Nutrition and its importance in recovery


eMediNexus    13 December 2022

People with substance use disorders (SUDs) or Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) are often malnourished because of unhealthy or inadequate diets. They have rampant vitamin and mineral deficiencies that do not return to normal levels quickly during recovery. 


People new to treatment and recovery often need to gain the knowledge or experience to self-assess nutritional needs and plan healthy eating without professional guidance. Those in treatment and recovery can feel overburdened if not supported or guided. 


Thus, the treatment providers must recognize and learn about the role of nutrition in treatment and recovery. Many patients can escape relapse by improving diet and nutrition education during treatment and recovery. For instance, individuals who receive treatment for opioids often enter a period of detoxification. Since opioids are water-soluble, they clear the body more rapidly than fat-soluble drugs, causing pain and discomfort, which may appear in the form of abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, fever, and sweating. The simultaneous loss of bodily fluids can cause nutrient, mineral loss, and electrolyte imbalance, which in turn can lead to heart irregularities and erratic glucose levels, along with mood alterations, increased anxiety, depression, and distress. If treatment providers do not consider the role of adequate nutrition and hydration in detoxification, they may ignore it until the symptoms have ceased.


The next step includes providing nutrition screenings and assessments to clearly depict the client′s overall health and identify malnutrition and co-occurring nutritional issues. 


Next, it is crucial to educate and encourage the patients to incorporate healthy eating and diet habits into their new sober lifestyle, which will aid the repair of damaged organs during active substance use, boost immune function, and improve energy levels and moods.


The health care providers must also recommend or refer clients to learn nutrition life skills for reading labels while shopping, learning to cook healthy meals, etc.


Lastly, residential treatment programs are uniquely positioned to correct nutritional deficiencies and promote healthy eating habits. Since drug treatment facilities, hospitals, or other long-term care facilities, lack nutritional standards or guidelines, the priorities may be to provide inexpensive foods that appeal to patients but do not support healthy choices. Hiring professional nutrition staff is the most effective way to meet the nutritional needs of residents in recovery. Multidisciplinary teams of professional providers must include nutrition professionals as well.


CASAT[Internet]. Pyle S. The Importance of Nutrition in Recovery: What the Research Shows. 2021. Available from: https://casatondemand.org/2021/05/19/the-importance-of-nutrition-in-recovery-what-the-research-shows/

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