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Healing With Nutrition: The Value of Nutritional Balance for Recovery

Healing With Nutrition: The Value of Nutritional Balance for Recovery

Challenges with substance use disorder (SUD) and other mental health disorders can impair your ability to function in daily life. SUD and co-occurring disorders can not only be destructive to your psychological well-being but your physical health as well. Thus, also addressing your physical health is a vital part of the recovery process. By understanding the mind-body connection between psychological and physical health, you can uncover the power of healing with nutrition to support a balanced life in recovery. 

As noted in the Canadian Veterinary Journal, wellness is a holistic integration of the whole person in mind, body, and spirit. Your mind and body are deeply interconnected to each other and can have a significant impact on your physical and mental well-being. For instance, when you are feeling down you might eat more unhealthy foods or not eat at all. Therefore, how you are feeling mentally and emotionally is reflected in the way you treat or feel in your body. 

At New Creation Recovery, we recognize that addiction can change your brain and ravage your body. In the same way that addiction can disrupt your relationships, work life, and school life, SUD invades every corner of your being and life. As a result, healing with nutrition recognizes that your physical health is as important to recovery as sobriety. Without a commitment to addressing your mind, body, and spirit, true lasting recovery is impaired. Through our holistic Christian-based recovery programs, you have access to a program designed specifically for you. With whole-person care, we offer luxury rehab services to nurture and fuel every part of you.

Now, you may still have questions on how healing with nutrition is possible. You may recognize the physical health benefits of balanced nutrition. Yet, how can healing with nutrition be effective for addressing challenges with SUD? By increasing your knowledge of nutrition and the mind-body connection, you can better understand healing with nutrition as a recovery tool.

What Is Nutrition?

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), nutrition is the process of consuming, absorbing, and using nutrients from foods. The nutrients in your food make healing with nutrition possible as they are necessary for the growth, development, and maintenance of life. Nutrients are the things that give you energy and enable your bodily functions. You can support your physical health by consuming and absorbing the two major categories of nutrients:

  • Macronutrients
    • Protein, carbohydrate, or fat
      • Primarily supplies energy to your body
    • Typically measured in units as calories
  • Micronutrients
    • Vitamins and minerals
      • Protects and promotes a variety of bodily functions
        • Processes the energy from macronutrients
      • Does not supply energy to the body

Looking at the major types of nutrients showcases the importance of food for managing and maintaining your body. However, healing with nutrition is not just about consuming food. The types of foods you consume also have an impact on your well-being.

Poor Nutrition and Health Challenges

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, good nutrition is essential to supporting health across your lifespan. When you consume less nutritious food or unbalanced eating habits among other health tools, healing with nutrition is negated. Some of the chronic conditions that can impair your health from poor nutrition include:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Increases risk for certain cancers
    • Endometrial (uterine) cancer
    • Breast cancer
    • Colorectal cancer

Thus, looking at the chronic conditions that can come from poor nutrition highlights the interconnected nature of health and well-being. When you experience challenges with chronic health conditions, those difficulties can impede your mental health. As the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) points out, feeling sad or discouraged after a life-threatening diagnosis or trying to manage a chronic condition is not unusual. However, the stress of your condition and concerns over health outcomes can be overwhelming. 

Moreover, it can be difficult to cope with life changes, especially unwanted and harmful ones. Your mental health is further compromised by physical health challenges when it disrupts your ability to do the things you enjoy. Being unable to participate in some of your favorite activities like gardening can leave you feeling down. Chronic conditions have a high co-occurrence with depression, whose symptoms can further decrease your ability to actively participate in your daily life.

Thus, the relationship between mood and physical health speaks to the idea that making good food choices is vital to healing with nutrition. However, making more balanced food choices is easier said than done. There are a variety of barriers outside of substance use and other mental health disorders that impede well-being. Vulnerable populations like individuals with mental health disorders, certain racial and ethnic groups, environmental conditions, and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by poor nutrition. 

Listed below are some of the barriers to healing with nutrition that disadvantaged communities experience:

  • Lack of affordable nutritious food options
  • Limited or no access to exercise equipment and or physical activities
  • Unreliable or no transportation
    • Unable to reach a grocery store
    • No access to spaces to engage in physical activities
  • Living in geographically isolated locations
    • Rural 
  • Real or perceived lack of time
    • Unable to get paid time off work
    • Lack of childcare options
    • No time to prepare meals
    • Convenience of fast food
    • Accessibility of quick meals
      • Frozen food
  • Fatigue and lack of motivation
    • Overworked
    • Other life stressors
      • Parenting
      • Employment challenges
      • Low-income
      • Experiences with explicit and implicit bias
  • Negative experiences in childhood and or adulthood
    • Judgment from healthcare providers and others about eating habits and/or weight and body image

Despite the barriers to good nutrition, healing with nutrition for physical and psychological well-being is possible. Knowledge is a valuable tool for empowering change in your daily life. Therefore, increasing your knowledge of the relationship between nutrition and substance use can help. With a deeper understanding of the mind-body connection between substance use and your physical health, you can decrease the impact substances have on your well-being.

The Relationship Between Nutrition and Substance Use Disorder

Substance use can have a dramatic effect on your body in a variety of ways. There have been countless stereotyped representations of individuals with SUD presented in the media. Although many of the images that may come to mind when you think of substance use are based on stereotypes, those images remind you that SUD can take a toll on your body. 

As MedlinePlus states, substance use can cause harm to your body through the act of prolonged consumption and negative lifestyle changes. Regarding the bodily impact of substance use, there can be both short-term and long-term consequences for your physical health. 

Listed below are some of the ways different substances can impair your brain and health:

  • Opioids
    • Slows down heart rate and breathing
    • Confusion
    • Slurred speech
    • Clumsiness
    • Extreme drowsiness
  • Stimulants
    • Over-stimulation
      • Anxiety
      • Panic
      • Paranoia
      • Aggression
      • Seizures
      • Headaches
      • Nausea
      • Stomach cramps 
    • Increase heart rate and blood pressure
    • Reduce appetite
    • Tension
    • Tremors
  • Depressants
    • Extreme drowsiness
    • Irregular or slowed breathing
    • Unconsciousness 
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Mood swings
    • Slowed reaction time
    • Impaired judgment and coordination
      • Increased risk for injury to self
    • Blackouts 
    • Memory loss
  • Psychedelics
    • Hallucinations
    • Impaired coordination
    • Clumsiness
    • Dizziness
    • Vomiting
    • Confusion
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Blurred vision
    • Sweating and chills
    • Numbness
    • Fast or irregular heartbeat
    • Breathing quickly
  • Dissociatives
    • Hallucinations
    • Feeling detached from your body
    • Panic
    • Feeling numb
    • Bladder damage
      • Ketamine bladder syndrome
    • Unconsciousness
    • Memory loss
    • Vitamin B12 deficiency due to Inhaling nitrous oxide
      • Damages nerves
      • Anemia
  • Empathogens
    • Mood swings
    • Depression 
    • Anxiety
    • Paranoia
    • Irritability
    • Dehydration
    • Dangerously low serotonin levels
    • Hyperthermia
    • Sweaty
    • Exhaustion
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Restlessness
    • Poor sleep
  • Cannabinoids
    • Paranoia
    • Anxiety
    • Memory loss
    • Dry mouth
  • Increased risk for infectious diseases
    • HIV/AIDS
    • Hepatitis B and C
    • Endocarditis
    • Cellulitis
  • Higher risk of developing or exasperating mental health disorders and conditions
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Suicidality
  • Increased risk for life-threatening and chronic conditions
    • Lung disease
    • Heart disease
    • Stroke
    • Cancer
    • Severe dental problems
      • From methamphetamine use
    • Overdose
    • Damage or destruction of nerve cells in the brain or outside the brain and spinal cord
      • From inhalant use 
  • Higher chance of early death

Looking at the potential physical symptoms and side effects of substance use highlights the importance of whole-person care. Substances invade and impair multiple bodily functions and increase your risk for other health issues. The consequences of SUD can lead to other long-term health issues like incontinence from bladder damage, dental problems, sleep issues, and loss of appetite. Many different substances can contribute to disruption in eating patterns that can create additional health issues on their own. 

Thus, the stacking of health issues from multiple intersecting challenges with substance use speaks to the need to treat SUD. However, understanding the nutrition in SUD is particularly important to the recovery process due to a variety of reasons. Healing with nutrition is vital to treatment and recovery because multiple symptoms of overconsumption can impede well-being. From the loss of appetite and malnutrition to nausea and other stomach issues, nutrition plays an integral role in energy and healthy functioning.

As Nutrition Reviews points out, substance use can compromise nutrition for individuals who are still using and can disrupt recovery for those in treatment. Listed below are some of the substances that contribute to disruption in balanced nutrition:

  • Opiates and opioids
    • Symptoms of withdrawal
      • Diarrhea
      • Nausea
      • Vomiting 
    • Withdrawal symptoms lead to not enough nutrients and an imbalance of electrolytes
      • Sodium
      • Potassium
      • Chloride
    • Often replace meals high in protein and fats with low-nutrient meals high in sugar and alcohol
    • Low food intake
      • Anorexia
      • Stomach issues
      • Malnutrition
    • Heroin
      • Low protein intake
      • Decreased energy
  • Stimulant
    • Reduce your appetite
      • This leads to weight loss and poor nutrition
        • Cocaine
          • Irregular eating patterns
            • May only eat one meal
              • Low protein intake
              • High in refined carbohydrates and fat
              • Low in fruits and vegetables
              • Decreased energy
    • Can experience dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
      • Due to staying up for days at a time
  • Alcohol
    • Deficiencies in the B vitamins, B1, B6, and folic acid
      • Anemia
      • Nervous system issues
    • Damages the liver and pancreas, which affects metabolism and nutrition
      • Liver removes toxins from harmful substances
      • The pancreas regulates blood sugar and the absorption of fat
      • Harm to both organs leads to an imbalance of fluids, calories, protein, and electrolytes
  • Marijuana
    • Increase appetite
      • Higher consumption of fat and sugar
      • High calorie intake
  • Other nutrition deficiencies
    • Low levels of most major vitamins and minerals
      • Riboflavin
      • Vitamin D and C
      • Magnesium
      • Iron
      • Calcium
      • Zinc
    • Empty calories lead to a higher ratio of macronutrients to micronutrients 
  • Detoxification
    • Low food intake
      • Difficulties with nausea, anorexia, and stomach issues
    • Cravings for foods high in sugar

The numerous ways that poor nutrition occurs in substance use showcase the need for healing with nutrition. By healing with nutrition, you can address many of the physical symptoms that leave you feeling bad. Thus, with more insight into how substances impact food intake, healing with nutrition becomes possible. Now you can understand how proper nutrition can make you feel better in treatment and support your psychological well-being.

Addressing Healing With Nutrition: SUD and Mental Health

Healing with nutrition is a valuable component of a holistic approach to recovery because of its dual benefits. Engaging in healing with nutrition supports wellness in treatment and gives you tools for lasting recovery. In many ways the phrase, “You are what you eat” is accurate as what you consume influences your mind and body. Food is fuel for your mind and body to function in multiple areas of life. 

For example, eating a bunch of sugary food before you go to work or school leaves you feeling sluggish. Thus, the types of food you consume can also impact your mood. When you consume foods low in nutrition, you may feel fatigued and even stressed and depressed. Meanwhile, eating more nutritiously balanced food can support positive emotions and reduce negative thoughts and feelings.

As noted in “Diet, Nutrition, and Substance Use Disorder” from Utah State University (USU), consuming healthy food like fatty acids, B vitamins, zinc, and antioxidants increases neurotransmitter signaling in your brain. Increased neurotransmitter signaling can support mental health since depression is associated with depressed neurotransmitter signaling. In regards to substance use, SUD often co-occurs with mental health disorders like depression. 

Therefore, eating more nutritious foods can support healing with nutrition by reducing depressive symptoms. Moreover, balanced eating can support healing with nutrition as it fuels the brain power for healthier thinking and coping strategies. When you feel better in body and mind, it becomes easier to build adaptive skills and foster resilience to substance use.

Yet, you may wonder where to start. How do you dismantle months or years of unhealthy eating habits? Through a holistic approach to care, you can engage in healing with nutrition. Holistic care gives you access to an individualized treatment program in which you can build tools to support nutrition in recovery.

Ways to Support Healing With Nutrition at New Creation Recovery

Some of the ways you can engage in healing with nutrition in your daily life include:

  • Pay attention to how different foods make you feel
  • Track the emotions you attach to certain foods you crave
  • Slowly introduce nutritious snacks and whole foods into your diet
  • Set small, realistic goals
  • For time concerns
    • Try out canned and microwavable steamed vegetables
    • Get fruit cups packed in water or fruit juice
  • Attend educational classes to learn about nutritious eating and meal preparation
    • Learn how to prep meals ahead of time
  • Keep track of what you eat
  • Eat regular meals and snacks
    • Build an eating routine
  • Try out some cooking classes
  • Meet with a nutritionist to develop an eating plan and set manageable goals 

Giving yourself some grace, along with setting realistic goals and getting proper support, healing with nutrition can be a reality. Here at New Creation Recovery, we are committed to providing holistic and spiritual whole-person care through our Christian rehab center. Therefore, we provide an onsite rehab nutritionist to promote wellness in mind, body, and spirit. 

We know true lasting recovery is born out of caring for the whole of your parts. Building a new vibrant life in recovery does not happen with sobriety alone. Making space to address all of your needs can help you make the lifestyle change you need to thrive in recovery. With a commitment to a personal approach to recovery, our Christian-based recovery programs allow us to meet you where you are on your journey to healing. 

Nutrition is a vital part of the recovery process for substance use disorder (SUD) and mental health disorders. Substance use can increase your risk for chronic health conditions and impede important functions for nutrition like appetite loss, overconsumption of sugary and fatty foods, and low or no consumption of nutritious foods high in protein, vitamins, and minerals. Eating more unbalanced foods can contribute to low energy and negative mood. However, eating more balanced foods can support reducing mental health symptoms like depression. The positive emotions associated with nutrition can help reduce negative thoughts and feelings that contribute to unhealthy behaviors like substance use. To learn how healing with nutrition can support you, call New Creation Recovery at (877) 868-5730.