Nutrition Therapy May Benefit Recovery from Substance Use Disorders

Detox and behavioral therapies are commonly used to treat drug and alcohol use disorders. But a new study suggests that nutrition therapy may lower relapse rates by helping recovering addicts transition to healthier lifestyles. Nutrition therapy is currently offered at some treatment centers, but is not widely used in most rehab centers across the U.S.

How Can Nutrition Therapy Help with Recovery?

Nutrition Therapy

A healthy diet can help restore chemical imbalances in the brain.

Eating disorders like compulsive eating and anorexia are common co-occurring disorders that can stem from addiction. Binge eating in particular is a common withdrawal symptom of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine. Some recovering addicts may use food as a way to cope with drug cravings or mood disorders like depression, or to fill their spare time after quitting drugs and alcohol.

A group of registered dietitian nutritionists from southern California universities say that incorporating nutrition therapy into drug rehab centers can teach addicts how to live healthier lifestyles after leaving rehab. For instance, patients can learn how substances like nicotine and caffeine can worsen inflammation, and make it more difficult to overcome drug dependency and co-occurring disorders like depression. Nutrition therapy also teaches patients how to practice mindfulness when eating, and about certain foods that improve digestion and that offer anti-inflammatory benefits.

The lead study authors say that the effects of unconventional treatments for drug use disorders such as nutrition therapy should be more closely examined given the country’s worsening drug epidemic. In 1990, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had published a statement urging drug rehab centers to offer nutrition therapy, as evidence had shown that nutrition played an important role in addiction recovery. But unfortunately, the statement had little impact, and nutrition therapy was never widely incorporated into rehab centers as suggested.

Foods That Can Help with Drug Detox

Healthy whole foods that are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients can complement drug detox treatments by helping flush toxins from your body — including drugs and alcohol. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and sources of lean protein are just some healthy foods that can replenish your body after being dependent on drugs and alcohol. Some foods can even help rebalance brain chemicals affected by drug use that may have triggered mental health disorders like anxiety and depression.

Here are some foods that can help with drug and alcohol detox:

  • Eggs
  • Turkey
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Leafy greens
  • Almonds
  • Greek yogurt
  • Fish

Avoid foods high in sugar, since a high-sugar diet can drain your energy, weaken your immune system, and upset your body’s hormonal balance to worsen your mood. Also, avoid eating boxed and packaged processed foods, since these foods often contain high numbers of chemicals that can impede your recovery progress.

Finding Addiction Treatment Near You

Many drug detox centers offer nutrition therapy and counseling so you can transition to healthier living before leaving rehab. An inpatient drug detox center can help you establish a new healthy daily routine involving exercise and good nutrition, and can introduce you to new hobbies and interests that leave no room for alcohol and drug detox. When researching local treatment centers, look for inpatient detox centers that offer a medical detox or medication-assisted treatment.

A medical detox allows you to withdraw from drugs and alcohol while being monitored and attended to by professional medical staff who can relieve your symptoms. Medication-assisted treatment is commonly used to treat heroin and painkiller addiction, and involves the use of medications that eliminate cravings and withdrawal symptoms so you can recover from addiction more comfortably.

If you or a loved one needs help recovering from substance abuse, call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) . Our addiction specialists will discuss all your treatment options, and help you find the nearest drug detox center ready to help you achieve a healthier lifestyle and lifelong sobriety.

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