Nutrition and Exercise in Addiction Recovery
Addiction adversely affects the mind and body, and the road to recovery can be long — but most people forget about the importance of self-care during recovery. Treatment involves treating yourself well, too, and that means getting in the right nutrition and exercise to help your body adjust along the way.
No matter why the sufferer used narcotics, they lost sight of self-care. It becomes much like having to learn essential processes all over again, similar to a patient who had a stroke. Addicted patients often have short stays in treatment facilities, so nutrition and working out aren’t usually on the menu during those first 30 days of trying to get sober. Here are three reasons why that needs to change.
1. Nutrition Critical for Self-Care and Recovery
Unfortunately, many treatment programs don’t actively link diet to recovery. Many people forget the connection between personal diet and emotional and physical health. The whole self matters in the recovery process, and re-education regarding nutrition and recovery will give the sufferer more tools to empower their healing process.
When the person seeks help, the addicted body is often malnourished since the addiction is at war with the body and its ability to absorb and process nutrients. It also doesn’t help that the patient hasn’t eaten well — or sometimes at all — while struggling with their narcotic addiction.
The kind of malnutrition a person experiences differs depending on what substance they abused. Opiate addicts typically show deficiencies in vitamins B6 and D, calcium and iron, and cocaine addicts experience lows in fatty acids and omega-threes. Alcoholics experience more deficiencies than others since alcohol makes the body excrete more nutrients.
Young female addicts are at higher risk for osteoporosis due to loss of calcium, and magnesium deficiency often presents itself as anxiety, insomnia and physical weakness. Alcoholics present their B-vitamin deficiencies as factor-deficiency anemia, and slow healing wounds reveal vitamins C and K issues.
2. Addicted Patients Need Real Food
Supplements can help as a stop-gap measure, but they don’t address the real problem in a long-term way.
People need real food, and addicts commonly crave processed food high in added sugar, refined carbohydrates, salt and unhealthy fats due to reward-seeking behavior. That reinforces negative neural pathways in the brain, whereas real, healthy food helps to heal those pathways, add nutrition to the body and provide the body and mind with more resources on the road to recovery. Not to mention, having a real meal builds a sense of community and can help to create a feeling of calmness.
If addicted patients keep filling their body with the wrong foods, it leads to increased risk of debilitating diseases overall, such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes. So, what should programs feed recovering addicts while empowering their choices with education? In general, they should follow these guidelines:
• Decrease added sugar and provide natural sugar staples, such as citrus to stabilize blood sugar and improve anxiety, depression and mood.
• Replace — or at least reduce — refined carbohydrates with whole grains.
• Increase protein intake, since the amino acids therein act as neurotransmitter building blocks.
• Add more fiber in the form of vegetables and fruit to heal the digestive system.
• Include healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and omega-3s to help absorb fat-soluble vitamins.
• Reduce processed foods to place less stress on the liver’s need to process artificial ingredients.
• Decrease caffeine intake to improve anxiety and insomnia, which occur early on in sobriety.
Patients may start by eating every four hours with smaller meals to keep blood sugar stable — blood sugar instability is linked to mood swings and increases in anxiety. These adjustments help patients decrease their odds of relapse. When patients detox, they need caloric-controlled meals more than ever to provide their body with the right tools for recovery.
Why not include a cooking class in a recovery program and teach addicts how to get in touch with their body and feed it healthily? The gut is the foundation of health, and good gut health builds the base for the wellness to come. Here are just some of the list of healthy foods you can eat for a healthy recovery
3. Exercise Is Essential to Recovery and Relapse Prevention
Your mood can improve with just 30 minutes of exercise, and a consistent fitness routine can boost positivity, bolster dedication and feelings of personal reward and give the body and brain strength for recovery. The routine also gives flustered patients something to do with their time and ignore the urge to return to narcotics. Combining exercise with cognitive behavioral therapy increases the likelihood of positive developments.
At first, the body will ache as it builds up strength and endurance, but if you stick with exercise, you begin to notice the changes. You feel rewarded and may enjoy the activity more, and exercise doesn’t have to be torture. Think about swimming, hiking, nature walks and dance. Sufferers should choose a physical activity they enjoy, and start with small, achievable steps.
Overall health improves when addiction sufferers build good fitness routines and stick with them in the long-term. Fitness routines can help lower blood sugar and the risk for chronic deceases, such as certain cancers, improve mood and manage diabetes and cardiovascular issues. As the mind adjusts with the body, eating and sleep patterns also improve.
Exercise adds structure to the day and something to rely on, so an addiction sufferer may be less likely to give into a risky urge that breaks sobriety and additional item for your relapse prevention plan.
Healthy Personal Routines Build Positive Thinking
Got time on your hands and nothing to do? It’s better to focus on yourself with positivity and banish negative thoughts that often come as a part of the recovery process. Allow healthy personal routines to reinforce personal power and build positive thinking.
Sufferers may get caught up in feelings of denial or guilt as they deal with the personal ramifications of their addiction. They may doubt themselves and their ability to be self-sufficient beyond the walls of the treatment facility. Providing access to real food and enjoyable exercise programs, along with education about nutrition and fitness, will help addicts in recovery and prevent relapses.
Seeking Help for Addiction and Relapse Prevention
For information about treatment programs, please call to speak to a Treatment Specialist at 866-644-7911.