Proper nutrition is an important but often lacking part of clients’ long-term recovery process at a drug treatment center. Nutritional therapy for substance abuse is complex, as the nutritional risks vary depending on the substance of choice and negative conditions for successful treatment are common, including poor support, co-occurring mental health disorders, or lack of financial resources to enable proper nutrition.
Substance abuse generally leads to a lack of proper nutrition, either as a result of not eating enough throughout the day or eating foods that are low in necessary nutrients. At Spark of Hope drug treatment center, our nutritional services are aimed at promoting a healthy lifestyle for our clients. We offer Individualized nutrition counseling as well as comprehensive nutrition education programs to significantly improve the wellbeing of those in our program. Our nutritional services target the following goals:
- Heal and nourish the body damaged by alcohol or substance abuse;
- Stabilize mood and reduce stress;
- Reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol;
- Address medical conditions that are co-occurring or have resulted from substance abuse; and
- Promote self-care and a healthful lifestyle.
Heal and Nourish
Substance abuse is known to lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies that threaten physical and mental health, damage vital organs and the nervous system, and decrease immunity. Harmful lifestyles are often associated with addiction, such as poor eating patterns, lack of exercise, and changes in sleep patterns. These compounding factors result in an increased risk of long-term health problems, including metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension, weight problems, and eating disorders.
To help our clients recover from the effects of substance abuse, it’s important to supply them with balanced, calorically appropriate meals. This may be difficult during the initial detox period but should be a targeted goal as soon as the client is deemed stable for oral intake. At Spark of Hope, our nutritional planning consists of calculating adequate calories for each client to help manage hypoglycemia, improve deficiencies, and achieve or maintain a client’s appropriate weight. Our trained drug treatment center staff also encourages them to consume regularly scheduled meals and snacks while increasing their level and amount of physical activity to promote a healthy metabolism.
Encouraging clients to drink adequate amounts of hydrating fluids is also a practice of sound nutrition. Proper hydration will help manage mood while ensuring adequate absorption of any medications our clients take to prevent side effects from withdrawal or underlying psychiatric disorders. Common symptoms of dehydration include irritability, trouble concentrating, and disorientation. Dehydration also commonly results from detoxification, so monitoring daily intake and output values will help determine appropriate fluid intake recommendations.
Caffeine intake should be monitored, as it triggers the same reward centers of the brain as do substances and can markedly impact anxiety and sleep. Low caffeine intake and smoking cessation have been shown to improve long-term sobriety for all addictions.
Anxiety, irritability, and low mood or energy levels are triggers for cravings. All of these symptoms can result from low blood sugar, dehydration, high levels of caffeine, and an unbalanced diet. Increased relapse occurs when an individual has poor eating habits, mainly because of the impact on cravings. Encouraging balanced meals and regular eating times helps clients decrease these events. Generally, a diet relatively high in complex carbohydrates, moderate in protein, and low in fat and sugar is recommended to help sustain recovery. It isn’t wise to advise clients to follow a high-protein diet, as excess protein will strain the already damaged liver.
Often in early recovery, clients struggle with differentiating hunger from cravings for drugs or alcohol and emotions. Addicts commonly forget what normal hunger feels like and may perceive a craving for substances when they are just hungry. Similarly, many addicts will switch to sweets to replace their drug dependency; some of this is a result of seeking pleasurable foods that trigger a physiological response (such as increasing dopamine), emotional eating, or experiencing irregular blood sugar levels. Monitoring sweets intake may be important with some clients because approximately 50% of substance abusers also have co-occurring eating disorders, so monitoring signs of binge behavior in our clients may help in properly identifying possible binge-eating disorder or bulimia.
Proper nutrition and hydration are key to the substance abuse healing process because they help restore physical and mental health and improve the chance of recovery. Macro- and micronutrient deficiencies can lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and low energy, all of which can lead someone to start using drugs or alcohol or trigger a relapse. At Spark of Hope, our goal is not only to provide proper nutritional meals to our clients, but to educate them in the importance of maintaining proper nutrition to lead a healthy life.Get Help Now