You’ve made it to substance abuse recovery (bravo!), and now that you’ve gone through the initial detox your mind is clearing a bit, and you are beginning to start to see the damages caused by the disease of addiction.
Along with damaged relationships, careers, finances, and legal issues, you’re also facing a health crisis: what have you done to your body?!?
You may have contracted any number of infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and health issues, some of them serious.
Even if you don’t show signs of any other severe health issues yet, your liver, adrenals, Central Nervous System (CNS), heart, and lungs have suffered tremendously during your active addiction.
You also may be pregnant as a result of your addiction. And the cravings for drugs or alcohol can still be intense.
Read on to learn what to eat and what to avoid to restore health to your body and mind quickly, making a recovery from addiction a much smoother and faster journey.
The damage to your body and organs often shows through visible signs in the face, eyes, hair, teeth, nails, and skin.
It’s difficult to feel good about yourself when you look old and haggard, which is a common effect addiction has on ones’ looks.
These telltale signs such as dry skin, damaged hair, brittle nails, disintegrating teeth and gums, chronic bad breath, sallow complexion, yellow or bloodshot eyes, discoloration under the eyes, rapidly graying hair, facial lines, wrinkles, and acne, are all indicative of significant damage to the body’s central nervous system (CNS) and the internal organs.
While these are the most common and visible signs, you may have developed a host of other symptoms such as brain fog, loss of memory or brain function, sleep issues, chronic pain and fatigue, and digestive issues are also typical.
Your CNS and liver both run primarily on glucose (the sugar found naturally in fruit), and most addicts don’t eat much in the way of fresh fruit.
Also, you’ve been overloading your body with some heavy hitting toxins in large quantities for an extended period.
Your liver, kidneys, adrenals, skin, and lymph nodes are completely burned out from trying to carry the load of processing and removing toxins from your body.
Your adrenals have been working overtime and are probably suffering adrenal fatigue due to the constant rush of adrenaline released when you got drunk or high and more adrenaline to make up for your overtaxed liver.
The adrenaline overload in your body can cause significant damage to the CNS and other organs as well.
It is essential to get an extensive physical examination by a physician; a full blood panel workup on your organs, as well as any other tests such as MRI’s, X-rays, Ultrasounds, and CT scans that may be indicated.
It may be scary to face the possible damage done, but it’s better to know so that you can focus your efforts on getting the care you need, and that starts with a highly-focused and restorative eating plan.
YES! The good news is that much of the damage done can usually be reversed by eating the right foods now. So what to eat?
There is a lot of conflicting information out there in the world of diet and nutrition. It can be confusing, especially if you’ve never taken an interest in it previously.
Common sense is going to help you the most in navigating all the information.
If your liver, brain, and nerves are damaged and they run primarily on glucose, adding a TON of organic fruits into your daily diet will feed them the nutrients they so desperately need to repair and restore optimal function.
Large quantities of organic vegetables are needed as well to bring all the nutrients to the entire body that are needed including proteins, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Combining fruits and vegetables and grazing on them (eating small snacks every 1 ½ to 2 hours) throughout the day can help restore the adrenals.
Lowering fats, including those found in animal products (eggs, fish, and meat), oils, avocados, nuts, and seeds, can take the burden off the liver and lymphatic system from having to process fat so that they can focus on healing and removing toxin built up in the body during active addiction.
Soy and grains (including corn and gluten) are also to be avoided along with food additives, preservatives, artificial/natural flavors (read MSG), colors, and sweeteners, cane sugar, and caffeine.
If you’re concerned about protein, don’t be. Some of the largest and strongest animals on the planet are herbivores including apes and elephants. (Do you have any doubt of their immense muscular strength?)
The protein craze is mostly blown out of proportion, and high-fat options are not the only sources of protein. For example, beans, spinach, and other leafy greens are chock full of more readily assimilated protein without the high-fat factor and will be significantly easier on your liver and digestive system.
It’s important to note that fruits and vegetables have a much lower calorie density than animal products and other high-fat foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds.
To get enough calories and nutrients per day, you will need to eat a lot of food!
According to New York Times Best Selling Author and nutrition expert Anthony William, starting your day with a glass of lemon water (to help the liver flush out toxins), followed 20-30 minutes later by 16oz of plain celery juice (to help restore the digestive system), followed 20-30 minutes later by a fruit smoothie, will get your daily healing off to a great kick start.
Dr. Alan Goldhamer, featured on the What the Health Documentary and co-author of The Pleasure Trap, recommends eating a daily salad so large that someone would see it and go wide-eyed in astonishment exclaiming, “You’re going to eat all that?!?”
Think about how much spinach Popeye ate – and spinach is full of protein and other essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs to repair itself and restore full functionality.
Still hungry? Lots of root vegetables like potatoes and carrots can help stave off hunger while providing the body with tons of nutrients.
Also working with a qualified nutritionist to help you calculate how much you need to eat to intake enough calories each day can be invaluable.
Juice and medically supervised water fasting are being used to heal a host of chronic illnesses including damage caused by substance abuse addiction.
However, given the fragile mental and emotional state a newly detoxed substance abuse patient is in, we recommend holding off on juice and water fasts until you’ve been eating clean, maintain sobriety and clean time, and are in recovery for at least a year before trying these methods to further your healing.
You should also do these only under a doctor’s supervision, one who is well-versed in these types of fasting. Fasting can bring severe physical and emotional detox symptoms with it and can even cause more harm than good if done when the body is already seriously nutrient deficient (especially in the case of water fasting).
However, drinking fresh (juice yourself or buy cold-pressed with no additives or preservative) fruit and vegetable juices along with eating solid foods as described above can be an excellent way to increase nutrient intake to a body that is suffering from severe deficiencies.
And although we don’t recommend water fasting right out of the gate, we do encourage hydration! Staying well-hydrated is key to flushing the body of toxins and promoting healing.
No matter what state your body is currently in, overhauling your diet and lifestyle are crucial to your recovery and for helping to prevent relapse.
If you’re like most addicts in recovery, you may begin to quickly substitute one addiction for another.
Coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes, and processed food high in cane sugar and other food additives are often the go-to substitutes for many substance abusers.
This is because your body is craving glucose, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients and these substances often give a mimicking effect of what is like to eat the REAL FOOD that your body needs and wants.
These foods (and cigarettes) are often laced with chemicals designed to increase your cravings for them so you will become addicted and they will sell more!
You can avoid this trap by identifying and eating the foods that possess the nutrients you are craving – fruits and vegetables.
But did you know there are foods that may help prevent relapse? According to Anthony William, you can stave off cravings for alcohol by eating the food that is used to create the alcoholic beverage you crave.
So if you crave wine, eat a ton of grapes. If you want vodka, eat of ton of potatoes, and so on. For opioid addicts, eat good quality, very dark chocolate (around 70% cacao or higher) when you’re tempted to use.
William is careful to note that the chocolate is only to be eaten for this particular issue, for most it is a neurotoxin and should be avoided when trying to heal from significant health issues.
Although we’ve never tested this out ourselves, it is an interesting approach and couldn’t hurt to try it!
Just like other aspects of your recovery, healthy eating needs to be a priority and requires planning and preparation.
Avoid grocery shopping when you’re hungry but make sure you have plenty of healthy options stocked at all times. Don’t buy “cheat foods” to store at home thinking you will be able to control yourself.
You will end up eating them before healthier options! Try prepping your food for the day the night before (except for fresh juices and smoothies).
Spend one day a week pre-preparing larger quantities of foods that will keep longer.
Identify restaurants that serve healthier options near locations where you tend to spend a lot of time, for instance near work or recovery meetings.
If you have a plan in place, you will be more likely to stick to healthy eating!
While we are not saying that a primarily whole food, plant-based way of eating is right for everyone recovering from addiction, it is one way to infuse a nutrient deficient body with tons of nutrients quickly and simply.
It can also be a great way to ensure that the body continues to receive a large influx of rich nutrients to continue to heal and remain healthy, helping to reduce the likelihood of relapse as well as serious physical illness.
It is always important and recommended to work with your health care practitioners to change your diet and lifestyle to facilitate significant healing.
It is also important to know that most doctors receive minimal (about 3 hours) of nutritional training in the course of earning their medical degree.
Although it is becoming more popular, there remain very few rehabilitation centers that have a Nutritionist on staff to help guide you on your path.
As in healing from any chronic disease, addiction is no different in that it is important to do your own research and become your own advocate.
No one is going to be able to know what is right for you more than you as each person and their body is different!
With so much nutritional information out there, much of it conflicting, it can be challenging to navigate.
But one thing is shared among all diet and eating plans – avoid highly processed foods and eat more WHOLE foods.
Whatever eating plan you choose in your recovery journey, we know that you can heal the damage done by active addiction. You can do it!
Our Recovery Center has talented and skilled professionals that understand the importance of food and diet to the recovery and treatment of addicts. They can help you with your recovery efforts and to understand the value of food and special diets.
If you need help with your recovery, you can get in touch with the Hotline at our Recovery Center where trained and experienced professionals are available to assist you in every way.
The staff at Chateau Recovery is always available to help you with all of your questions regarding addiction recovery and treatment. Call anytime.
Please call our toll-free helpline which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is staffed by experienced and caring professionals who can answer your questions and help you navigate through the process of evaluating and securing a treatment program.
If you or someone you love has questions concerning the rehabilitation process, call our free helpline Phone: +1 888-971-2986 for more information. Calls are always confidential, private, and secure.
Adam is a holistic lifestyle coach for recovering addicts where he teaches nutrition and wellness as methods of relapse prevention and today he will share with us his journey of recovery and his path to holistic health and healing.
“The best medicine is always what’s on your fork.” Adam Sud
Within just six months of checking in to a recovery facility, Adam reversed his diabetes, got down to one hundred and seventy pounds, and is now celebrating two and half years sober.
Please download and read this comprehensive report on diet and nutrition for recovering addicts.
Nutrition and addiction – can dietary changes assist with recovery?