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Holistic Addiction Treatment: Nutrition
Proper nutrition, particularly holistic nutrition, is key to helping recovering alcohol and drug addicts stay sober. The body needs healthy foods to provide energy, strengthen the immune system and help repair vital organs that may have become damaged during the course of a person’s drug or alcohol addiction. Holistic nutrition provides the nutritional building blocks that are necessary to begin healing physically after recovery.
What is Holistic Nutrition?
Holistic nutrition is based on the premise of eating healthy foods as close to their original, natural state as possible. These include such as unrefined, unprocessed, organic and locally-grown whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. The goal of eating holistically is to achieve ultimate health so as to heal the body, mind and soul, clearing the path for recovering addicts to feel well enough about themselves, both physically and mentally, to make it just that much easier to stay the course. The elimination of processed foods in favor of a diet of whole foods is key to a proper holistic diet.
By following a holistic eating plan, you open yourself up to the opportunity of gaining many health benefits, such as increased energy, weight loss, improved mood, better sleep patterns, improved skin tone, a stronger immune system, balanced blood sugar levels, reduced cholesterol and much more. Many nutritionists believe that holistic nutrition also can help prevent, or help manage, many chronic illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and colitis.
Nutritional guidelines for recovering addicts place eating a diet rich in whole grains at the top of the list, and emphasize the importance of getting protein into your meals. Proteins help the body restore organs affected by chronic drug and alcohol abuse, such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, heart, and brain. Eliminating added sugar is also high on the list. Sugar consumption leads to prolonged cravings, fatigue, and anxiety. It also contributes to the possibility of developing diabetes and creating a whole new dependence from which to break free.
Replace soda with water or fresh, unsweetened juices, do your shopping at your local farmer’s market, buy organic when you can, and avoid processed foods whenever possible. Talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet, especially if you’re considering holistic nutrition to manage or improve a chronic illness.
Principles for Eating Healthy
Food is mood: Eating natural foods – unprocessed, whole, organic foods – whenever possible, and making sustainable changes that you can stick with, will improve your overall mood compared to a diet heavy in sweets and processed foods.
Eat whole, raw foods: Bananas, apples, grapes, celery, carrots, melon, avocado – or your favorite fruit or vegetable the way it was harvested – raw and unprocessed
Go organic: Avoid pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and hormones in your food by selecting organic options whenever possible.
Send sweets packing: Replace sugar, corn syrup and sweeteners with naturally sweet alternatives like fruit.
Drink water: Eight glasses a day is recommended by holistic nutritionists and the medical community alike for good digestion and health. Whenever possible, avoid soda, alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
Reduce your sodium intake: One of the primary factors in developing hypertension or high blood pressure is having a high sodium intake. Reduce your salt intake by avoiding processed foods and by hiding the salt shaker at meal times.
Buy local produce: Locally-grown produce looks and tastes better than imported vegetables, and it’s also more nutritious. Consider growing some of your own fruits and veggies, or visit your farmer’s market for local produce.
Cut portion size: The best way to eat to achieve optimum health benefits is to have five to six small meals throughout the day to regulate blood sugar – You’ll find that three moderate meals a day with two sizeable snacks in between is more than enough to keep you full.
Add dietary supplements: Vitamins, especially B vitamins, and certain nutritional supplements can strengthen the immune system, improve mood, enhance detoxification and work with a healthy diet to help restore the body to a properly functioning machine.
Paying attention to these principles and following them closely can work miracles for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.
An example of a holistic diet would include 45 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fat and 25 percent protein. Brown and wild rice are the best complex carbohydrate grains, along with oats, beans, amaranth, lentils and millet. Vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates as well. Consuming plenty of fiber helps cut alcohol cravings.
Recovering addicts can experience an overstimulated nervous system, with increased anxiety and insomnia when drinking anything containing caffeine. Replacing caffeine with herbal tea or decaffeinated coffee when possible, and consuming no more than two caffeinated beverages a day can work wonders in reducing anxiety, which can be a constant companion in the early stages of recovery.
Recovering addicts can use food to feel better and mentally, and feeling better can reduce the risk of relapse – studies show that recovering addicts with poor dietary habits are more likely to relapse.
Dietary recommendations do vary depending on the substance from which one is withdrawing. Alcohol and opiates affect the stomach, so people recovering from these substances should work to restore intestinal health through increased intake of probiotics. Those recovering from cocaine addiction would benefit from increased consumption of Omega 3 due to the probability of a deficiency in essential fatty acids. Because of these differences in the importance of each recovering addict’s dietary needs, a trained nutritionist is the best person to consult on how best to create the best personal healthy, holistic, diet.
Your diet will not always be perfect, and of course it is more important to stay on track with your sobriety than to worry about eating just the right thing. But making dietary choices that support your body and brain as they heal can only help as you work on your recovery and on making each day better than the last.
Some final holistic nutrition suggestions:
- Eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day
- Eat Breads and Cereals with a low glycemic index to help control blood sugar.
- Eat more legumes, including Beans, Chickpeas, and Lentils
- Eat Nuts More Regularly
- Eat More Fish and Shellfish
- Eat Lean Red Meats, Poultry and Eggs
- Eat Low-Fat Dairy Products
By creating a healthy, natural diet that is not too strict to stick with, recovering addicts can repair physical damage they may have done to their bodies, improve their moods and overall well-being and make enormous strides towards staying on the path of recovery.