Today we will look at how proper nutrition can play an important role in addiction recovery by supporting physical and mental health.
Substance use can deplete the body of essential vitamins and minerals, making it important to replenish these nutrients through a balanced diet.
We covered nutrition at a Towards Recovery conference in 2015 and we had the good fortune to be able to record it too, so I’ve included a link to that video to accompany this article. The speaker is our good friend Lisa Sayers, who among her many qualifications is also a personal trainer and a qualified nurse. You can find the link on our YouTube channel
- Lisa gets into more detail about cross sensitisation and cross addiction
- The effect of ‘junk’ food on the brain and brain function, and
- How we can boost brain chemical production.Nutrition is such a key part of recovery. When I stopped using and entered “detox” clucking it out (cold turkey) at my sisters flat, I was what the fashion industry would have called ‘heroin chic’ – skinny as ***k. I had lost a lot of weight and was going to lose a bit more before starting to put it back on and get to a healthy size.
Entering treatment, I began to put weight on and developed a liking for anything sweet. The rehab had a tuck shop and provided you had the money there was sugar on tap in the form of sugary drinks and chocolate to supplement the hearty meals served up 3 times a day. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was swapping one addiction for another, I was craving sugar and becoming hooked.
Sugar has been an in-and-out theme in my life ever since and I know of many others in recovery who battle to eat well and I’d venture to say the number 1 cross addiction for people in recovery from alcohol and other drug (AOD) use is SUGAR!
I’ve learned that to get enough sleep I need to set my alarm for when I go to bed not just when I want to get up and create a healthy regular night-time routine. Exercise for me is now more of a gentle affair, walking, some physio for my knees, an occasional round of golf and then some stretching; but what would a balanced diet look like?
You may need to seek some professional advice (watching Lisa’s video would be a good start) and maybe talk to your own GP, but a generic balanced diet would include a variety of foods from all the food groups in the right proportions to provide the necessary nutrients for optimal health.
Here are the recommended food groups and their proportion in a balanced diet:
1. Fruits and vegetables: At least five portions a day, or about 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit is the UK recommended daily amount. However, in Japan they aim for 7 to 13 vegetables and two to four fruits daily, admittedly they eat smaller portions – as little as 50g counts, but still, maybe we could eat more veg and fruit
2. Grains: At least half of your daily grains should be whole grains. Examples of whole grains include whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa.
3. Protein: Include a variety of protein sources such as lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
4. Dairy or dairy alternatives: Choose low-fat or fat-free options such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. If you are lactose intolerant, consider soy or almond milk as an alternative.
5. Fats: Choose healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
In addition, it’s important to limit or avoid processed and high-fat foods, sugary drinks and it may sound obvious because we are talking about addiction recovery, but cutting out alcohol has a massive positive benefit.
Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is also essential for good health.
Overall, incorporating proper nutrition into addiction recovery can support physical and mental health, reduce cravings, and provide a sense of control and accomplishment.