Many people who abuse drugs or alcohol become deficient in certain nutrients. This can occur as a result of eating too little, eating an unbalanced diet, or as a direct result of excessive drug and alcohol consumption itself.
Lacking certain nutrients in the body can have negative effects on a person’s physical and mental health, which can worsen substance use behaviors. Alongside traditional treatments such as behavioral therapy, nutrition and wellness therapies are effective treatment strategies for addiction.
Treating nutrient-deficiencies, as well as co-occurring eating disorders in those with substance abuse problems, can reduce the risk of relapse and improve whole-body wellness in sobriety.
At Vertava Health, we offer an array of wellness-based treatments within our inpatient programs to re-introduce patients to a balanced diet and encourage healthy habits.
Effects Of Drug And Alcohol Abuse On Nutrition
Substance abuse has far-reaching effects throughout the brain and body and affects lifestyle choices, such as diet and exercise. This includes changes in appetite, as well as an impact on the body’s ability to absorb and process nutrients.
When certain organs in the body, such as the liver and pancreas, aren’t working properly as a result of heavy drug or alcohol use, this can lead to nutrient deficiencies, poor digestion, and have effects on metabolism.
People that have organ damage or nutrient deficiencies as a result of their substance abuse can be at risk for moderate to severe health problems, including:
- high blood pressure
- liver disease
- abnormal electrolyte levels
- severe malnutrition
- cardiac issues
Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction can be most effective when it takes into account all of the ways substance abuse can affect a person’s health behaviors. Nutrition is a key indicator of health and can be addressed within addiction treatment through wellness and nutrition therapies.
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Nutritional Therapy In Addiction Treatment and Recovery
Within addiction treatment, nutrition therapy can play a key role in directly addressing some of the most common health problems experienced by people with substance abuse issues.
A common consequence of heavy alcohol or drug use is malnutrition, which can affect a person’s concentration and their ability to think properly. This can make participating in other treatments like counseling more difficult.
Providing a regular eating routine of meals and snacks throughout the day can help clear some of the mental fogginess people feel when they first enter treatment. This can then not only improve a person’s physical health but also make other treatment services more effective by giving people the fuel they need to engage in their treatment.
Engaging in healthier eating habits can also have positive effects on mood, such as easing irritability, anxiety, and depression.
How Nutrition Therapy Works
Treatment programs that offer nutritional therapy typically have a nutritional counselor or dietician on staff to guide patients through the nutritional aspects of their treatment plan. This may begin with an assessment, during which patients can relay their medical history and discuss their eating habits.
The dietician will also have access to the results of medical tests conducted upon the patient’s admission. Based on this initial discussion and medical information, the dietician can then develop a nutrition plan customized to meet the patient’s needs and share their goals for the patient.
In addition to a customized meal-plan, dieticians may also recommend that patients take certain supplements and vitamins. These can work as an added boost to help restore nutrients in the body more quickly and with greater efficiency.
The Role Of Wellness In Addiction Treatment
The role of wellness in addiction treatment is not entirely separate from nutrition but can be expanded to include several other holistic treatments designed to improve the often-neglected aspects of health.
This can include expressive therapies, such as art and music therapy, as well as therapy focused on exercise, nutrition, and meditation.
The goals of these therapies are to treat and improve:
- physical health
- emotional health
- mental health
- spiritual health
The changes that drugs and alcohol abuse have on a person’s lifestyle, and their effects on the brain, can have lasting negative effects if left untreated. Treating drug and alcohol addiction requires not only a focus on getting a person sober but also getting a person to a place of mind and body wellness.
Benefits Of Nutrition And Wellness Therapy
Nutrition and wellness therapy incorporates goals and treatment strategies that can lead to improvements in multiple areas of someone’s health. This can be key for addiction recovery.
The physical benefits of nutrition and wellness therapies include:
- increased energy
- improved organ function
- regulation of electrolyte levels
- improved hydration
- healthy blood sugar levels
Benefits for mental and psychological health include:
- greater focus and concentration
- decreased irritability
- increased dopamine and serotonin levels
- reduced drug and alcohol cravings
- lower risk for relapse
Wellness therapies provide people with the opportunity to witness improvements in strength and energy not only in themselves but others as well. This can increase a person’s motivation for staying sober and give them greater hope for the possibilities that lie ahead in recovery.
Goals Of Nutrition And Wellness Therapy For Addiction
Each person entering a treatment program will have unique needs as far as how their substance abuse has affected their nutrition. People who have abused drugs or alcohol for years, or in heavy amounts, are likely to have more severe complications.
Based on the state of the patient’s physical health, a nutritional counselor or dietician can develop a set of goals for treatment. These can vary based on personal medical needs.
The general goals for nutritional and wellness therapy include:
- Staying hydrated: Dehydration is common among people who have a history of substance abuse. During treatment and beyond, it is important that people drink enough water during the day to stabilize their hydration levels. This can improve a person’s skin, organ function, and increase energy.
- Engaging in physical activity: Physical activity can have several benefits in the treatment of drug and alcohol addiction. Supervised and structured exercise can be used to rebuild strength, improve mental health, and help a person feel more in-tune with their body.
- Regulating blood sugar: Low blood sugar levels have been linked to a higher risk for relapse for alcoholics. According to researchers, cravings for carbohydrates and sweets can mimic alcohol cravings, and make a person feel more urged to drink. Eating a balanced diet can be an effective way to regulate blood sugar and reduce cravings.
- Eat at regular mealtimes: While it seems common-sense for most to eat at regular meal-times, this basic aspect of wellness is often neglected in the midst of substance abuse. Eating regularly, and enough, throughout the day, can be important to all aspects of a person’s health.
- Taking recommended vitamins and supplements: Severe nutritional deficiencies may require more than just a balanced diet to be properly treated. In addition to a healthy diet, vitamins and supplements may also be prescribed in treatment to restore essential nutrients in the body. This is common for people with low levels of vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, and B-complex.
Nutrition And Wellness At Vertava Health Addiction Recovery
At Vertava Health, our comprehensive treatment approach involves attending to all aspects of addiction, including the effects of poor nutrition on the body and mind.
Integrating nutrition and wellness-based therapies in our treatment programs allows our patients to learn about the effects of substance abuse on nutrition and improve health. Eating a balanced diet and restoring nutrition can have positive effects on a patient’s well-being and increase the likelihood of long-term recovery.
If you are worried about yourself or someone you know who is struggling with addiction, don’t wait to seek help.
Contact one of our treatment specialists to learn more about our treatment programs and fight back against addiction today.