Nutrition in Relation to Substance Use Disorders

Those who suffer from substance use disorders (SUDs) often experience nutritional deficiencies due to the use of certain substances. Deficits in nutrition may be caused by both psychological and physiological aspects being impacted by the effects of various substances. Alyssa Salz, MS, RD, LD noted in her article Substance Abuse and Nutrition that for those who suffer from SUDs may have not been getting their nutritional needs met at all, or they may be getting insufficient amounts of their daily intake needs. Some people may only eat small amounts of food a day and it can likely be just something to make sure they’re intaking anything, but in some cases, it is only what they can find. For those people whose SUD is severe, they may not even be focused on eating at all, this can sometimes be caused by needing money and a means to obtain substances that can take precedence over other needs such as eating. Even when the frequency or amount of substance use isn’t grave enough to impede one’s ability to obtain or intake food, many substances come with side effects that will affect the user’s ability to achieve optimal nutrition for themselves. Depending on the substance being used, a person’s metabolic rate will slow down and blood sugar levels will be irregular, making the body’s ability to digest food and use nutrients properly will be negatively impacted. Most commonly, substances have the tendency to decrease or eliminate one’s appetite, therefore they do not eat anything while feeling the effects of the substance. Still, in other cases, the appetite may be enhanced, which will cause a person to overeat, which will potentially lead to significant weight gain. No matter which end of the spectrum an individual falls on, there tends to be no moderation which ultimately makes a person’s overall health much worse, especially in conjunction with substance use taking place.

Turning your Health Around

In addition to poor nutrition being prevalent among those with a SUD, dehydration is often common. Therefore, the first step to turning one’s health around is to start by drinking water. Water intake not only keeps your body hydrated but it helps all the body’s processes to work much more effectively. You may be able to go longer periods of time without food, but the same rules do not apply to water and how much you should be drinking daily. Depending on how long a person has gone without proper nutrition, they may want to start on softer foods and move towards solids later, when they feel that their body is ready to be reintroduced to a wider variety of foods. This can be especially true for those overcoming a SUD who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as nausea because it will be much harder for them to keep food down, especially solids and or food in larger quantities. Not only will focusing on making your body healthy again help you on your journey of recovery, but it will also help your mind tremendously. Improved nutrition leads to better mental health as stated by Salz, which means that your state of mind will be benefitted as well, allowing you to have a better chance at staying focusing on making yourself well and growing through your experience(s).

Resources for Restoring Nutrition

Should a treatment center be a viable option to aid in recovery, many of them offer tremendous meal plans complete with carefully curated healthy meals to help both your mind and body feel better. For many people going through recovery, it may be helpful to get into contact with your doctor and/or a dietician who can help aid you in eating the right kinds of food to get back any nutrients that you may be lacking. You can also look to those members of the recovery community and gain insights into some of the methods that they choose for themselves in terms of lifestyle changes and healthy eating. If researching nutrition alone is not enough, remember that you have resources and many people who are more than willing to help get you back to your best self.

If you are currently suffering from a SUD, it is likely that you’re not making yourself a priority. We want to see you be healthy in your mind, body, and spirit. When the time comes that you decide that you are ready to leave substance use behind and move on to better things is the perfect time to do so. You are probably aware that your whole life will change, but in many cases, change is for the better. Despite having reservations and fears about what the future will look like for yourself, know that it can only get better from here. Having a team and really community of support to help get you through can offer peace of mind and a sense of security. At Enlight Treatment Center, we emphasize care and comfort and we want to be that team for you to help you overcome issues and get back to your best self. Call us today at (805)719-7954.