Nutrition and addiction

If you are battling addiction, you’ll understand that reversing the effects of substance abuse is by no means a small task to undertake. This process is made decidedly easier, however, with the help of healthy eating and nutrition. Although you may be wondering if this really is important, nutrition in rehab plays a vital role throughout your recovery, supporting your body as it heals and restoring your health. Healthy eating is equally as important in our rehab treatment programmes as any of the therapies we administer.

You are what you eat

The old adage that says you are what you eat is certainly applicable to addiction and mental illness recovery. Most people do not realise that those suffering from addictive or compulsive behaviours are almost always suffering from nutritional deficiencies as well. Often, those deficiencies are directly related to the troublesome behaviour being treated.

As an example, chronic alcoholics tend to start out by gaining weight due to the fact that they derive as much as 50% of their daily calories from alcohol. As alcoholism wears on, everything is reversed. The alcoholic will stop eating real food and tend to drop weight quickly. Many chronic alcoholics eventually get to the point where alcohol is the only thing ingested on a daily basis. Not only does that make it impossible to maintain a healthy body weight, but it also robs the alcoholic of the essential vitamins and nutrients that the body needs to maintain good health.

Other types of drug addiction also have similar impacts. For example, opiates often cause gastrointestinal distress, and this makes it uncomfortable to eat. Sedatives suppress the appetite to the point that food becomes repulsive. Even mental illnesses can have devastating effects where nutrition is concerned as diet is often neglected. Learning about nutrition in rehab helps our clients to overcome these issues and build healthier habits going forward.

Why is healthy eating important for recovery?

You may be wondering why healthy eating is so important for recovery. Although each substance affects the body differently, sadly all of them can lead to nutritional deficiencies. As your focus shifts towards drug taking, you may start to prioritise this over your health, and it is possible that your diet will not even be considered. Those who abuse drugs or alcohol will likely experience some of the following symptoms:

Decrease of appetite
Many substances suppress appetite, or feelings of nausea may put you off eating.
Not enough calories
The user may not be able to eat or forget to eat entirely whilst under the influence.
Organ damage
Substances damage internal organs, which hinders the digestion process and impacts the absorption of nutrients.
Gastrointestinal issues
Some substances contribute to problems in the gastrointestinal tract, and this can also stop it from absorbing nutrients.
Unhealthy eating
Many users will make poor decisions when it comes to their diet, often craving unhealthy fast foods.

If the body is unable to get the nourishment it needs, this can result in nutritional deficiencies and a whole host of health problems. Nutrition in rehab and the right diet can fuel both your brain and body, assist in healing, and help to maintain your mental well-being.

Three meals a day

At our UKAT facilities, clients are provided with a variety of satisfying and nourishing meals throughout their stay. Our dedicated staff ensure a well-rounded blend of essential nutrients is served during communal meal times. This aids in enhancing physical well-being and promoting the healing process. Establishing a consistent routine is crucial during the recovery journey, as it prevents feelings of aimlessness and monotony- two stages notorious for encouraging relapse.

Your body will soon learn to expect healthy patterns of behaviour for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and this eventually results in a new habit forming. You are essentially reprogramming your body to anticipate predictable behaviour that nourishes and energises your body. Studies show that predictability and routine can also help to combat stress – sticking to a daily schedule will benefit you psychologically, resulting in a calmer and more content version of yourself. These new habits can be brought through to your daily life as you continue your recovery after rehab.

At our centres, we encourage everyone to eat together at the same time each day. This takes your mind off of your emotions and, instead of focusing on everyday stress and worries, allows you to engage in conversations with your peers. The last meal of the day is at 5pm, giving your body enough time to digest before you go to sleep.

Our team will also do a weekly shop where you can request items for the week; however, we do recommend that sugary treats are avoided and replaced with healthy, nutritious snacks to support your recovery.

How does healthy eating help me during rehab?

Upon registering and attending rehab, you may need a quick boost of vitamins and minerals potentially lacking in your body. This short-term treatment concentrates on restoring proper nutritional balance in the early stages of recovery in order to help the body in its own efforts to heal itself. Once again, we can use alcohol as an example here.

Alcohol consumption significantly impedes nutrient breakdown and assimilation. If you join our 12-week rehab programme, you will likely have to start with a 7-to-10-day detox. During this time, it is best to include aggressive vitamin and mineral supplementation – infusing the body with high doses of vitamins and minerals through the food we provide is like supercharging the detox process, immediately replenishing what alcohol has stolen. This makes it much easier for the body to tolerate detox and to flush itself of alcohol and its associated chemicals.

A person with an eating disorder would also benefit from aggressive vitamin and mineral supplementation in the short term. Regaining and maintaining the proper level of those vitamins and minerals makes it a lot easier to deal with the eating disorder at hand.

Is maintaining a healthy diet beneficial after rehab?

The diet and nutrition team at UKAT are dedicated to providing good long-term nutrition to our clients – not just in the rehab setting but also after they leave to return home. We accomplish this by feeding our clients well, on top of teaching them how to feed themselves once they leave our care. This is so important for preventing relapse and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

In the kitchens of our clinics, you’ll find certified and fully trained staff who are experts in good nutrition and addiction support. They spend their days preparing exceptionally healthy meals with the perfect balance of 33% protein, 33% carbohydrates, and 33% vegetables, proven to support our clients. Some of the staff also spend time with clients outside of the kitchen, teaching them the basic principles of good nutrition. Those who are interested may even learn how to prepare menus and cook the meals they will enjoy while in treatment.

By teaching clients about the necessity of good nutrition in rehab, we also teach them how to live a healthier life afterwards. This pays huge dividends for them long after they complete residential treatment. Embracing good nutrition can result in:

  • better long-term health
  • a more positive daily outlook
  • the ability to make healthy choices in other areas of life
  • a desire to share with others the knowledge of good nutrition

In summary, good nutrition in rehab aids short-term recovery by equipping the body with the nutrients it needs to get well. It also aids in long-term recovery by teaching clients how to maintain a healthier lifestyle long after they leave treatment. Our team at UKAT is proud to say that including good food and proper nutrition in our treatment programmes has proved incredibly successful.

UKAT is here to help you

As one of the UK’s leading providers of treatment for alcohol addiction, drug addiction and behavioural addiction, eating disorders and mental illness, UKAT is here to help you get started on your road to recovery and wellness.

Our team is always on hand to answer any questions you might have about nutrition in rehab and the great food we serve at our clinics. We believe proper nutrition is an integral part of long-term recovery that you cannot afford to do without. When people consume healthy foods and eat well, they are more likely to maintain a healthier lifestyle overall, and that is always our end goal.

Call us now for help

Frequently asked questions

What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating refers to a balance of foods that provide all of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for your body to function at an optimal level. It also provides the body with adequate calories for energy.
What should I eat in recovery?
During recovery, it is important to nourish your body with a balance of fruits, vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Foods like flaxseed, avocado, ginger, leafy vegetables, nuts, and even green tea can help to restore and heal your body. Replenishing your body with lots of water is also a great way to hydrate and feel healthy.
Will healthy eating affect my mindset in rehab?
With healthy eating comes more energy, vitality, and well-being. It not only influences your physical health but has a great deal of impact psychologically too. When you begin fueling your body with the right foods, it will start to heal from the inside out. You will feel re-energised, and your overall state of being will improve. This leaves you better prepared mentally to deal with any challenges you may face during your time in rehab and in your daily life after.