Many of those who enter a Colorado drug rehab find that they are malnourished because of their addiction. Addictive behaviors are not conducive to self-care of any kind, and that includes cooking and eating healthy foods on a regular basis.
Addicts eat poorly and become malnourished for a number of reasons, including poor sleep habits, the drugs masking normal hunger and thirst signals, and financial instability that can make it difficult to buy healthy foods to eat. In addition, drugs and alcohol can keep the body from absorbing nutrients and make malnutrition worse or cause symptoms even when nutrition is reasonably good.
The Importance of Nutrition in Recovery
It is difficult for those getting addiction treatment to heal well without addressing their nutritional needs. Your body is not going to feel well if you are not eating well, and when you have not eaten well for a period of time, usually months or years, it takes time to overcome this even when you do start eating well.
Malnutrition can make the symptoms of withdrawal worse and can even feel similar to withdrawal. Some recovering addicts can mistake headaches, sleep problems, and low energy for withdrawal symptoms when they may, in fact, be related to malnutrition.
Education about proper nutrition is associated with better treatment outcomes when offered with substance abuse treatment. Not only can the malnourished feel worse physically, but malnutrition can have psychological effects as well. Feeling hungry can impact concentration and mood, which can make those receiving treatment less receptive to what they learn.
Where to Start With Improving Nutrition
Unless you are in inpatient treatment with a kitchen staff preparing nutritious daily meals and snacks, trying to eat healthy in recovery can seem overwhelming at first. Most people cannot go from poor eating habits to great ones overnight, but even taking small steps toward healthier eating can support positive treatment outcomes.
–Eat regular meals. When you skip meals, your body becomes confused and does not know what to expect. This can cause stress on the body at a time when it needs all its resources to heal from the substance abuse. Meals do not have to be big or complicated; yogurt and fruit for breakfast, soup or salad and a sandwich for lunch, and meat with grilled veggies for dinner are easy enough for most people to handle without too much trouble.
–Balance out food groups. Making sure you have some protein, some grains, and lots of fruits and vegetables is important to any attempt to eat healthier. (Dairy can go in the protein category if your body can tolerate it.) Most people do not get enough fruits and vegetables–dietary guidelines call for up to nine servings of these foods each day, so err on the side of more fruits and vegetables if you are not sure what to eat.
–Limit sugary treats. Refined sugar, found in candies cakes, cookies, and sodas, can unbalance your body’s systems, give you uneven energy. This type of sugar is mostly empty calories that do not provide many nutrients for your body. Sugar has many negative effects on your body, and although it may seem easier to grab a package of cookies at the grocery store than to pick out healthy fruits, vegetables, and other nourishing foods, it is worth taking a little extra time to figure out healthier alternatives to sugary foods, other than for the occasional treat.
For more help figuring out how to eat healthier in recovery, you can meet with a nutritionist to develop an eating plan based on your needs. Many insurance plans even cover nutritional services.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers treatment for substance abuse that includes nutrition education and other services aimed at treating the whole person. Contact us for more information about the nutritional services we offer as part of comprehensive addiction treatment.