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Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial in recovery because they help restore physical and mental health and improve the chance of recovery. Individuals who suffer from substance abuse typically have depleted levels of vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids and fats, which can lead to several mental and physical problems. Some drugs cause extreme withdrawal symptoms, such as diarrhea and vomiting, which depletes electrolyte levels. Staying hydrated is just as important to recovery as nutrition.

Poor nutrition can also affect your moods. For those already dealing with mood swings caused by drug abuse or the recovery process, exacerbating those moods may lead to eventual relapse. When the adrenal glands do not function at normal levels, a person may experience what is called adrenal fatigue. One common reason for adrenal fatigue in recovering addicts is the stress put on the glands to manage the rise and fall of blood sugar levels. Adrenal fatigue can cause fatigue, restlessness, confusion, shakiness, frustration, irritability, memory problems, anger, weepiness, and anxiousness. These symptoms can be enough to trigger a relapse.

Foods You Should Avoid

Substance abuse takes a toll on our diets. When dealing with substance abuse, we may choose to eat foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates or processed foods. Sometimes, it’s easier to just eat what we can get. But a poor diet, especially while abusing substances, has serious long-term health risks. For example, developing functioning hypoglycemia is common for people who abuse alcohol because of the highly refined sugars found in alcohol. While it can be managed with diet, many people who drink do not eat, which means they are at risk for vomiting, fatigue, and even loss of consciousness. 

Depending on which issues you are dealing with, there are specific foods and beverages you should avoid. For instance:

  • Caffeine: Drinking a lot of caffeine is bad for anyone, but for people who suffer from anxiety, it can exacerbate the symptoms. The same can be said for energy drinks, which can be far more detrimental than coffee. 
  • Sugar: Mismanagement of blood sugar levels can cause people to experience symptoms that mimic panic attacks. When our blood sugar levels are imbalanced, it can even lead to serious issues such as hypoglycemia or diabetes.
  • Refined Foods: The exact link between refined foods and depression is still not known, but researchers have identified a connection between diets high in refined foods, like carbohydrates and fast food, and an increase in depression. This could be due to blood sugar or the body’s inability to adequately produce energy.
  • Trans Fats: Diets high in trans fats have also been linked to depression, especially in women. Trans fats are also bad for the heart and block arteries, which may lead to more serious health issues.

Apart from the foods listed above, there are other foods that should be avoided when dealing with anxiety and depression, foremost among them being alcohol. Many people turn to alcohol as self-medication for symptoms of mental health issues without realizing that they only exacerbate the issues. Increased use of alcohol can also affect our quality of sleep as well. While it does have sedative-like effects, it shortens the amount of time we spend in REM sleep, thus affecting our body’s ability to re-energize properly. 

What You Should Be Eating

When recovering from substance abuse, changing your diet is imperative to sustaining a healthy recovery. Amino acids are vital to this recovery process. Amino acids are chemicals that stimulate the brain to produce neurotransmitters. This is important in promoting proper brain function. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins are responsible for the regulation and stimulation of moods, energy production, concentration and focus, and proper sleep. Foods such as eggs, mushrooms, fish, beans, and legumes are healthy, lean sources of amino acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids also play an important role in neurotransmitter production. Dieticians recommend eating a diet that has a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fish, nuts, and seeds are all good sources of both fatty acids. It’s also important to monitor levels of vitamins and minerals such as iron, folate, and vitamins B6 and B12 because they help with energy and adequate sleep. There are many over the counter supplements that provide all of these essential vitamins and minerals, but it is always best to check with a medical professional about whether they are the best option for you. Proper hydration is important during recovery because it helps your body properly absorb minerals and vitamins from food and supplements. Furthermore, dehydration can lead to serious health risks like disorientation and even kidney failure.

It can be hard for anyone to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, but maintaining a healthy diet is exceptionally difficult for those dealing with substance abuse or in recovery. Sometimes, our cravings can lead to bad eating choices, or we may reach for substances as a form of self-medication. Nutrition is an aspect of self-care that usually suffers during addiction, and can continue to be neglected during recovery. However, improving your diet can ultimately improve your overall recovery. At The Guest House Ocala, we understand the importance of nutrition in recovery and can help you achieve better dietary goals. Our highly skilled team can help you achieve your recovery goals, as well as find ways to make good choices and lead a healthier, happier life. If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction and it is affecting self-care, call us today at (855) 483-7800.