“The heart of the home beats in the kitchen and a healthy one beats three times a day.” – Bangambiki Habyarimana, “The Great Pearl of Wisdom”
“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” – Doug LarsonClick to tweet
You may not have heard the two quotes provided above before, but we have all heard this one: “You are what you eat.” Never has this been more truthful than for the recovering addict. A body that has endured the alcohol or drug consumption of an addict is one that needs repair – a healthy and nutritional diet is the major factor in achieving this. Nutritional therapy and education, as part of a recovery program, has been proven to increase the chance of the recovery succeeding.
Take, for example, the alcoholic. With their level of drinking at its pinnacle, an alcoholic can consume around half of their daily calorie allowance. Think about that – half, without eating a thing. What is eaten can have little benefit as alcohol obstructs the normal breakdown of nutrients. Or take another example, the drug user. Some drugs make you eat too much, others nothing. The aim of this article is to provide practical and useful advice for the recovering addict by highlighting 6 nutritional tips that can lead to a physically and mentally healthier you, a you that has an increased chance of recovery.
1. Amino Acids
Known as the “building blocks of proteins,” amino acids are vital to us all; amongst other things, they allow the release of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine (the “happy chemicals”) by neurotransmitters, making us feel healthier mentally – vital for addicts. Addicts will invariably have low levels of these chemicals; however, by increasing their amino acid intake during withdrawal and subsequent recovery, addicts undeniably increase their chance of success. We are able to produce half of the amino acids we need to remain healthy – the other half (the “essentials”) we only get by eating the correct food. Remember, amino acids are not like fat, which can be stored by the body, for use later. It’s a daily requirement. Therefore, a healthy, regular diet will guarantee we have all the amino acids we need. Sources of essential amino acids include: lean meat, poultry, seafood, dairy produce, quinoa and soy.
During recovery, especially in the early stages, your immune system will be running on empty. Antioxidants can and do rebuild this. Fruit and vegetables are absolutely full of these molecules, vital for the protection and health of cells within the body. Ensure you use them fresh and cook them lightly.
Addiction will have damaged your digestive system to some degree. Probiotics (good bacteria) will restore that system’s healthy state. Eat lots of yoghurt and take supplements if need be. Additionally, probiotics also play a role in the production of serotonin (mentioned previously), important for those in recovery.
4. Smaller Meals – More Often
It is important for recovering addicts to be aware of their sugar levels. Always carry snacks to keep blood sugar levels stable and avoid crashes. Therefore, controlling those levels can be achieved by simply eating smaller meals and more frequently. It is also important for addicts to be never too full and never too hungry.
5. Refined Carbs / Sugary Food
Am I starting to sound like your Mom yet? So far, we have looked at healthier options that improve both your physical and mental state. Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods do not help with this. These two groups are proven to cause fluctuations in mood – the last thing a recovering addict needs. Furthermore, they provide empty calories, containing no nutrients whatsoever. Forget them. Snack on nuts, grains or complex starches.
6. Food Diary
The idea of this may not sound appealing, but it will be of great benefit for you to actually link your food intake with how you are actually feeling. By keeping such a diary, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. Adjust accordingly. Remember, if this doesn’t appeal, we are talking about a successful recovery here.
We Are What We Eat…
Natural energy, organ tissue repair, a stronger immunity, and a happier, healthier mind – all are vital for the recovering addict and that addict’s chances of success. Just feeling better within yourself will make you less likely to relapse. For example, a hungry recovering addict can misinterpret that feeling with previously-felt cravings. Constant cravings are the very last thing that person needs to be feeling. Nutrition is all about relapse prevention. Amino acids, antioxidants and probiotics are all part of a nutritional diet – refined carbohydrates and sugary foods are not. Eating frequent, small meals and maintaining a food diary should be part of your recovery plan.
Are there other things you should include in such a plan? You may possibly have other suggestions to share and we encourage you to do so. Please just add a comment below. Yes, we are what we eat. Recovery, in essence, is about wanting a healthier and happier you, someone different from the addict you were. Nutrition will help get you there.
Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia but raised in Los Angeles, California. I have been a 8 years sober (almost 9!). I spend time on helping others and working on growing my online business.