently struggling to regain control of your life, call us right away.

About the author

Sana Ahmed is a staff writer for Sovereign Health Group. A journalist and social media savvy content developer with extensive research, print and on-air interview skills, Sana has previously worked as an editor for a business magazine and been an on-air news broadcaster. She writes to share the amazing developments from the mental health world and unsuccessfully attempts to diagnose her friends and family. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at

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