All too frequently, drug and alcohol treatment facilities overlook the importance of diet and exercise in the overall treatment of addiction. This is often the case because the duration of a typical stay in rehab doesn’t always afford the time to prioritize these aspects.
Despite this fact, there’s no denying that proper nutrition and healthy exercise can be critical to a successful recovery and to restoring patients to good health.
It’s very common for individuals with addictions to be less than vigilant about their self-care. They frequently exhibit very poor eating habits and don’t engage in physical exercise.
Addiction and Nutrition
Addicts are often malnourished, partly because of their poor eating habit habits. It can also be because of the way the substances that they have been abusing can rob the body of its ability to properly absorb nutrients.
The form of nutritional deficiency that addicts exhibit depends mostly upon the kind of substance they have abused. For example, cocaine addicts tend to be lacking in omega-3 fatty acids and opiate addicts are deficient in vitamins B6, D, iron, and calcium. Comparatively, alcoholism is associated with a wider range of deficiencies because alcohol tends to cause the body to eliminate beneficial nutrients without absorbing them.
The symptoms of malnutrition due to addiction include anxiety, insomnia, weakness, wounds that are slow to heal, and early signs of osteoporosis in younger women due to calcium loss.
Dietary Recommendations to Improve Recovery
Some basic changes in the diet of recovering addicts can make a great deal of difference. Although consulting a dietician is a good idea to get a nutritional plan that will work best for you, here are a few common suggestions:
Increase protein: proteins are high in amino acids, the basic building blocks of neurotransmitters, which have been frequently damaged through addiction.
Eat more healthy fats: consuming more healthy fats, such as flaxseed oil, olive oil, and omega-3 from nuts and fatty fish will assist the body in the absorption of certain vitamins.
More fruits and veggies: increasing your intake of fibers found in fruits and vegetables will help the gastrointestinal system to heal.
Avoid caffeine: insomnia and anxiety are common symptoms in a person who is recovering from addiction, especially in the early stages of sobriety. Caffeine is known to promote these symptoms; therefore, your consumption of items that contain it should be restricted.
Reduce your sugar intake: you can limit the amount of sugar you eat by steering clear of foods that contain added sugar. This will help to reduce symptoms like depression, anxiety and mood swings by keeping your blood sugar levels stable.
Speaking of stabilizing blood sugar, this can also be regulated by training yourself to eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day. Doing this will mean that you’ll never feel either very hungry or very full.
Addiction and Exercise
It’s a well-known fact that prolonged drug and alcohol abuse can damage brain tissue resulting in a slew of problems. Substance abuse has a similar effect on the brain as aging: it promotes the deterioration of white matter in the brain. That’s the tissue that relays information and signals to and from the various parts of the brain. This deterioration leads to greater difficulties in learning, diminished memory and impeded cognitive function. In extreme cases, substance abuse can even lead to dementia.
Science has long understood that exercise has improved mental performance in the elderly. It seems logical, then, to assume that physical activity would have a similar effect on the brain of a recovering addict. Although it’s unclear if exercise only helps to prevent further damage or if it can actually repair past damage, it remains evident that a good exercise program is beneficial for brain function.
Those aren’t the only benefits that exercise can have for the recovering addict. A regular exercise regime can help boost energy levels and reduce the amount of stress you’re feeling. It can improve a person’s sense of well being and confidence also.
Rigorous exercise also releases dopamine and other chemicals that produce a feeling of happiness. Typically, drug and alcohol abuse disrupts the production of these chemicals, however, some studies have suggested that physical activity and regular exercise can restore dopamine to the kinds of levels found in people without addiction.
Recommended Forms of Physical Exercise for Recovering Addicts
Each individual should find a kind of exercise that they enjoy doing in order to help them stay on track with it. While just about any form of exercise can be beneficial, here are a few suggestions that have been known to be very useful.
Hiking: research has shown that taking a brisk walk can be a very effective way to combat cravings when they come up. Taking in the beauty of nature and the outdoors has been shown to boost the production of dopamine and a good walk promotes improved brain function and supports new cell growth in the brain.
Yoga: due to its philosophy of linking mind, body, and spirit, yoga is a very popular form of exercise in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers. Restorative yoga encourages meditation and helps to reduce anxiety and stress that is often associated with relapse, while power yoga strengthens the body and increases the production of dopamine.
Team sports: a good game of basketball, football, or baseball is a great way to get a good workout while also helping to develop friendships that aren’t based on the consumption of alcohol or drugs. The social aspect of team sports make it a great option for many recovering addicts.
Weight training: a strenuous session of weight training can also help to produce dopamine and enhance your sense of well being. For those struggling with insomnia, weight training has the added benefit of helping restore your sleep cycle.
The Importance of a Treatment Center that Offers a Holistic Approach
As you can see, nutrition and exercise can play a significant role in achieving a successful recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. That’s why it’s very important to find a treatment center like Beachside Rehab that provides a holistic approach that extends beyond traditional therapies to also include training and education in the value of adopting a healthier lifestyle.