Nutrition During Recovery from Addiction

Florida Center for Recovery’s holistic approach to addiction treatment and recovery feed not only the mind and spirit but also the body. That been said taking care of the recovering body’s physical needs, more specifically, the dietary needs are what this article will cover.

All too often, most of us are told of all of the good foods that we should eat. But what are the foods a recovering individual should try to avoid,  and the ones they should include in their diets?  Numerous studies have shown that most recovering individuals suffer from malnutrition and biochemical disorders developing common ailments as those listed below:

The following are common ailments among those that have abused drugs and/or alcohol.

  • Digestive problems such as Leaky Gut Syndrome or “intestinal permeability,” a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products, and bacteria to “leak” through the intestines and flood the bloodstream.
  • Hypoglycemia – a condition caused by a very low level of blood sugar which may cause a variety of symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
  • Nutritional deficiencies of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

These common ailments experienced by many in early recovery can be reversed by eating the proper foods and avoiding foods that can make matters worse. We all know that natural foods such as fruits vegetables, legumes, and nuts are good for us. But what are the foods to be avoided?

Individuals in early recovery who have just given up an important source of pleasure (drugs/alcohol) may not be ready to make drastic lifestyle changes. So, it is more important that the person avoid returning to substance use than sticking with a strict diet unless of course there are other health issues that require them to do so. Yet, because a balanced nutrition helps improve mood and health, it is important to follow a healthy diet when recovering from alcohol and other drug problems.

Below is a simple guideline:

Stick to regular mealtimes: Drug and alcohol addiction causes a person to forget what it is like to be hungry, and instead think of this feeling as a drug/alcohol craving. This is why regular meals are important.

Drink lots of water: During recovery from substance use, dehydration is common. It is important to get enough fluids during and in between meals.  

Eat whole grains and other complex carbohydrates as they contribute to the release of serotonin while also adding fiber to the diet. The body digests them slowly, and as a result, they keep insulin and blood sugar levels from spiking and moods from crashing.

Eat vegetables and beans and other high-fiber foods recommended by the U.S. National Library of Medicine for recovery from opiate addiction for their fiber and protein which helps alleviate the gastrointestinal difficulties experienced during withdrawal

Eat foods that are low in fat

Get more protein

Vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful during recovery (this may include B-complex, zinc, and vitamins A and C)

Reduce caffeine: Walk into any NA or AA meeting, and you will see plenty of people with a cup of coffee. If you cannot quit caffeinated beverages totally, consume in moderation. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands and can lead to exhaustion, depress the immune system, lower blood pressure, and cause dizziness and lightheadedness.

Avoid foods with high sugar concentrations. Low blood sugar levels are common among former substance users and rehab patients often turn to simple sugar as another easy fix – like drugs.

Avoid red meat and processed foods. Red meat has been linked to clogged arteries and shorter lifespans. Processed foods are often stripped of the nutrients that are so valuable to a malnourished recovering body, and they often contain high amounts of sugar and sodium.

Recovering from a drug and alcohol addiction require a strong body and mind. In order for both to work together, a healthy well-planned diet is needed to nourish and repair the damage incurred by substances. Beyond a well-balanced diet, former drug users should exercise, get plenty of sleep, schedule time to relax, and rebuild strong social support.  

For those looking into an addiction treatment program, our clinicians at Florida Center for Recovery in Fort Pierce are ready to assist, discuss and plan a recovery program to address your particular needs, which includes a complete discharge planning.