Nutrition and Exercise in Addiction Recovery
When you think of rehab, the image of hour-long therapy sessions and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms likely come to mind. But that’s not all that’s necessary for addiction recovery. While it may not seem like exercise and nutrition directly affect recovery, evidence proves otherwise. Let’s look at how exercise and nutrition can affect your addiction recovery journey.
Essential Components of Successful Addiction Recovery
When you go to a rehab center, services that get the most attention include detox, medication-assisted treatment, and talk therapies with a professional psychologist. But besides these standard components, many rehab centers incorporate exercise and balanced nutrition as a comprehensive treatment plan. Multiple studies show how a regular exercise routine and balanced nutrition plan has a positive effect on addiction recovery.
Why is Nutrition Important for Recovery?
When you struggle with addiction, substance abuse can have several long-term effects on nutrition. While substances’ individual effects vary, most disrupt your normal physiological functions. Therefore, your body is unable to get proper nourishment. Some of the ways alcohol and drugs can affect your diet are as follows:
- You may prioritize getting high or purchasing drugs over groceries or proper meals. Because of this, you may rely on low-quality foods that don’t meet your nutritional requirements.
- Substance abuse and excessive alcohol consumption can damage organs crucial to the digestive process, such as the liver, intestines, stomach lining, and pancreas. In the long run, this can have a negative effect on your body’s ability to digest, absorb, and store nutrients.
- Some substances, such as nicotine, can suppress your appetite and even induce nausea when you try eating something.
- Some substances like methamphetamine make you less hungry while increasing cravings for unhealthy foods with addictive properties.
- When you can’t access your preferred drug, you may turn to binge eating, leading to obesity and consequent cardiovascular issues.
- Various substances like opioids and alcohol can suppress your immune response, which makes you more susceptible to getting sick. This, in turn, can reduce your appetite.
- Failing to eat proper meals may contribute to low blood sugar levels.
Because of all these issues, the end result can be deficiency-related diseases that affect your quality of life and ability to perform everyday tasks. So when you begin treatment for your substance abuse problem, nutrition is a crucial aspect that is addressed. In fact, it’s why plenty of luxury addiction treatment centers offer personalized meal plans.
How Does Nutrition Affect Your Recovery?
Nutrition can benefit recovery in a number of ways, such as:
- Stabilizing mood by eating the right foods rich in magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins
- Preventing crashes by introducing high-fiber foods that digest slowly
- Increasing neuroplasticity by incorporating amino acids, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates strengthen your brain to relearn better habits.
- Improves aspects of physical health, such as building muscle, strengthening bones, and stabilizing body functions.
- Reducing stress hormone levels so you can sleep better, so you have a lower risk of relapse, and can concentrate better.
- Giving you long-lasting energy to stay committed to recovering.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. With time, you’ll find that balanced nutrition improves your outcomes for recovery and the likelihood of performing better later on.
What Nutrition Should Recovery Addicts Have?
Nutritional plans differ based on your substance abuse history and whether you’re dealing with malnutrition. Before a nutrition specialist can determine what nutrition you need, they’ll go through the following steps.
Discussing Nutrition With Specialists
First, you’ll meet with a physician to go over your health history and discuss the issues you face because of substance abuse. In this review, you’ll discuss your eating habits and weight. For instance, did you gain or lose any weight because of drug abuse? Do you have any symptoms of nutrient deficiencies? Do you suffer from co-occurring disorders that are the cause/result of substance abuse?
Next, you’ll meet with a nutritionist who will determine your specific nutritional needs. At this time, they consider your stress levels, which are likely to increase during rehab. When your body produces large amounts of the stress hormone, it can deplete crucial nutrients like Vitamins A, E, C, and B complex, minerals like magnesium and zinc, and electrolytes. After determining what nutrients you need, the nutritionist will prepare a meal plan to meet these needs.
Most people with alcohol addiction don’t consider nutrition as a major priority. Moreover, it damages the stomach lining and depletes digestive enzymes, which hinders nutrient absorption. Chronic alcohol abuse takes a toll on the liver and pancreas, which can cause an imbalance of protein and electrolytes.
If you have an alcohol addiction, your nutritionist will design a plan that’s high in fresh fruit and vegetables, such as bananas, oranges, apples, cucumbers, and tomatoes. It will also include whole grains to meet your carbohydrate requirement. Other important foods include lean fish, spinach, and dried fruit. Of course, you have to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and electrolytes as well.
Excessive marijuana use can increase your appetite for junk food that doesn’t provide any useful nutrition. Consequently, you may gain weight due to bad food choices. People who frequently smoke marijuana are deficient in essential nutrients like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This can prevent wounds from healing properly, increase your risk of infection, and lead to skin inflammation.
If you’re seeking treatment for marijuana addiction and being overweight, your nutritionist will suggest going on a restricted diet. The diet will focus on reducing the number of empty calories consumed from high-fat, overly processed foods. This means eating whole grains, lean protein, and plenty of fiber. They will also recommend a suitable exercise program to help you lose excess weight faster.
When receiving treatment for opioid addiction, you may face withdrawal symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting, both of which can reduce the concentration of essential nutrients in your body. Your meal plan will include balanced meals with more lean protein and complex carbohydrates to reduce the intensity of symptoms. It will also be rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to reduce cravings and stabilize mood.
Because stimulants like methamphetamine and cocaine give you increased energy, you may find yourself staying awake for days at a time to use the drug. This will lead to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. During treatment, you may experience an urge to overeat. Therefore, it’s best that you stick to a comprehensive plan to gradually reintroduce foods to your diet.
How Can Exercise Help Conquer Addiction?
Most treatment centers offer some form of fitness-related services to help patients incorporate exercise into their routines. Even though there’s no specific formula as to the best type of exercise for someone in recovery, the most common activities include aerobic classes, swimming, walking, and yoga. But regardless of the exercise routine you adopt, it’s sure to offer the following benefits:
One of the main precursors to addiction is stress, which can occur due to one’s environment or a traumatic event. According to the self-medication hypothesis, people struggling with addiction take substances to cope with feelings of stress. And without an alternative method to do so, relapse is much more likely as well. Therefore, treatment programs use exercise as a healthy way to cope with and reduce stress. It stimulates the release of endorphins, also known as ‘feel-good’ chemicals. This process will teach your brain to start producing its own neurotransmitters instead of relying on substance use.
Resets Circadian Rhythm
Substance abuse can hinder your ability to sleep properly, which affects your body’s circadian rhythm. Exercise can help shift the circadian rhythm to its natural state, resetting your sleep and wake schedules. Therefore, you can enjoy restful sleep at night and feel energized in the morning.
Strengthens Immune Function
Your body has a small number of white blood cells that are responsible for protecting your body from infections. This small group of white blood cells needs to circulate all over the body constantly. When you struggle with addiction, it can weaken your immune function. Exercising during the recovery process can help boost circulation, which strengthens your immune response.
To sum it up, addiction recovery goes beyond detox and cognitive behavioral therapy. Nutrition and exercise play a crucial role in stabilizing your mood, reducing stress, and increasing energy levels. Addiction can take a toll on your diet and eating habits, which is why rehab centers develop a personalized meal plans to address your nutrition requirements. At the same time, they encourage exercise as a way to cope with stress and prevent relapse.