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Nutrition and Healing the Body in Recovery: How Healthy Eating Can Support Sobriety

Drugs and alcohol affect the entire body. From your brain to your skin, harmful substances are often detrimental to your health, both internally and externally. As you make the decision to start your path to recovery to achieve sobriety, you’re likely to face a wide range of challenges, especially as your body begins to adjust to your newfound substance-free lifestyle.

As you seek substance abuse treatment through an inpatient or an intensive outpatient program, you’ll want to focus on eating a healthy diet. Here’s how what you eat in recovery can help support your sobriety.

Addiction & Nutrition

Substance abuse and poor nutrition go hand-in-hand. Most addicts don’t think about how their eating pattern changes once they become addicted. This is because hunger becomes a secondary need, especially as addiction sets in. As the brain becomes addicted to a substance and tolerance levels build, natural things like hunger and thirst take a back seat.

How Alcohol Impacts the Body

Overconsumption of alcohol damages the pancreas and liver, which can cause an imbalance of fluids, protein, calories, and electrolytes.1 Alcohol abuse has also been linked to several vitamin deficiencies, including vitamins B1, B6, and folic acid. Long-term deficiencies of these vitamins can lead to anemia and an impacted nervous system. Alcoholics are also more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and malnutrition.

How Opioids Impact the Body

The opioid epidemic has led to the death of more than 70,000 people.2 As this addiction starts to take hold, it takes a serious toll on the body. Opioid abuse can cause constipation, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms can cause an imbalance of electrolytes and a lack of nutrients. Those who are addicted to opioids may experience weight loss.

Girl Sitting Alone and Sad Trying to Get Into Recovery

Chronic opioid abuse has also been linked to B vitamin folate deficiency. This causes disastrous effects on the digestive system and has been linked to an increased risk of liver disease and colorectal cancer.3

Stimulants and Nutrition

Those who are addicted to stimulants such as cocaine, crack, or meth tend to experience weight loss and poor nutrition. This is because these substances reduce the appetite while also causing dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Because people who take stimulants don’t feel hungry, they’re at an increased risk of being underweight and undernourished.

Cocaine users are at an increased risk of being deficient in vitamins B and C. Long-term deficiencies of these vitamins can lead to anemia, overall weakness, and weakened connective tissues in the hair and skin.

If you suffer from any of these nutrition-based problems because of a drug or alcohol addiction, it’s never too late to admit yourself to an intensive outpatient program. These programs allow you to stick with your daily life routine while also addressing your dangerous addiction.

Marijuana’s Effect on Diet

On the opposite side of the spectrum is marijuana. While the drug is praised for its ability to minimize pain, when used excessively it can lead to weight gain as the drug acts as an appetite stimulant. Most marijuana users crave junk foods that are high in sugar and other simple carbohydrates.

Long-term abuse of marijuana has also been linked to zinc deficiency. This increases the risk of depression and a loss of appetite. Zinc deficiency also impacts the body’s ability to metabolize omega-3 fatty acids.

How Nutrition Helps Recovery

Recovery is all about self-care. In order to break free of addiction, you must focus on your own health and take all of the actions necessary to increase your chances of being successful at sober living. This includes taking charge of your nutrition.

Couple Preparing a Healthy Meal After Recovery

As you eat a more balanced diet, you’ll notice a huge improvement in your mood and overall health. Proper nutrition combined with hydration is critical to the healing process, as they both restore mental and physical health. This greatly improves your chance of a successful recovery.

Being deficient in macro or micronutrients can lead to low energy, anxiety, and depression. These factors can trigger a relapse. Breaking an addiction is a huge lifestyle change. Giving up something that you once found highly pleasurable makes it hard to go forth and make another drastic lifestyle change.

However, focusing on your diet makes it much easier to transition into a substance-free lifestyle. By eating a healthy diet while undergoing outpatient drug rehab, you’re able to give your body the vitamins and nutrients that it has been lacking for months, if not years.

While the damage from substance abuse can’t be undone overnight, a nutritious and wholesome diet can speed up the process. Eating properly will give you more energy, improve your immune system, and boost your mood.

Nutrition Tips

Recovery is all about focusing on your overall health and wellbeing. This includes your diet. When you’re under the influence of a drug, your body tends to forget what it means to be hungry. Instead, your brain is more focused on getting the substance it’s addicted to.

As you enter an outpatient drug rehab or intensive outpatient program for addiction recovery, there are some tips for mindful eating that you’ll want to follow. To make recovery easier while also focusing on your diet, be sure to:

  • Have a meal schedule
  • Eat plenty of dietary fiber
  • Focus macronutrients: eat more protein and complex carbohydrates versus simple carbs (like sugar, white bread and rice) and high-fat foods
  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • Take supplements as needed

It’s also important to eat wholesome foods. Lean proteins, leafy greens, fresh fruits, and whole grains are all great additions to a healthy diet. By eating these foods regularly, your body is better able to adapt to your new substance-free lifestyle.

For a recovering addict, following these tips probably won’t come easily – it takes time to break old habits and instill new, healthier behaviors. It’s best to make lifestyle changes in a structured environment, such as an intensive outpatient program that offers holistic treatment for substance abuse and addiction.

Treatment for a Better Life

Not only does addiction impact your mentally, it also has a drastic impact on your internal health. If you’re ready to take back control of your life, our staff at RECO Intensive can help. Our treatment centers offer several types of substance abuse treatment options. We offer inpatient and outpatient treatment programs to ensure you’re able to find your best road to recovery.

Sober living is possible! Call u today at 844-792-7181 to learn about the admissions process. We look forward to helping you uncover the healthier and happier side of you.


  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002149.htm
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/americas-heroin-epidemic/opioid-overdose-deaths-may-be-undercounted-70-000-n887021 0
  3. https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/the-use-of-sobriety-nutritional-therapy-in-the-treatment-of-opioid-addiction-2155-6105-1000282.php?aid=74685

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