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How Rehab Can Affect Your Nutrition
Substance abuse produces many challenging health effects on the body and mind of the user. The symptoms of long-term substance abuse can result in mental and/or emotional distress, which can lead to a number of long-term physical and emotional disorders. In extreme circumstances, addiction can lead to death. Regardless of the effects of substance abuse that any specific patient is experiencing, nutrition is one of the most important elements of wellness. This is why there is such a close connection between rehab and nutrition.
How Substance Abuse Impacts Nutrition
Substance abuse can greatly impact the nutrients that the body absorbs, leaving a user in a less physically and mentally healthy state where they are more likely to continue using. While every substance impacts the body differently, alcohol is one of the the most well-known examples.
Alcohol often contributes to health programs and liver complications such as cirrhosis and hepatitis, both of which make it more difficult for the body to maintain proper nutrition. Additionally, alcohol abuse can produce vomiting and dehydration which can expel or make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Alcohol makes kidneys work harder, which also negatively impacts nutrition. Most importantly, many who drink do not properly hydrate themselves. As a result of dehydration, people experience dry mouth and dizziness. Alcohol causes B vitamin deficiencies (B1, B6, and B12), greatly reducing the body’s ability to break down food. A lack of B vitamins also weakens the immune system and makes it more difficult for the body to produce energy.
Malnutrition is commonly seen in individuals who abuse alcohol or other drugs as the body is not able to absorb nutrients as efficiently. Often times, individuals who abuse substances ignore dietary needs and rely on their drug of choice to relieve symptoms of hunger, physical/emotional distress, or other physical cues. Weight gain or loss is also common. Malnourishment can result in weight loss, while weight gain can be a result of the drug triggering symptoms of being hungry too frequently. Excessive alcohol use also increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is associated with high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and too much body fat. This can increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Each individual substance causes its own specific health symptoms and/or problems as well.
It is only after the user stops entirely that these negative impacts begin to improve. In this way, simply successfully achieving and maintaining sobriety improves nutrition.
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Rehab and Nutrition
Like harmful substances, food contains chemicals that can fulfill the emotions and body. Food has the power to restore the body to a healthy state and help the recovery process. For example, strawberries and chocolate contain dopamine, which increase the feelings of joy in the brain. Additionally, beans increase the mind’s alertness and reduce confusion.
Most quality rehab facilities put a premium on providing their patients with excellent nutrition in order to help their client’s achieve these benefits. This allows patients to be more comfortable, happy, and better focus on their sobriety. Both inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities often employ dietitians who draft nutritional plans to help heal the body.
Facilities offer meal times in cafeterias, which allow patients to eat at scheduled times; this is helpful if someone is used to skipping meals to abuse substances. If a patient in a facility suffers a co-occurring disorder, meaning they abuse substances and have a mental or emotional condition, they may not have an appetite. Again, patients are depleting their body of nutrients, and skipping on opportunities to practice good health. Patients are encouraged to eat healthy meals as part of their treatment, which helps to restore the body to a better form of strength.
Another helpful element of treatment patients can access in rehab is nutritional education. When a patient is focusing on getting better in a rehab facility, they may not be thinking about what food makes them feel better. A critical element of nutritional therapy is to help the patent reduce cravings for drugs through healthy foods and encourage self-care. (Self-care includes engaging in activities that help gain or maintain an optimal level of overall health and wellness.)
Patients learn what foods are best for their recovery needs and what foods to avoid. Patients can uncover food allergies or understand the harm in certain foods once they recover. The beginning of a new nutritional journey can later stretch outside of treatment when the patient uses the education post-rehab.
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Nutrition and Boosting Moods
Neurotransmitters release powerful chemicals in the brain throughout the body, creating specific emotions. If the patient learns the connection between dopamine-boosting foods, they can easily continue to eat well. The patient can become empowered with knowledge of nutrition and use food as a source of dopamine instead of a drug.
Certain foods trigger the release of dopamine, such as foods rich in protein, including beef, chicken, turkey, pork and fish. Natural produce, such as apples, bananas, avocados, beets, nuts, and berries, contain quercetin and tyrosine, both of which stimulate dopamine production. Consuming dairy products, such as cottage cheese, natural yogurt and milk, and various types of cheese, such as Brie, cheddar, and swiss, also contain Tyrosine. Another good source of Tyrosine is dark chocolate, which can be included in your diet in moderation.
Although sweets, such as ice cream and candy, can trigger the release of dopamine, they can also lead to an addictive dopamine cycle. While in recovery, one should be cautious of their sweet intake as sweets release huge spikes in dopamine levels, which trigger the brain to want more dopamine at higher levels. Eating sweets can also lead to a sugar crash shortly after eating, which can cause emotional instability. Many people in or after treatment use food as a way to feel better and avoid their emotions. This can lead to food addiction and obesity which affects self-esteem and can result in a disastrous cycle of eating to cope with emotions.
In addition to nutritional education, rehabs and sober living homes may offer cooking classes and encourage clients to drink a lot of water. Patients and residents typically have little access to fried foods, artificial sweeteners, and desserts. Healthy nutrition post-rehab can become a new hobby for many patients, creating positive, long-term physical and mental changes.
What Can Rehab and Nutrition Help with?
People struggling with substance abuse have a higher risk of many health conditions. Many of these health conditions can be helped by both achieving sobriety through rehab and by improving nutrition. Some of the most common and prominent include:
- Lung disease
- Vision problems
- Dental problems
- Breathing problems
- Prenatal problems
- Heart problems
- Bipolar Disorder
- Liver disease
Find Rehab and Nutrition Help Today
Getting help with a substance abuse disorder is the key to living an empowered life. If you or a loved one struggle with substance abuse, contact a treatment provider today. Future patients can inquire about cuisines and nutritional plans. Additionally, they can explore if facilities cater to patients with food allergies, or those who prefer specific targets. Change starts today.
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