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The Importance Of Diet To Addiction Recovery

Drug and alcohol use leads to changes in how you eat. It’s common knowledge that some substances increase your appetite (like the “munchies” associated with marijuana, some phases of alcohol usage, etc.) and some decrease it (cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.)

In both short and long-term substance abuse, healthy dietary choices may fall by the wayside. If you’re getting high, you won’t care much about what you eat. Long-term abuse can lead to serious cases of malnutrition, as interest in other areas of your life, including eating and health, can fade. Of course, the drugs and alcohol will damage your body. They can impair the absorption of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are necessary to your body’s functions.

While we do know a lot about how many drugs and alcohol affect your body, nutrition isn’t often a focus of treatment. Group therapy and 12-step meetings often offer unlimited amounts of coffee and sugary drinks or sweets. You may feel you want to quash cravings for drugs or alcohol with an increase in sugary foods or other empty calories, but this is not the way to go.

It’s apparent to therapists: Motivated clients who also sleep, exercise, and eat well-balanced meals do better in recovery and are less likely to relapse. While therapists can encourage clients to eat well, they usually aren’t trained in nutrition. But just bringing the subject up in individual and group therapy is sometimes enough to stimulate interest in self-care.

In some residential treatment program, clients attend nutrition classes and even cook together. But this isn’t standard. I believe it should be whenever possible.

Essentially, addiction starves the body. What diet and individual nutrients are important to addiction recovery?

For mood regulation , it’s important to cut back on (or avoid) sugary drinks and foods, as well as carbs that turn to sugar in the body (potato chips and pretzels for example.)

Eat a variety of high-quality proteins (fish, chicken, eggs, dairy such as yogurt or kefir, tempeh, sprouted tofu, etc., whatever works best for you.)

Eat sprouted or fermented whole grains (sour-dough bread, sprouted tortillas.)

Consume healthy fats (extra virgin olive oil, fish oil, avocados, etc.)

Every day eat a wide range of cooked and some raw vegetables from roots to shoots, in all the colors of the rainbow.

Enjoy fruit each day.

Drink water.

Learn how to make soups and stews. You can cook up a few batches with a friend, divide into portions, and freeze. You might be surprised how much fun you have cooking–and there are plenty of videos online to teach you how.

It’s common knowledge that a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients are vital for everyone, especially if you’re in recovery. You might consider supplementing with a good quality multivitamin, but addiction really takes a toll on you and you may require additional supplementation such as extra B-complex including folic acid. Ask your primary care physician to refer you to a nutritionist with experience in addiction who can help you meet your individual nutritional needs.

If you’re in recovery, you should have some pride in sticking with it. When you’re ready to take the next step, include diet in your recovery plan.



The Importance Of Diet To Addiction Recovery

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2018). The Importance Of Diet To Addiction Recovery. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Mar 2018
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