Making healthy lifestyle choices is an important component of wellness and as a Dietitian; it is my goal to assist all clients and loved ones at Crossroads Centre to understand its importance and to encourage the incorporation of healthy food choices into their everyday life.
I am drawn to SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Wellness initiative which outlines Eight Dimensions of Wellness with its holistic approach to overall well-being and recognition that all eight components have a direct link to life quality and longevity (1). A healthy lifestyle can promote mental health.
In the past, the role of nutrition in improving the quality of life for persons in recovery was not well promoted. We know that drug and alcohol use causes organ damage which impairs the absorption of valuable nutrients. When combined with the lack of proper nutrition, usually associated with drug and alcohol abuse, this creates nutrient deficiencies and under-nutrition or malnutrition, the effects of which can be felt long after the adoption of a healthier lifestyle. Malnutrition contributes to poor health which contributes to stress, anxiety, depression, and low energy, which aggravates PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) and can trigger a relapse (3, 6).
Research has shown that when the person in recovery understands and pays close attention to their nutritional intake, it significantly improves their success rate by three months sobriety (5). Nutrition education is provided to those suffering from other chronic dietary linked diseases and so too, should patients dealing with SUD (substance use disorders) be provided with nutrition education that addresses their specific risk factors and increases their chances of recovery (6). Proper nutrition can help heal and nourish the body damaged by alcohol or substance-abuse, stabilize mood, reduce stress and cravings for drugs and alcohol, and address medical conditions that are co-occurring or have resulted from substance use. (6)
The basic messages for consumers in the dietary guidelines for Americans 2010 are helpful:
- Enjoy your food but eat less
- Avoid oversized portions
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Make at least half whole grains
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Monitor sodium intake and drink water instead of sugary drinks (2).
- For the person in recovery, we also encourage 3 meals and 3 small in between meals.
- Avoid sugar by not snacking on candy, donuts, soft drinks, potato chips, or high calorie, low nutrient foods.
- Carry raw vegetables, wheat crackers, a half sandwich (peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat is excellent but go easy on the jelly), nuts, or even a package of cheese and crackers as snacks
- Avoid caffeine as much as possible (3).
For those who are battling SUD (substance use disorders), nutrition plays a key role in maintaining recovery while also improving any resulting health conditions and deficiencies. Proper nutrition and hydration are important components of the substance abuse healing process because they help restore physical and mental health and improve the chance of recovery. (6)
Helpful links and References:
- Grant LP, Haughton B, Sachan DS. Nutrition education is positively associated with substance abuse treatment program outcomes. J AM Diet Assoc. 2004;104 (4):604-610
- Salz, A. substance abuse and Nutrition. Today’s Dietitian. 2014; vol.16 No 12: 44