Many of the most widely used treatment interventions for addiction engage with the psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions of the problem. It is absolutely important to address all of the aspects that contribute to health, and when it comes to physical, mental, and emotional wellness nutrition is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.
It is increasingly being recognized that there is a close, exacerbating relationship between problematic substance use and poor nutrition.
Addiction destroys the body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients. Drug and alcohol abuse can cause nutritional deficiencies and issues with digestion. Users often have depleted levels of vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids and fats, which can lead to several mental and physical problems. The stomach, liver, intestines, and pancreas and brain all suffer from the effects of alcohol and drug use. Damage to the lining of the gut and liver causes impaired ability to digest and absorb nutrients, and remove toxic compounds from the body. A healthy gut means a healthy brain.
A recent study on the effects of poor nutrition on recovery summarizes: “The gut’s job is to extract nutrients from digested food, such as the amino acids from proteins to make neurotransmitters. Vitamins and minerals are needed to make them work properly, so having a healthy gut is key to getting the brain working properly. Addictive substances, mainly alcohol, caffeine, painkillers, and heroin, can damage or even shut down the digestive processes, preventing the brain from being nourished properly.
Conversely, a well-nourished brain means fewer withdrawal symptoms during the early stages of detoxification and higher possibility of achieving long-term recovery.”
Given perfect health, recovery would still be a challenge. With the added obstacles that come from malnutrition it is next to impossible to have lasting success. For those struggling with drug and alcohol dependence good nutrition and whole food supplementation can supply the body with the vital nutrients needed to get through the most difficult stages of recovery.
Long term success is also greatly improved as healthy new habits are formed. In fact, this approach is becoming so successful that many addiction treatment facilities now have nutritionists on staff. Patients are supplied with healthy, whole food nutrition plans, and educated on the importance of nutrition for long term health. It is no surprise that outcomes are better when we look at the whole picture.
Adding healthy eating and targeted supplementation to treatment makes a world of difference. With improved digestion and absorption comes balanced and stabilized moods, and balanced brain chemistry. With this approach, we can create a recipe for success.