Nutrition for Addiction Recovery

Substance abuse has devastating effects on every aspect of an individual’s life, specifically their nutrition and physical health. In fact, even short-term addiction to drugs and alcohol can cause nutritional imbalance and temporary or permanent damage to the body’s systems. 

So, it’s no surprise that people who have substance abuse disorders also suffer from malnutrition or essential nutrient deficiencies. Eating becomes the least of their priorities as the toxic substances they take disrupt their appetite and diet. Additionally, the body works over time as it tries to purge out these substances all the while not getting the proper nutrients it needs.

That’s why nutritional support is a crucial part of one’s addiction treatment plan, together with physical, mental, and emotional support. Addiction treatment facilities will help patients learn and establish new healthy habits that can aid in restoring their normal, healthy selves. 

After all, recovery is not just about maintaining sobriety; it’s also about taking care of your body and improving every aspect of your life. Below is an in-depth look at the role of nutrition in addiction recovery. 

How does substance abuse affect appetite and nutrition?

Everything you ingest or put inside your body, especially in excessive amounts, can impact your nutrition and appetite. Long-term use of drugs and alcohol can have various effects on the body, such as the following:

  • Loss of appetite 

stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine tend to reduce the appetite of the user, making them feel full. Alcohol and narcotics can suppress hunger. People who use these substances every day, in excess, can suffer from drastic weight loss, poor nutrition, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance.

  • Overeating 

marijuana (weed) contains an active chemical called THC. High doses of THC stimulate the brain to send a “hunger” signal to the body even if an individual is still full. THC also interacts with specific receptors that increase one’s appetite. 

  • Poor eating habits 

people with addiction problems tend to make drugs or alcohol their priority, putting eating on the back burner. Plus, individuals with substance abuse disorder tend to make bad eating choices, thus lacking sustenance and leading to malnutrition.

  • Gastrointestinal issues  

drugs like cocaine and heroin can cause various GIT issues一from simple nausea and stomach pain to gastritis and ulcers. These conditions may also negatively affect one’s appetite and GIT’s ability to absorb nutrients. 

Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to chronic gastrointestinal conditions.

  • Impaired immune system 

individuals with substance abuse disorder usually suffer from malnourishment or obesity, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, sleep deprivation, and physical exhaustion.

As a result, the immune system will grow weaker by the day, leaving the body vulnerable to many diseases and infections. 

  • Organ damage 

without proper sustenance, the systems that make up the body will gradually decline and fail to function normally. Some examples include severe damage to the liver, kidneys, stomach, GIT, and pancreas. 

What is the role of nutrition in recovery?

Addiction is a chronic disorder that affects both the brain and the body. So like any other disease, the body requires the right sustenance to fight addiction and purge out the toxic substances in the body for so long. 

Furthermore, proper nutrition during recovery can heal the body from the chronic abuse it has sustained over the years. Consuming the right amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats allows the body to reap the following benefits:

  • Repair damaged cells, tissues, and organs.
  • Maintain the health of unaffected cells.
  • Fortifies the immune system and supports the growth of immune cells.
  • Improves macro and micronutrient absorption in the GIT.
  • Enhances energy.
  • Normalizes the production of hormones to improve mood and behavior.
  • Stabilizes mental health to reduce the risk of relapse and cravings. 
  • Reduces symptoms and episodes of depression and anxiety.

Moreover, eating a healthy, balanced diet has a significant impact on one’s brain and cognitive health. Studies suggest that a proper diet greatly influences neuroplasticity, which is associated with learning, thinking, memory, and other cognitive functions. 

This means that consuming the right foods and establishing proper nutrition can help stimulate neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to create new neural connections. So the crucial pathways destroyed and disrupted by addiction can now be restored again, replenishing neurons and neurotransmitters in the process. 

This, then, helps individuals adapt to sobriety better as the brain cells and chemical function becomes normal again. Additionally, stabilizing the neurochemicals in the brain can also prevent relapse episodes and empower you to overcome cravings. 

What are the best foods for a recovering addict?

Proper nutrition for recovering addicts is of utmost importance. Treatment facilities typically create individualized meal plans to replenish the lost macro and micronutrients in recovering addicts. Most meals are packed with protein to build up the muscles, healthy carbs to boost the energy, and fruits and veggies to restore vitamins and minerals.

Of course, proper nutrition is not complete without plenty of water to address dehydration and stacking up on brain foods. Some of the specific foods included in their diet are as follows:

  • Foods rich in omega fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and other cold-water fatty fish.
  • Nuts, seeds, and plant oils (e.g., chia seeds, walnuts, soybean oil)
  • Poultry products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are good sources of tyrosine.
  • Leafy green vegetables, like kale, spinach, and mustard greens.
  • Fruits like bananas and blueberries for sources of amino acids and antioxidants.
  • Fiber-rich foods include whole-grain pasta, green peas, and avocados.

Of course, consuming the right foods and observing a proper diet is not enough to restore a healthy body. Recovering patients also need to practice a healthy lifestyle, such as regular exercise, staying hydrated, and limiting their intake of unhealthy foods. 

What is the best diet for a recovering alcoholic?

The best food during alcohol detox and recovery are those that can help heal the overworked organs, such as the liver. They also need vitamins, minerals, and amino acids to strengthen the immune system and repair damaged cells. 

So, recovering alcoholics should focus on whole foods, such as fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, grains, and healthy fats. Specific food products include:

  • Lean meat
  • Leafy, green vegetables
  • Berries
  • Oranges, lemons, and grapefruits
  • Brown rice, oats, and quinoa
  • Avocado, olive oil, and other nuts and seeds
  • Hydrating foods, such as cucumber, lettuce, and celery

Unhealthy cravings are common during the early stages of recovery. Fortunately, you can curb these feelings by practicing healthy habits, such as getting the right amount of sleep, exercising, and eating complete meals. If you feel the occasional sweet craving, you can turn to fruits and healthy smoothies to fix your sugar. 

What are the five rules of recovery?

Recovery is a gradual process that cannot be achieved by not just “using”. It is also lifelong work and commitment that involves following five simple rules to prevent relapse and overcome the occasional cravings. This includes the following:

  • Changing your life 

this involves letting go of your old ways and changing every unhealthy behavior and negative thinking pattern. This also means removing specific people in your life to avoid high-risk situations or preventing places that may trigger a relapse.  

  • Being completely honest 

honesty is a challenging thing to do, especially with an addict’s previous life of lying, denying, and hiding just to use or obtain their drug. But being honest can also be freeing and comforting and allows you to open yourself up to others who can help.

  • Asking for help 

being honest means admitting that you need to recover and overcome addiction. There are plenty of groups and treatment facilities willing to help you and your family achieve recovery. 

  • Practicing self-care 

caring for your needs through healthy practices is an important part of recovery. You should find healthy ways to relax and reward yourself, such as yoga, massages, bubble baths, mindfulness meditation, camping, and other fun but relaxing activities. 

  • Don’t bend the rules 

recovery is a lifelong process. Sometimes, being in the recovery period for so long may make them feel overly confident, leading to them forgoing recovery activities. This can then lead to a domino effect that will end up in relapse. 

Nutrition for Addiction Recovery

Where to find the best addiction treatment center in Los Angeles?

Nutrition and recovery from addiction go hand in hand. That’s why it is part of Innovate Recovery’s comprehensive treatment programs with group therapy, psychiatric treatment, psychoeducation, holistic care, and career building.

Some of the specific programs we offer include the following:


If you or your loved one have had difficulty finding the best rehab center, then it’s time to try Innovate Recovery in California. Recovery is just a phone call away. Contact us to take the first step.


If you greatly value privacy and comfort as you recover from substance abuse addiction, then our California luxury rehab at Innovate Recovery is for you. 


The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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