The Importance of Nutrition in Pennsylvania Addiction Recovery

Substance abuse harms the body in various ways, both physically and emotionally. Furthermore, it has a particularly harmful influence on diet and lifestyle. Also, substance abuse has an impact not just on a person’s external appearance but also on their internal systems, such as metabolism and organ function. A proper diet, however, can help someone suffering from addiction heal faster and more efficiently. When the body is out of balance, everything is malfunctioning, and diet may assist restore this balance, bringing the body back to its usual operations. As a result, we would like to discuss the importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery in a bit more detail. 

But first, let’s talk more about what addiction means and what it does to our bodies.

What is addiction?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is a brain disease that compels people to continue using substances despite developing health problems. Although the decision to start using substances is typically deliberate, people get addicted to cocaine or other substances when the substances affect the brain. After a while, the addicted person continues to take the substances to calm the altered brain that sends messages that it requires the substance to operate normally. And it is not an issue of morality or willpower. It is just the brain getting used to the substances it is receiving. More precisely, the usage has become an automatic reflex to get a physical and emotional sensation that the brain thinks it needs.

Unfortunately, according to current health research, nearly 20 million Americans aged 12 and over struggle with some addiction. However, only around 20% of these people obtained addiction treatment. Alcohol, cigarettes, cannabis, opioids, antidepressants, and hallucinogens are some of the most common drugs to which people get addicted. Even if most people associate drug addiction with illegal substances such as heroin or cocaine, many addicts abuse prescription drugs. For instance, some painkillers are legal but with the same active ingredients as heroin. Therefore, it’s easy for people to become addicted to them, even if prescribed by a physician.

A person holding many pills in their hand.
People often get addicted to medicine

How addiction affects nutrition

Substance abuse can have a wide range of long-term consequences for health and nutrition. The effects of substances vary, but many disturb physiological functioning. Most frequently, they hinder the body’s capacity to receive appropriate nourishment. That is why people need to understand the importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery. After an addict’s body suffers from malnourishment, getting it on the right track is essential. After all, as the saying goes, you need a healthy brain in a healthy body. So once the brain heals, it’s time to mend the body. 

But first, let us look at how substance abuse can affect nutrition:

  • It can suppress your appetite or make you forget to eat
  • It can cause obesity by making you overeat
  • It can affect digestion by harming your stomach, intestines, or liver
  • It can cause gastrointestinal disorders
  • It can cause hypoglycemia

Fortunately, you can treat these issues once you enter a recovery program.

Person suffering of addiction standing in the dark and looking out a window.
Addictions isolate you from the rest of the world.

How different substances affect nutrition

Different substances can have a range of effects on the body. In some cases, bad nutrition habits caused by drugs can cause more health issues in addition to the harmful effects of the substances. Here is how different substances affect your body and nutrition:


People who drink alcohol do not prioritize adequate nutrition and have inadequate diets. Alcohol abuse also interferes with vitamin breakdown and absorption. In addition, it may also severely harm the liver and pancreas, two crucial organs involved in digestion and nutrition. Damage to the liver or pancreas can increase some dietary deficits and result in an electrolyte, fluid, and calorie deficit. Among the diseases caused by alcoholism, we can mention diabetes, hypertension, cirrhosis, and malnutrition.


Opioids have gastrointestinal side effects, one of which is severe constipation. When opioid addicts stop using the drugs, they experience withdrawal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms drain the body of nutrients while also causing an electrolyte imbalance and dehydration.

The most common opioids people abuse are heroin, codeine, morphine, OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin.


Amphetamines and cocaine are stimulants that induce increased energy, euphoria, and decreased appetite. These substances affect the satiety centers, making you feel not hungry for an extended period. For instance, people who consume these substances can stay awake and not eat for days. As a result, they experience low electrolyte levels, dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss.

If an addict uses stimulants for extended periods, they will probably experience muscle wasting, arrhythmia, pulmonary infections, and low phosphate, potassium, and magnesium levels. Psychologically, stimulant addicts suffer from low self-esteem, depression, confusion, apathy, and low libido.

When stimulant addicts quit using them, their appetites may increase. They may feel driven to overeat, which can be problematic for the digestive system. However, a complete nutritional plan that includes a well-balanced diet and portioned meals can help recovery. That is why, at Little Creek, we understand the importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery.


Sedative medication depresses the central nervous system and is commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. The most widely used sedative drugs that cause addiction are Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, and Ativan. These types of medicine contain benzodiazepine derivates such as lorazepam, diazepam, alprazolam, or clonazepam.

Long-term benzodiazepine usage can result in significant nutritional deficiencies of vitamins B1, B2, B6, and B12 and magnesium, coenzyme Q10, vitamin D, vitamin C, potassium, and calcium.


Cannabis users frequently experience an increase in appetite, sometimes known as “getting the munchies.” However, high on cannabis, it’s easy to make bad dietary choices, such as snacks with little nutritional value. As a result, a cannabis addict may gain excessive weight over time and lack omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. That can further cause complications such as the increased risk of infection, slower healing, or inflammatory skin conditions.

Furthermore, those who use cannabis and eat junk food ingest more trans fats than is suggested. Those trans fats combined with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) affect the cell membrane’s capacity to function correctly. Furthermore, excessive consumption of unhealthy foods can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, gallstones, sleep apnea, or cancer.

The importance of nutrition is essential in cannabis addiction recovery.
The importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery is the same regardless of addiction.

The true importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery

As mentioned above, nutrition can play a vital role in addiction recovery. A weakened body deprived of its fuel for a long time will need special care and attention. As a result, continuum care, even after the substance abuse stopped, is essential. Here is how nutrition aids in addiction recovery:

Balanced nutrition helps you manage cravings

A common issue among addicts is hypoglycemia. In reality, only a few addicts don’t have it. As a result, many suffer from low blood sugar, which increases cravings. Unfortunately, even if you are recovering and craving some, let’s say, sweets, you may confuse that craving. As an abstinent, you might think your desire is for the substance you used to consume. Therefore, cravings can make staying focused on your rehabilitation hard and cause relapses.

Fortunately, with the proper nutrition, you can overcome cravings. Having a planned diet can stabilize your blood sugar levels and appetite. However, you need to avoid processed foods and foods with added sugar. Instead, focus on balancing your intake of proteins, carbs, and fats, and you will have a good and healthy eating routine in no time.

Pearson eating a lavish meal that is not necessarily nutritious for addiction recovery.
Nutrition in recovery is essential. However, be careful not to substitute one addiction with another

Good nutrition helps with deficiencies

As you might expect, addiction can cause particular vitamin, mineral, and micronutrient deficits in the body. Substance abuse can affect our capacity to feed ourselves healthily and inhibit the absorption of nutrients. Alcohol abusers, for example, are frequently zinc deficient. They get their calories from the alcohol they consume and thus overlook the importance of eating foods rich in zinc. As a result of zinc deficiency, people become depressed, irritable, confused, numb, and anxious, which can cause a relapse. 

Another expected deficit associated with substance abuse is a lack of folate and vitamin B-6. The lack of these nutrients in your body slows serotonin and dopamine synthesis in the brain. As a result, you can manifest obsessive thinking, impulsivity, compulsive actions, and sensitivity to stimuli. In addition, low dopamine levels in the brain can slow down your reflexes and dim the pleasure center. These factors combined can decrease our resistance to cravings. 

Healthy nutrition regulates dopamine

Continuing with dopamine, addicts use narcotics to self-medicate because of the quick dopamine release they offer. Dopamine is a naturally produced neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy. So when different substances flood our brain with dopamine, they give us a concentrated sensation of bliss. However, this sensation doesn’t last long, and it’s a false sensation. The moment the effect of the substance passes, we become depressed, anxious, and willing to do anything to have a taste of that feeling again. Thus, addiction!

Furthermore, the more we manipulate dopamine release over time, the less efficient the natural dopamine function becomes. In reality, research shows that some people have fewer dopamine receptors in the brain due to hereditary reasons. As a result, they become more susceptible to using substances that release dopamine. That, combined with poor nutrition, is the perfect recipe for disaster. Addiction becomes almost inevitable!

Luckily, asking for help and enrolling in a clinical program can do wonders. During a rehabilitation program, you can learn how to control dopamine release in a good way. For instance, you will discover that you need to consume more amino acids to help regulate dopamine levels in the brain. A high-protein diet, for example, can balance the body’s dopamine levels and make you feel happy.

Eating well raises your self-esteem

Addiction destroys your self-esteem. Being enslaved by a drug takes away your freedom of choice and forces you to act in unethical ways. At the same time, enrolling in a family program and becoming sober may bring reality crashing down on you. It can leave you quite depressed, which can lead to a relapse.

Fortunately, nutrition can help you feel much better. Proper nutrition puts your body in an equilibrium where it does not battle for survival. As a result, you will feel happier and generally feel better. As you continue to make healthier food choices, you will boost your self-esteem and make yourself believe you can overcome addiction. Not to mention that eating healthier will also help you look better. And when you look and feel better, nothing can make you want to compromise that.

Woman admiring herself in the mirror after overcoming addiction.
Nutrition in addiction recovery is essential as it can help raise your self-esteem.

Food for the body, food for the brain

Bad habits and poor decision-making contribute to addiction. A person must practice making healthy choices to be successful in recovery. We choose what we eat and when so eating is an integral part of mental training. Addiction takes control of the mind. Substances activate the brain’s reward center, the high feels terrific, and you want to feel that way again. However, the next time you want to feel the same, you will need more substance, and so on.

Food, mainly processed foods heavy in fat, sugar, and preservatives, activates the reward area just as well. So, by choosing the sugar high, you maintain your addicted state. Therefore, you can’t rely on sugar to heal from your addiction. It would be best to make healthier food choices that will feed your body and brain correctly.

Working on nutrition in addiction recovery

Nutrition education is an essential component of any excellent outpatient addiction treatment program. The goal of nutrition is to help mend and nourish the body after it was harmed by long-term substance abuse. Furthermore, a good diet is also proven to help regulate mood, ease anxiety or depression symptoms, and minimize stress symptoms. When the body is appropriately nourished, you can reduce cravings for drugs or alcohol. One of the most overlooked advantages of nutritional planning in addiction recovery is that eating correctly stimulates self-care, which supports a healthy lifestyle.

Plate with cooked meat and vegetables that are important for nutrition in addiction recovery
Nutritious meals are highly recommended in addiction recovery.

Nutrition plans for addiction recovery?

According to mental health specialists, recovering addicts maintain sobriety for longer and recover more swiftly when supplied with a nutrition plan. As a result, many rehabilitation programs include dietary counseling and instruction as part of treatment. Here is what a nutrition plan sets to achieve:

  • Grow your calcium intake by including more dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and milk in your diet.
  • Grow your magnesium intake with leafy greens, whole grains, dried beans, or legumes.
  • Rehydrate your body and allow it to heal by avoiding sodas in favor of water.
  • Increasing the levels of L-Carnitine by including protein-rich foods in your diets, such as chicken, beef, and fish.
  • Raise Omega-3 levels by eating more fish, seafood, or nuts to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress and increase brain health.
  • Return to eating good food that is full of nutrients.
  • Establish a healthy eating routine with regular meal times.

Many nutritional planners create a rigid diet of healthy, nutritious foods. However, people in recovery from addiction frequently see a rigorous nutrition plan as restricting. As a result, the chances of relapsing increase because they are forced to make drastic life changes. The stress of sticking to a rigid diet, new to a recovering person, can increase their stress levels. Thus, they might want to find the “easy way out” and resume their unhealthy habits.

For that reason, each nutrition plan needs to be personalized to the needs of the recovering addict. If they have a deficiency in calcium and magnesium, there is no point in making them eat foods high in potassium. At the same time, eating real food and having regular meals is an essential step towards recovery. And what the person eats during those meals can slowly be changed over time to meet their nutrition needs. 

Nutrition goes hand in hand with self-care

A healthy lifestyle for a recovering addict is not limited to nutrition. In reality, recovering addicts should include healthy activities in their lives that can help their recovery. For instance, attending an adventure program full of physical activity is ideal. Furthermore, adequate sleep and making time for hobbies are all important parts of self-care. These activities help maintain a positive attitude, create routines, enhance health, and limit downtime, thus helping avoid relapse. 

At the same time, exercise triggers some brain circuits as narcotics do. Thus, encouraging healthy activities may be a wise strategy to replace bad habits. Furthermore, lack of sleep can impact well-being, cognitive performance, and vitality. Therefore, encouraging a healthy nighttime routine is essential in recovery.

Of course, good nutrition habits should come hand in hand with these other activities. Grocery shopping, cooking, or meal preparation are all excellent nutrition habits. And, if the person in recovery doesn’t know how to cook, attending some cooking classes can help keep them positive and occupied.

Woman exercising on a mat during addiction recovery
The importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery goes hand in hand with self-care.

Nutrition tips for addiction recovery

When people feel better during recovery, they are less inclined to reintroduce alcohol or drugs into their lives. Because balanced nutrition improves mood and health, promoting a healthy diet is critical for those recovering from alcohol and other substance addictions.

However, as mentioned before, someone who has just given up a significant source of pleasure may be hesitant to undertake additional lifestyle changes. As a result, keeping a rigid diet is less vital than avoiding relapse. And because we understand the importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery, we thought of a few diet tips we could share.

First, a recovering addict should stick to regular meal times. Second, they should avoid foods that are high in fat. Third, adding more proteins, carbs, and fiber to their diet is essential. Last, add vitamins and mineral supplements to compensate for the deficiencies.

People who used to abuse drugs or alcohol are more prone to relapse if they have poor dietary habits. Therefore, eating regularly is essential. Substance addiction causes people to forget what it’s like to be hungry and instead associate it with drug urges. So when desires grow intense, you should guide the person toward eating. On the other hand, if the recovering person is a stimulant addict, they should be careful about what they eat. During recovery, appetite will return. Thus, the chances of overeating grow. Then, it is essential to have nutritious meals and healthy snacks instead of sweets or junk food.

At the same time, because dehydration is frequent with addiction recovery, it is essential to drink plenty of fluids both during and between meals.

Pay attention to signs

A proper diet can play an essential role in preventing relapse. And that highlights the importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery. At the same time, food-related habits can be warning indicators of relapse. People with an addiction to alcohol or drugs have a significant risk of developing transfer addictions. A recovered alcoholic, for example, may stop drinking but begin abusing food as a self-medicating strategy. They will basically substitute alcohol with another addiction. That is why, to sustain recovery and avoid cross-addictions, it is critical to treat mental, physical, and emotional issues causing harmful behaviors. Therefore, pay attention to a recovering person’s food choices and habits to avoid further problems.

Person struggling with nutrition in addiction recovery
Overeating can be a side effect of abstinence. Therefore, pay attention to how and what you eat.

Treat addiction from the gut

As you can see, the importance of nutrition in Pennsylvania addiction recovery is taken very seriously. We know that when most people enter drug recovery, they are malnourished and in poor physical condition. Proper eating eases these problems and promotes mental wellness. And even if the medical issues differ depending on the substance people misused, the basics of good nutrition stay the same for all. 

However, we know that for many individuals, learning to eat real food with good nutritional content is an entirely new way of looking at mealtimes. And that replacing processed meals and learning to experiment with simple, enjoyable recipes made with healthy components might be difficult for some people. But all of them will have our full support on their journey to healthier lives. So If you’re ready to transform the course of your life, don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on our services. Also, make sure to visit our online gallery for a sneak peek into our activities and location. Nutrition is an essential component of addiction treatment, and Little Creek Recovery might assist you in reaching your objectives.

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