What to Eat After Alcohol and Drug Rehab

October 17, 2016 - , - 0 Comments What to Eat After Alcohol and Drug Rehab

Diet may be the furthest topic from your mind during addiction recovery or in drug and alcohol rehab.  In fact, many people tend to feed into the “indulge yourself” notion.  You know, the one that says you should allow yourself life’s simple pleasures—mainly because the fight to overcome substance abuse is hard enough as it is.

You survived the drug and alcohol rehab center and successfully stopped using.  Why take everything off the table?  Treat yourself, they say.  News flash: they’re wrong.  Healthy eating plays a huge role in sustaining your recovery long-term.

Why Nutrition Matters

According to the U.S.  National Library of Medicine, substance use does damage to your body in two different ways.  First, the substance itself has harmful effects, such as dehydration, nutritional deficiencies, and electrolyte imbalances.  And, secondly, abuse of the substance leads to negative and often neglectful lifestyle habits, like poor diet.

Drug and alcohol rehab centers frequently educate recovering addicts on the significance of nutrition.  Your treatment may also include a nutritional assessment to determine what damage has been caused by your addiction.  Addressing this aspect of health is critical to brain and body functioning and a lasting recovery.  Plus, when you eat right, you enjoy an improved mood and make healthier choices.

What Not to Eat

Drug and alcohol rehab centers often serve nutritious foods.  So when you leave, you may have an intense craving for the sweet stuff.  However, giving in to sugar cravings can be the equivalent of trading one addiction in for another.  Scientists have shown that sugar has addictive qualities that rival various illicit drugs.  In lab rats, a dose of sugar causes a surge of dopamine, which is related to the pleasure center in the brain and, mysteriously, also happens when using cocaine and heroin.  What’s more, when the supply is taken away, these animals experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety.

In addition to sugar (in its many forms), it’s best to stay away from foods made of white flour, loaded with additives, containing high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.  These foods are associated with gastrointestinal issues, allergies, hyperactivity, higher cholesterol, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  You also want to steer clear of caffeinated beverages as they, too, can lead to another kind of addiction that could increase your chances of relapsing.

What to Eat

Instead of indulging on fast, convenience foods and empty calories, focus on proper nutrition that nourishes your body and mind.  The body of a recovering addict is depleted of nutrients, potentially malnourished, and low on energy.  You need real, whole foods that are close to the original form in which they are found in nature.

Foods to add to your recovery diet include:

  • Fruits and vegetables – aim for locally grown and fresh, if possible
  • Lean protein – go for fish, organically-grown chicken, grass-fed beef, beans, legumes, and free-ranged eggs
  • Whole grains – choose from complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, barley, and couscous
  • Low-fat dairy – yogurt, milk, and cheese
  • Healthy fats – choose nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, and virgin, cold-pressed olive and coconut oils

Just as what you eat counts, so does how and when you eat it.  Make sure to always eat breakfast to support a healthy metabolism, even if you’re the type who isn’t very hungry in the morning.  Strive to have several small meals every 3 to 4 hours.  Include protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber in each meal.  Drink plenty of water to counteract dehydration (at least 8 to 10 glasses per day).  As your appetite increases, you may be tempted to overeat.  Anticipate this and exercise portion control.

Making unhealthy food choices after rehab equates to gambling with your sobriety.  Don’t take that risk.  As your body and mind start to heal with a balanced diet, you will be less likely to turn to drugs or alcohol again.  Reach out for help if you need assistance developing a healthy eating plan that fits your lifestyle.

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