When it comes to addiction recovery, there is no single combination of treatments that work for every single individual. Just as every person is different, so is every addiction. Therefore, in most cases, several types of therapy are used to address the many different factors that contribute to or even exacerbate an addiction. This can include treating and addressing psychological issues, mental illnesses, environmental pressures, or family and relationship problems.
Those who are trying to overcome an addiction may find that they respond well to a particular combination of modalities and therapies. As long as the treatment methods aim to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of patients in recovery, they can be considered appropriate measures for transforming a life controlled by addiction into a life free from health-harming substance abuse.
One of the more holistic therapies used in addiction recovery programs is Nutritional Therapy. You may not realize this, but nutrition and addiction recovery go hand in hand. In this blog, we’ll break down what nutrition therapy is and what it has to do with recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.
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What are Holistic Therapies?
First, holistic therapies are therapies that focus on the whole person. These therapies are based on holism, the idea that parts of things are interconnected. In a therapy setting, this means addressing the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional needs at the same time. This is done with the intention of allowing individuals to heal their minds, bodies, and spirits while also learning positive coping strategies.
Other holistic therapies may include mindfulness, acupuncture, or massage therapy. These therapies are generally used in combination with tried and true traditional therapies because addiction is considered a chronic condition that requires attention to the many parts of one’s life that factor into their addiction. By focusing on the many contributors to addiction, holistic therapies can help to seriously improve the health outcomes of patients and increase their chances of sustained recovery.
What is Nutritional Therapy?
Nutritional therapy is a type of therapy that uses nutrition as a treatment for physical and mental illnesses. But what does this therapy have to do with the connection between nutrition and addiction recovery? This therapy is often used in addiction recovery because nutrition, including the nutrients that an individual ingests and digests, can affect the way substances interact with brain chemistry and body chemistry.
For those who abuse addictive substances, good nutrition can make it easier to stop using those harmful substances. In some studies, a healthy diet has been shown to increase the chances of an addicted individual maintaining long-term sobriety. This is due to how good nutrition can set a person up for success when going through an addiction treatment program.
The Relationship Between Nutrition and Addiction Recovery
There is a strong correlation between nutrition and addiction recovery. Addiction to drugs or alcohol is extremely harmful to the health of the person abusing substances. When a person suffers from an active addiction, they are likely to consume alcohol or drugs on a regular basis. This can lead to many immediate health problems, such as:
- Negative effects on heart rate
- Inability to regulate body temperature
Further health problems down the road such as liver disease, heart disease, and various types of cancer are common results of long-term substance abuse. Moreover, since addiction is a chronic disease that doesn’t go away, recovery is possible. Having a substance use disorder though requires constant management. By sticking with a healthy nutrition plan, individuals in recovery can remain strong enough to follow through with treatment.
Often, when someone is abusing substances, his or her mental health and physical health—including nutrition—isn’t prioritized at all. Instead of making sure they eat enough and eat healthy foods, their focus instead is on when they’ll be able to use their substances of choice next or how they’ll acquire those substances. Therapy based on nutrition and addiction recovery works to facilitate healthy eating habits and drive home the importance of taking care of one’s physical health.
How Substance Abuse Reduces Nutrient Absorption
The importance of nutrition in addiction recovery has a lot to do with how the body changes due to substance abuse. Concerningly, any of the substances that cause addiction (such as alcohol and opiates) can also damage the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and nutrients that enter the body. This is largely due to damage to the large intestine that occurs as a result of frequent drug or alcohol abuse.
As the body fails to receive proper nutrition and takes on damage from drug use, cells that produce proteins needed to absorb nutrients are unable to do their job. For example, if the body doesn’t get enough vitamin B12, essential functions such as the production of DNA, red blood cells, and RNA are negatively impacted. Additional essential nutrients that the body becomes unable to absorb due to addiction include:
- Vitamin B2 and B6
- Vitamins A, C, D, E, and K
Furthermore, if someone is addicted to more than one substance, this will further exacerbate malnutrition. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and insomnia, symptoms that addiction already causes. In short, the absence of a healthy diet can not only result from addiction, but also make an addiction, its symptoms, and any co-occurring issues worse.
How Nutrition Affects Mental Health
Nutrition and addiction recovery are also connected to mental health. This is because a large part of how nutrition plays into addiction recovery has to do with the effects of nutrients on the human brain. Many addictive substances such as alcohol, painkillers, and other drugs can negatively impact digestion and related processes. This can lead to the brain becoming malnourished along with the body.
In recovery, mental health is of high importance. Psychological distress can cause a person to quickly turn back to drugs or alcohol to cope with negative emotions. In contrast, a healthy diet can help prevent relapse by nourishing the brain along with the body. It has even been seen that patients with better nutritional health experience fewer symptoms of withdrawal during the detox process.
Much like the conventional wisdom that causes teachers to tell their students to eat a healthy breakfast before a test, what you consume during recovery can help you ace treatment. The compounds needed for emotional stability and mental clarity, tryptophan and tyrosine, cant be processed by a malnourished body. If these levels decrease too much, it can affect an individual’s mood. Subsequently, behavior may then also be affected negatively which isn’t helpful during addiction treatment.
Can Nutritional Therapy Help Reduce Cravings?
The relationship between nutrition and addiction recovery also has a lot to do with drug and alcohol cravings. Nutritional therapy has been found to help reduce cravings in people with a substance abuse disorder. When cravings occur, nutritionists have found that proper nutrition can help you get through them. This makes a healthy diet an easy way to contribute to your own success when abstaining from substance abuse.
When cravings hit, dopamine levels spike in an overexcited brain that’s craving a specific drug. This can happen to people with food as well if they eat a lot of high-fat or sugary snacks. However, nutritionists say eating the right foods can slash the intensity of your negative emotions and reduce any anxiety that may come with cravings. Additionally, physical causes of cravings can be addressed with proper nutrition. This is particularly true for people who are suffering from alcohol addiction.
The body requires a specific amount of glucose to function properly. Low blood sugar levels can trigger cravings for more alcohol as you become confused about what your body is actually asking for. To avoid this, nutritionists advise people who are abstaining from drug or alcohol use to eat at least three healthy meals per day. This helps the brain stay nourished throughout the treatment process and prevents mistaking low blood sugar for the need to use your substance of choice.
The Benefits of Good Nutrition for Addiction Recovery
Along with traditional therapies, nutrition therapy and addiction recovery can help an individual overcome addiction. Nutrition therapy, which is also known as nutrition counseling, is a complementary treatment approach that addresses nutrition-related problems during an individual’s recovery. This means that this type of therapy is not used on its own to treat a substance abuse disorder. It is instead utilized alongside other treatment methods.
Nutrition therapy can help prevent many of the life-threatening diseases that are associated with addiction. This type of therapy may also assist in addressing nutrition deficiencies that may have developed over time. Additionally, nutrition-focused therapy can help:
- Improve overall mood
- Increase energy levels
- Reduce the risk of relapse
- Strengthen the immune system
- Help repair damaged organs and tissues
For many individuals suffering from substance abuse, nutritional therapy can be an opportunity for education on the needs of their bodies. Nutrition therapy can provide patients with the knowledge needed to understand nutrition and the role nutrition plays in addiction treatment. With a greater understanding of their physical needs, patients working to overcome addiction may find that the road to recovery becomes a little shorter when they take care of their nutritional health.
Other Types of Holistic Therapy for Addiction
Nutritional therapy isn’t the only type of holistic therapy for addiction recovery. Other types of holistic therapy can be used to aid individuals in overcoming addiction. For example, yoga and meditation-based therapies are also types of holistic therapy. These have both been shown to help individuals overcome addiction. Other types of holistic addiction therapies include:
- Massage therapy
- Spiritual therapy
- Nature-based therapy
- Routine exercise
- Holistic counseling
- Art therapy
- Music Therapy
Nutritional therapy, however, has been found to be one of the more effective types of holistic therapies for addiction recovery. Nutritional therapy works by helping individuals make healthy lifestyle choices through nutrition and nutrition education. Using nutrition to help treat addiction helps individuals understand how nutrition affects their body, mind, and spirit on a daily basis.
Recovering from Addiction with Harmony Place
At Harmony Place, we are committed to helping individuals achieve long-term recovery. There are many paths that you can take to sustain sobriety. Nutrition and addiction recovery is only one of those paths. Similar to how addiction is experienced differently by every individual, treatment can also vary. We offer a range of treatment techniques that can be customized according to your unique needs.
If you or someone close to you is suffering from addiction and the toll it takes on your physical health, contact us today. Together, we can explore which treatment options will work best for you or your loved one.