Many addicts enter rehab unhealthy and malnourished. The most commonly abused drug, alcohol, is particularly devastating on the processes of the body, and since alcohol can be consumed for caloric energy, many chronic alcoholics consume half or more of their daily caloric needs through the empty calories of alcohol. Many suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can both increase the risks of serious health conditions, and also increase the risks of further abuse.
Although alcohol ravages the body, abusers of a great many drugs suffer from nutritional deficits; and chronic abuse and addiction can often suppress hunger or reduce the efficiency of metabolic and other food processing processes. Regardless of the drug abused, restoring health through excellent nutrition improves the strength of the body and improves the mental outlook of the patient in recovery. A quality rehab should have a dietician or nutritional professional employed to determine the unique nutritional needs of each and every recovering addict in the program, and to design a meal plan specifically matched to the nutritional needs of each diverse patient.
Education on good nutrition teaches recovering addicts how best to continue to repair the self inflicted physical damage of abuse and to better understand the implications of poor nutrition. With education, recovering addicts understand how a proper diet influences their mental abilities and their overall mood stability, and how by neglecting their diet they increase the risk of relapse and further abuse.
Making Up for Past Deficiencies
While some physical tests such as body fat estimations and blood work can give a partial understanding, the true nutritional deficiencies are tough to accurately ascertain. Most rehab employed dieticians strive to develop a better picture of the patient's nutritional needs by working backwards and determining the diet as consumed while abusing. By evaluating past dietary intake, dieticians can determine what vitamins and essential minerals are most needed. Normally, in addition to balanced meals, dieticians will recommend the use of vitamin and mineral supplements to accelerate the nutritional recovery.
Recovering addicts are encouraged to eat three very balanced and healthful meals daily. Since low blood sugars can induce lower energy levels and a depressed mood (with increased cravings as a result) most facilities will encourage the consumption of three balanced but smaller meals, with three or four additional snacks provided throughout the day.
Because sugar and caffeine can exacerbate mood and energy swings, refined sugars and caffeine will be minimized and healthier whole food and non stimulant substitutes provided.
In addition to a restoration of optimal levels of vitamins and minerals, some histories of abuse may have diminished the production of certain neurotransmitters (tryptophan, tyrosine) and protein rich foods heavy in the needed precursors may be offered to those with particular need.
Because many addicts enter rehab with damaged gastro intestinal systems, less able to process foods and often with accompanying tissue damage as a result, nutrient rich and easily digestible foods are offered as the quickest way to begin to reverse the damage of abuse, and begin to repair the ability to efficiently process food.
Most recovering addicts make a remarkable health recovery through a mere month of rehabilitation, and through the complete, balanced and targeted nutrition offered within.
Good Nutrition Improves Mental Health
Nutritional therapy alone is of course not enough to induce behavioral changes, but good nutrition and a restoration of health through the necessary consumption of vitamin and mineral rich foods has an extremely positive impact on the health of the body and of the mind.
Food targeted to repair the internal damage of abuse betters the body's ability to process foods and to attain needed nutrition; and through a restoration of better nutrient levels, mood conditions are minimized, and the energy and outlook needed for recovery is enhanced.
A quality rehab facility needs to offer targeted and patient specific nutrition tailored to the unique needs of the individual, and through excellent nutrition, there is a healing of the body, of mood and outlook, and with it an increased ability to stay sober over the long term.
Health Risks of Malnutrition
Whether malnutrition is induced through an insufficient intake of daily calories, or through inefficient metabolic processes damaged through a legacy of abuse, the chronic effects of a lack of proper nutrition devastate the body and mind.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies affect virtually all of the organs, and gastro intestinal systems, organ functioning, and mental processes are diminished from a lack of proper nutrition. Additionally, the impact of poor nutrition can increase further abuse.
In response to the massive sugar intakes of alcohol consumption, there is a pancreatic response and a corresponding over production of insulin which creates an induced state of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Low blood sugar, in addition to causing headaches and other physical symptoms, reduces energy levels and mental abilities, and can induce feelings of lethargy and depression. The solution to experienced hypoglycemia is further sugar consumption through alcohol for a temporary alleviation of experienced symptoms. This chronic low blood sugar partially explains the cravings towards consumption, and explains how proper nutrition, which restores blood sugar balance, can help to alleviate these cravings.
Chronically elevating and dropping blood sugar levels also greatly increases the risks of experienced type 2 diabetes, and many alcoholics ultimately battle with this condition from their years of abuse.
Poor nutrition influences the production of central nervous system neurotransmitters, and when neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are diminished there is a resultant mood imbalance, and both a decreased ability to resist temptation, and a greater perceived need for the pleasurable effects of intoxication.
Restoring bodily health, mental health, and internal metabolic processes through excellent nutrition and through the use of vitamin and mineral supplements helps to reduce the experienced deficits of improper nutrition, and as a result to increase the resistance to and desire for further abuse.
Page last updated 23/05/2014