Addiction and Nutrition
Addiction is complex and deeply affects the physical body, the mind and the spirit. Men and women who suffer from addiction inevitably experience a wide range of consequences, one of the most significant being a sharp decline in overall health and wellness. In order for an individual to successfully recover, he or she must heal comprehensively. It is essential that an equal emphasis is put on the restoration of physical, mental and emotional health. At Guardian IOP we are dedicated to providing our clients with the most integrated program of clinical care available. We offer a combination of proven psychotherapeutic methods, 12-step program immersion and holistic modalities – including a thorough and individualized Nutritional Counseling program.
Addiction frequently leads to malnourishment, either because the afflicted individual fails to eat enough over the course of the day or because he or she consistently makes unhealthy dietary choices. We have licensed and highly experienced Nutritional Therapists on staff who lead group sessions and teach clients how to make healthy choices, prepare meals for themselves and nourish their bodies and their minds. Our Nutritional Counseling program is also highly individualized – different clients have unique dietary needs based on underlying conditions, family history and a variety of other factors. Nutritional Therapists work one-on-one with each individual client, helping them develop a customized meal plan that meets all of their dietary requirements.
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The Negative Impacts of Active Addiction
The physical implications of active addiction are more far-reaching than many people know. Men and women who have suffered at the hands of a substance abuse or dependence disorder typically experience some of the following health-related consequences:
- Severe nutritional deficiencies – Men and women who have been abusing chemical substances for any length of time typically lack key amino acids, minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc) and vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins).
- Damage to neurotransmitters, brain chemicals used by the central nervous system to carry messages between neurons – These chemicals are essential to adequate functioning and are severely depleted by long-term substance abuse.
- The development of food allergies based on a harshly compromised immune system – It is not uncommon for men and women who struggle with substance abuse and dependence to develop allergies or sensitivities to common foods like dairy products, soy products, wheat or corn.
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) based on nutrient deficiencies – Low blood sugar is responsible for a wide range of other issues, like poor adrenal function, heightened symptoms of anxiety and depression and chronic fatigue.
- Gastrointestinal issues and problems with digestion – Active addiction leads to the malabsorption of vital nutrients, which can in turn lead to Leaky Gut Syndrome, the overgrowth of yeast, chronic constipation and other conditions.
The good news is, the majority of these health-related issues can be reversed over time when consistent attention is paid to adequate nutrition.
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What is Nutritional Counseling?
While it might seem like Nutritional Counseling belongs exclusively to the realm of physical health and wellness, the practice is actually a crucial component of the mental health field. Nutritional Counseling is aimed at treating the chemical imbalances that lead to mental health issues through a combination of diet, supplements and the development of nutrition-related life skills. At Guardian IOP our nutritional program was designed by a team of dedicated professionals with combined decades in the field of substance abuse and mental health.
How Does Diet Help Facilitate Recovery?
Nutritional counseling does not simply work to heal the body. This recovery-oriented service focuses on emotional regulation and psychological balance. There are numerous benefits that go hand-in-hand with Nutritional Counseling, including:
- Repairing the damage done to vital organs and tissues – Active addiction does a number on every part of the physical body, especially the vital organs – including the brain, the lungs, the liver, the heart, the stomach, the bladder and the kidneys. Eating well can also help repair damaged tissue and restore the body to a state of proper functioning far more quickly and effectively than abstinence alone.
- Bolstering the immune system – Substance abuse weakens the immune system, and men and women who struggle with substance dependency are known to get sick more frequently than members of the general population. Eating a nutrient-dense diet helps bolster the immune system, reducing the severity and duration of illnesses.
- Helping to regulate mood – Mood swings are a common symptom of post-acute withdrawal, and most individuals who are new to recovery will feel on edge and irritable more often than not. Eating well can work to regulate mood – in fact, according to a study published by Harvard Medical School, 95 percent of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract. Eating foods that improve gastrointestinal health helps boost brain health, ultimately improving mood.
- Increasing energy levels – Resorting to fast food in the middle of a busy day might seem like the only option, but focusing on getting three nutrient-dense meals every day is essentially to the maintenance of lasting energy levels. We teach our clients how to swap out junk food for convenient and healthy options so that they can be as productive as possible throughout the day.
- Improving sleep patterns – Men and women who struggle with addiction rarely pay attention to what time of the day they are eating, or how much they are eating at any given time. Eating three balanced meals – breakfast, lunch and an early dinner – helps regularize sleep patterns, and can even help ward off insomnia.
- Decrease risk of relapse and drug-seeking behaviors – In many cases, men and women who are new to recovery actually mistake hunger for drug or alcohol cravings. Knowing how much food to prepare in order to stay satisfied throughout the day can work to prevent relapse by warding off psychological cravings.
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Our Nutritional Counseling Program
Our Nutritional Counseling program provides the following services to our clients:
- A detailed breakdown of how addiction leads to malnourishment.
- An exploration of the link between long-term addiction recovery and adequate nutrition.
- A thorough education on what types of food contain vital vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and why choosing nutrient-dense foods is important.
- Hands-on, therapist-led classes in which clients are able to prepare their own nutrient-dense meals and snacks.
- Helping clients write out grocery lists while consistently making healthy choices.
- Teaching clients how to shop for themselves and budget accordingly.
- Group sessions that focus on developing a healthy relationship for food (focused groups for clients who may have struggled with disordered eating in the past).
Nutritional Therapy is combined with the development of crucial life skills, as clients learn how to nourish their bodies on their own – without guidance or instruction – preparing them for the eventual transition back into independent living.
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If you or someone you love has recently completed a higher level of clinical care or is looking for a more flexible and less committal rehab program, Guardian IOP is a great option. Our program of recovery provides men and women of all ages with a combination of therapeutic care, 12-step program immersion and proven holistic treatment methods. We are dedicated to providing our clients with the coping mechanisms and life skills necessary to maintain sobriety for years to come, and providing their loved ones with the support necessary to navigate this potentially difficult time. For more information on our outpatient treatment program contact us today.