If you or someone you love is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, you may not think much about nutrition. You may be more concerned with fighting the addiction itself. However, substance abuse and inadequate nutrition can put a lot of stress on the body. Electrolyte imbalances and vitamin deficiencies are likely to occur and in the most extreme cases, malnutrition and eventual death are real possibilities.
In order for the brain and other parts of the body to work properly, you need to eat a variety of foods. This includes a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Everyone needs to eat a healthy diet but it’s especially important during addiction recovery. Unfortunately, many addicts struggle to get the nutrients they need. For more information, you should contact our Asheville rehabilitation experts today.
How Addiction Impacts Diet and Nutrition
People who are addicted to drugs or alcohol often ignore everything except getting their next drink or hit. They typically don’t spend their time or money on ensuring they eat healthy meals. Even if they know they should eat better, they may not have the funds left to do so.
People in active addiction may also fail to eat anything at all. Addicts tend to have a suppressed appetite and while they’re under the influence, they forget that they need to eat. On the other hand, some people binge eat when they’re coming down from a high. Their appetite is insatiable, and they keep eating even when they’re full. The longer addicts continue to eat poorly, the more the body’s well-being is affected.
How Addiction Coupled with a Poor Diet Affects the Body
Ongoing substance abuse and a lack of nutritious food will result in malnutrition. This causes:
- Low body temperature
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Electrolyte imbalances
- Cognitive impairment
- Muscle degeneration
- Heart rate irregularities
- Weakened immune system
These are just some of the things that can happen to the addict’s body when it doesn’t get enough food. Other issues develop based on the drug the individual uses. For example, opioid addicts often develop chronic constipation because these drugs can partially paralyze the stomach. Because constipation is uncomfortable, individuals often abuse laxatives to bring them relief. Unfortunately, the excessive use of laxatives can lead to new problems such as vomiting, heartburn, and heart palpitations. It can also contribute to long-term gastrointestinal issues.
Meanwhile, people who are addicted to cocaine, amphetamines or other stimulants often have a suppressed appetite. This can cause severe dehydration and vitamin deficiencies and stimulant abusers have the highest risk of malnutrition. Many people like the fact that stimulants help them to lose weight, but extended periods of malnutrition can lead to:
- Hair loss
- Tooth decay
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Open sores
Stimulant addicts are among those who overeat or binge eat when they come down from their high.
Poor nutrition can also be damaging for alcoholics. Chronic alcohol abuse damages the stomach lining and creates a deficiency in digestive enzymes. This reduces the body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food.
Alcohol abuse can also cause significant damage to the pancreas. This is the part of the body that’s responsible for the digestion of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. It also helps to balance blood sugar levels. The pancreas can’t function in the way it should if an individual doesn’t get adequate nutrition. Alcoholics are at risk of alcohol-induced pancreatitis which can be deadly if not properly treated.
In addition, the vitamin deficiencies caused by poor eating habits and chronic alcohol use can cause Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome. This is an irreversible brain condition. It develops when those who abuse alcohol don’t get the appropriate daily amount of thiamine. Since alcohol prevents the body from absorbing this vitamin, people with alcoholism commonly have a thiamine deficiency. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome causes psychosis, permanent memory loss, and difficulty creating new memories.
How A Balanced Diet Helps in Addiction Recovery
Eating the right food can make a big difference during the recovery process. The body begins to heal, and the individual begins to feel the benefits which include:
- Increased energy levels
- Enhanced mood
- Improved memory
- Stronger immune system
- Reduced risk of illness
Contact Asheville Recovery Center for Support on Your Recovery Journey
We take a holistic approach to substance abuse recovery. If you’ve been struggling with addiction and the resulting challenges including poor nutrition, we can help. We have a team of experts who will support you if you’re ready to get sober and practice healthier habits. Call us today to learn about the range of treatment options we offer in North Carolina.