If you have gone through the experience of being addicted to drugs or alcohol, then you will also understand the damage your addiction inflicted on your eating habits and general nutrition. Drug or alcohol addiction is often accompanied by many years of poor eating. Thus, when a person is treated at a drug or alcohol rehab centre, it’s vital the person undergoing the treatment also receives assistance designed to improve his or her nutrition.

This is particularly important if you take into consideration how poor nutrition makes a person feel about him or herself. When nutrition is neglected, the recovered addict is likely to feel depressed and physically weak. These feelings are known to make relapse much more likely. When nutrition is improved, the recovered addict will feel strong and full of energy. This positive emotional and physical state due to a sound diet will strengthen the recovered addict’s ability to overcome cravings and avoid relapse. Often, when in recovery clients can complain about lack of energy, this is because the mitochondria has been damaged due to the addiction, so having a healthy nutritious diet as well as therapies such as Low Level Light Therapy can deter these symptoms.

How addiction affects nutrition

Since alcohol contains many calories, alcoholics are known to rely on these calories and neglect healthier calories that are available through eating high nutritious foods. This causes malnutrition and disease. In fact, researchers believe many health problems relating to alcoholism are due to malnutrition rather than due to the alcohol being consumed.

Drug addiction also inflicts far-reaching harm on your eating regime. For instance, opiates cause significant gastrointestinal problems and stimulants suppress the appetite meaning you are unlikely to be getting enough calories when you are addicted to stimulants such as crystal meth or cocaine.

The eating regime we recommend

If you read blogs or popular books covering healthy eating, you may get confused by the sheer amount of conflicting information. For instance, some ‘experts’ recommend a low-carb and high-fat diet, whilst others advocate a high-carb and low-fat diet. At Ocean Recovery Centre, we recommend you adopt a diet somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. This ensures you receive a healthy and balanced diet without stripping out entire food groups.

For instance, carbohydrates are needs for energy. If you aren’t too active, you may wish to monitor the number of carbohydrates you consume. We also recommend you do not eat carbohydrates after 5 pm. Protein is essential for cell growth and repair. If you do not eat enough protein, you will not be able to sufficiently regenerate dead skin cells and related tissue. Fat is likewise essential for providing energy and for providing the fuel for many microbiological processes throughout your body.

It’s also vital you get enough protein. Protein is essential for cell growth and repair. If you do not eat enough protein, you will not be able to sufficiently regenerate skin cells and related tissue. Fat is likewise essential for providing energy and for providing the fuel for many microbiological processes throughout your body.

Fat is likewise essential for providing energy and for providing the fuel for many microbiological processes throughout your body, so you must eat a diet containing enough fat for your biological needs.

Food types to embrace and to avoid

One food type we recommend you cut out is wheat. Foods containing wheat or ‘wheat flower’ include bread, certain cereals, cakes and pasta. Click here to watch an eye-opening lecture on why you should really consider giving up wheat.

Foods you should embrace include:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Meat, beans, fish, eggs, nuts and poultry
  • Fats and oils

The risk of comfort eating for recovered addicts

When you have conquered your addiction, you will now have a lot of spare time at your disposal. Before, this time was consumed by your drug or alcohol addiction. To fill this time, many recovered addicts are known to engage in comfort or binge eating. This may cause significant weight gain and associated health problems.

Furthermore, before you conquered your addiction, you dealt with life’s problems by turning to drugs or alcohol. Now you are sober, there is every risk you may now turn to fatty and sugary foods in order to fill this void.

When you are new to life in recovery, it’s essential that you are aware of the risks associated with binge and comfort eating. If you plan for these risks, it’s more likely that you will be able to navigate these risks without falling into the trap of binge or comfort eating.

Out top 5 tips for improving your nutrition

Below we list our top 5 tips for improving your nutrition now that you are living your life in recovery:

Tip #1. Learn about nutrition

Watch YouTube videos, read blogs and read books relating to nutrition. This doesn’t mean you need to become an expert, but it does mean you need to invest your time in to learning about sound nutrition. A word of warning: be careful who you receive advice from and be sure to read about ‘experts’ credentials before you blindly follow their advice.

Tip #2. Avoid overeating by eating small portions throughout the day

As mentioned above, recovered addicts are at risk of engaging in binge or comfort eating. To avoid this risk, eat small meals throughout the day. This avoids the risk of overeating and the associated health problems this can cause.

Why does eating small portions help you avoid overeating? The answer is simply because eating small meals throughout the day will help you to avoid hunger. When you are really hungry, you are more likely to engage in overeating.

Warning: this advice does not give you a licence to engage in snacking. When we say ‘portions’ we really mean ‘meals’ and not snacks

Tip #3: Avoid fad or ‘crash’ diets

When you research sound nutrition, you will surely come across fad or crash diets. This is because the Internet is literally cluttered with crash diets that promise to help you lose weight in a short period of time. When you are new to recovery, we recommend you avoid diets that focus on weight loss Instead, concentrate on eating  well-balanced meals. Only when you’ve lived in recovery for more than twelve months do we recommend you attempt any sort of weight loss regime.

In any case, fad or crash diets should always be avoided. Why? Because fad/crash diets are simply unsustainable for any meaningful period of time. When you revert to your previous diet, you will likely return to your original weight, or you will end up heavier than you were originally due to the rebound effect of crash diets.

Tip #4: Keep a food journal

A food journal may be purchased cheaply from the Internet or at a local stationary shop. Food journals allow you to track what you are eating and when. Do not use a food journal for weight loss, particularly when you are new to recovery. Instead, use a food journal to ensure you are eating healthily.

It’s important to write out your journal in advance of your week’s eating. Do not merely use the journal as an ‘after the fact’ record of what you’ve eat. This ensures you set tangible goals you are more likely to stick to.

A food journal will allow you to make entries in four main boxes: breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Many food journals also include an exercise journal, weight loss tracker and meal planner too.

Tip #5: Learn how to read food labels

In order to avoid poor quality foods and to focus on high-quality foods, it’s essential you are able to read food labels. Food labels reveal the calorie content of foods you intend to eat as well as the various nutrients and quantities of those nutrients contained in the food. If you are unable to understand the information contained within food labels, you will be unable to avoid foods that are bad for you.

The importance of a diet high in amino acids

When you first enter life in recovery, it’s important to eat a diet high in amino acids. Why? Because addiction affects neurotransmitters located in the brain and these neurotransmitters happen to be made from amino acids.

These neurotransmitters include dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, GABA, and serotonin. A diet high in amino acids many increase the speed in which these neurotransmitters return to normal functioning.

Supplements we recommend

Below we list a number of supplements that will aid you through those agile first few months in recovery:

#1. Vitamin C

No discussion about nutrition and recovery would be complete without mentioning vitamin C. Vitamin C is helps eradicate toxins from the body and also reduces cravings for drugs or alcohol.

#2. Selenium

Selenium is an antioxidant. Selenium helps the body utilise its stores of oxygen. Abusing alcohol and drugs is shown to rob the body of selenium. We recommend you take around 100 mcg of selenium a day.

#3. Zinc

Zinc helps the body metabolise carbohydrates. A zinc deficiency arises when drugs or alcohol are abused. This may damage major organs such as the liver, skin and even the immune system. We recommend you supplement zinc picolinate at around 15 – 20 mg per day.

#4. Chromium

Chromium is known to assist blood sugar levels. Chromium supplementation will help your metabolise carbohydrates and kill off your post-treatment sweet tooth. We recommend you take around 100 mcg of chromium picolinate.

#5. Superoxide Dismutase

Superoxide Dismutase or S.O.D helps the liver to remove toxins from your blood.

#6. Calcium

Calcium helps to power up your central nervous system. When you abuse drugs or alcohol, calcium is eliminated from your system thereby weakening your immune system. It’s also important to avoid caffeine. This is because caffeine forces your body to eliminate calcium via urine. We recommend you consume around 1000 mg of calcium via supplements each day.

#7. DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA)

DLPA is composed of amino acids. DLPA helps the body to utilise endorphins. Why? Because the amino acids contained within DLPA are used to make PEA (Phenylethylamine). PEA helps the body utilise endorphins. DLPA also helps the body to produce norepinephrine. Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter that’s commonly depleted when a person is addicted to cocaine.

#8. B Complex

Vitamin B Complex is depleted when drugs or alcohol are abused. We thus recommend you supplement with 25 to 50 mg of vitamin B Complex up to three times a day.

Further information

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: January 13, 2022

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.