People often discuss the importance of nurturing our bodies during recovery. That usually includes prioritizing exercise, quality sleep, and nutrition. However, what exactly is the connection between recovery and nutrition?
Most of us know and understand the importance of healthy eating. Nutrition has several positive effects on our physical health. Many people don't know how it can improve our emotional and mental well-being.
Addiction recovery is about much more than abstaining from substance use. It is also about making long-term life changes. That includes becoming more mindful about the foods we put into our bodies. If you or someone you love requires treatment, seek help today.
One of the most significant connections between recovery and nutrition is that both are lifestyle changes people make to live a better, healthier life overall. Of course, individuals seek treatment because a life of active addiction is dangerous and life-threatening. However, treatment is just one choice, one step in a long list of changes that must be made to live a life of sobriety. For recovery to have an impact, individuals must see it as a lifestyle.
People change their lifestyles all the time. Some want to exercise more, read more, become more outdoorsy, or learn to cook regularly. These are all lifestyle changes people make in one way, shape, or form. Seeking addiction treatment and entering sobriety is a very different lifestyle change but a change nonetheless.
When making life changes, many people adopt what is called the 21/90 rule. If you focus on a health change—like cooking a healthy dinner for yourself every day—it should become a habit after 21 days. If you continue that habit for another 90 days, it becomes a permanent change by then.
You may try out this method if you are looking to make nutrition a priority in your life. Of course, some days will be more difficult but focus on starting small.
As mentioned, living sober is a lifestyle, but what kind of lifestyle is the path to sobriety? To sum it up, sobriety is a lifestyle of wellness. Wellness is a relatively subjective concept that means different things to different people. The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as "the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health." That pursuit may include improving physical health, entering recovery, and improving nutrition.
Mental health is critical to improving wellness. However, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), mental wellness is about "more than the absence of a mental illness." It also includes "emotional, psychological, and social well-being." Some of the self-care methods they recommend to care for your mental health include:
These are all important to holistic health and well-being. The NIMH also recommends one more vital lifestyle change that improves your overall mental health: eating nutritious meals and staying hydrated. According to this organization, eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated "can improve your energy and focus throughout the day."
Again, most of us know these physical benefits of nutrition and clean eating, but what are the benefits regarding mental health?
In addition to the physical benefits of nutrition—such as preventing health problems like diabetes or heart disease—there are also benefits to mental health.
Whether we recognize it or not, the food we put into our bodies can negatively impact our overall mood. For instance, our mood improves when we feel well physically and emotionally. We also have a more positive sense of self-esteem.
The other benefits of proper nutrition far exceed those of mood improvement. According to a 2022 article by contributing editor to the Harvard Health Blog, Eva Selhub MD, "95% of your serotonin is produced in your gastrointestinal tract," which is "lined with a hundred million nerve cells." These cells not only regulate the digestive system but also influence emotions.
Additionally, Selhud claims that compared to a typical Western diet, individuals following traditional diets like Mediterranean or traditional Japanese have a 25% to 35% lower risk of depression. Therefore, it may be worth considering eating more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and unprocessed food for physical and mental health.
There is often a high risk of malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies among individuals with substance use disorder (SUD). Malnutrition can even intensify substance-seeking behaviors. That is why nutrition is so crucial to incorporate into your recovery plan. Research indicates that individuals with SUD often suffer from nutrient deficiencies, causing further health problems like mood disorders, alcoholic myopathy, and reduced brain function.
For these reasons alone, it is essential to start prioritizing nutrition in your recovery. Plus, the better your body feels, the better you feel, and recovery is something you should feel good about.
The path of recovery is not a single step. To fully live a life of sobriety, you must completely change your life. Addiction is a chronic condition and requires long-term care and attention. When you consider entering recovery as a lifestyle change, the journey can become a bit easier. Part of the journey involves making other positive lifestyle changes, like beginning to exercise or practicing meditation. Proper nutrition will be a big help in prioritizing nutrition throughout your recovery. Not only is nutrition vital for physical health it will also improve your emotional and mental well-being. To learn more about how nutrition and recovery are connected, or to seek help, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.