- All addicts in active use of alcohol and drugs are malnourished.
In order to help people recover, it is important to understand the
impact of nutrition. It is astounding to consider that only fat contains more calories per
gram than alcohol. As a result, while drinking, addicts experience a sense of fullness
having eaten very little or nothing. These "empty calories" lead to poor eating
habits and malnutrition. Drug abusers experience a similar affect. Alcohol and drugs
actually keep the body from properly absorbing and breaking down nutrients and expelling
toxins. This leads to a host of health problems. (see sidebar, "How Drugs &
Alcohol Affect the Body")
- Restoring addicts to physical, as well as spiritual, health
The essence of recovery is changing negative behaviors into
positive ones. Good nutrition, relaxation, and exercise all play an important role in
successful change. Learning to make healthy food choices is important to achieving a
Because they have neglected their diet, addicts experience
gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation, an inability to digest foods
properly, along with a poor appetite. As a result, they have a special need for foods that
are high in nutrients to rebuild damaged tissues, organs and regain appropriate
functioning of the various systems including the nervous and gastrointestinal systems.
- Nutrition actually impacts cravings for drugs and alcohol.
Every newly recovering addicts struggles with craving to use
alcohol and drugs. Research has show that a diet with the right types of high protein and
high carbohydrate-rich foods can make a big difference.
Food affects mood. Along with amino acids, deficiency of nutrients
like folic acid and the other B-complex vitamins also have a serious and negative impact.
Sugar and caffeine can contribute to mood swings, so intake of both should reduced during
the early stages of recover.
Alcohol and drug use prevents the body from properly processing
two important amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan. They are responsible for the
production of norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin. These compounds are neurotransmitters
that are essential for emotional stability, mental clarity, and a general state of
well-being. Decreased levels of these neurotransmitters negatively affect mood and
Tyrosine is a precursor to the neurotransmitters norepinephrine
and dopamine--chemical messengers that promote mental acuity and alertness. It is one a
nonessential amino acid found in protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and
Tryptophan is integral to the production of serotonin, which has a
calming effect and is important for proper sleep. It is found in foods such as bananas,
milk and sunflower seeds, as well as turkey meat.