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How Nutrition Can Make or Break Early Addiction Recovery

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If you’ve ever attended any sort of 12-step meeting or recovery-oriented support group, chances are you’ve received tons of advice about addiction recovery, especially during the early stages of recovery. However, I personally noticed that a lot of this advice centers around “cutting out the bad” and doesn’t always factor in the positive changes that can also help boost your recovery. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, this approach doesn’t always take into account some of the things our bodies truly need to physically and mentally start the recovery process, like proper nutrition.

The fact of the matter is that our bodies need certain vitamins and minerals to operate at its best, and oftentimes a lack of knowledge on how nutrition impacts us can ultimately make or break early recovery.

Why Nutrition Matters In Early Recovery

In the early stages of recovery, your body is experiencing many changes. Even after the symptoms of early withdrawal pass, your body still needs time and adequate resources to heal.

Many people experience significant changes to their mood, sleep patterns and appetite during the first several months of recovery as the body and mind adjust to their new normal. For this reason, the team at The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab say that healthy dietary choices are important for anyone starting on their recovery journey.

For starters, eating regularly scheduled, nutritionally-balanced meals can curb symptoms of anxiety and depression that often creep up in the early stages of recovery. These mental health conditions are often underlying conditions that active addiction covers up, which means the symptoms come back to the forefront in early recovery. Utilizing your PLEASE Skill and meeting your body’s basic needs can help reduce these symptoms though, which means eating properly is perhaps more important than ever for those in addiction recovery.

Furthermore, nourishing your body can boost your mood and help your immune system remain fully functional. This can not only help prevent physical illnesses, but it can also help your body speed up the healing process. The faster you bounce back from withdrawal symptoms and other early effects of recovery, the faster you can start doing the work and emotionally healing.

How to Meal Plan in Early Recovery

During the early stages of addiction recovery, some people experience food cravings while others lose their appetite. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you should really try to eat meals that contain proper caloric and nutritional values on a regular basis. In fact, meal planning can be critical in the first several weeks of recovery because it helps you eat balanced meals on a consistent schedule.

When deciding on meals, you may want to consider foods that promote detoxification and recovery. These foods may include fruits and raw vegetables, whole grain products and nuts. You may also be dealing with certain nutritional deficiencies during the early months of recovery, and balanced, well-planned meals can help you with that. You may need to eat foods that are rich in calcium, fiber and omega-3.

When preparing meals, map out plans for three balanced meals and one to three snacks per day. You can even prepare certain meals ahead of time to help you avoid eating out or ordering fast food to your door. By planning out your meals in advance, you’re more likely to follow through with eating them, and you’ll start to develop healthy eating habits.

Dehydration is also common during detox. However, proper hydration can help you avoid many common detoxification side effects, like muscle cramps, headaches and fatigue. Proper hydration can also help you lower your caffeine intake, and too much caffeine consumption can increase brain stimulation and cause cravings and other side effects you don’t want.

Addiction recovery is so much more than just cutting out the drug of choice from your life. In fact, active recovery often involves a complete lifestyle change for many people. Whatever changes you make along your recovery journey, make sure you continue to nourish and hydrate your body. Trust me, it makes a world of difference.

Getty image by nikkimeel

Originally published: October 4, 2021
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