Saturday, August 25, 2012

Guest Blogger: Alcohol and Drug Addiction and Nutrition

Addiction is a growing epidemic in today's society. Although exact statistics are difficult to determine, the World Health Organization estimates that up to one in ten people in the United States alone suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol. These individuals are at an increased risk of countless diseases and complications, including HIV, hepatitis C, cirrhosis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more.

Not only do drugs and alcohol increase the risks of disease and shorten life expectancy, but they can also lead to other unhealthy lifestyle choices such as poor diet and inactivity. For example, alcoholics tend to fill up on the calories in liquor and beer, opiate addicts often experience cravings for sweets and other empty calories, while those addicted to amphetamines often go long periods of time without eating or drinking anything at all.

In addition to damage done by an addict's drug of choice, poor nutrition can further increase health complications and the risk for certain diseases like diabetes and organ failure. Thankfully, with better lifestyle choices, this damage can be reversed.

Many individuals suffering from
addiction also suffer from malnourishment and deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals. This includes dehydration and insufficient levels of sodium, chloride, potassium and other electrolytes. Other health complications associated with poor nutrition and drug abuse include weakness of the muscles as well gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation and poor digestion.

diet rich in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals can quickly improve these negative side effects by restoring health to all areas of the body. A healthy, balanced diet includes the following types of foods:

  • Whole Grains
    Whole grains are healthy carbohydrates that provide lasting energy without increasing blood glucose levels. These foods also improve digestion and help rid the body of toxins and impurities.
  • Fruits and Vegetables
    For recovering addicts, fruits and veggies should be eaten in abundance. These foods, especially those bright in color, are packed with vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants that rid the body of harmful free radicals. Particularly high in nutrition are "superfoods" that include berries, carrots, sweet potatoes, avocados and greens like mustard, spinach and kale.
  • Protein
    Protein is essential to good health. Without it, the body is weakened and loses its ability to fight infection. The best protein options are of the lean variety and include grilled chicken or fish, soy, nuts and seeds. 
  • Healthy Fats
    The body needs fat in order to flourish and function properly. Also, healthy fats are linked to an increase in healthy brain activity. A few healthy fats include those found in olive and sunflower oils, coconuts, avocados and almonds. 

A healthy lifestyle includes regular physical activity and a healthy, balanced diet. Combined, these factors can significantly reduce the physical trauma caused by substance abuse. What's more, nutrition can also play a vital role in maintaining sobriety due to the overall sense of well-being it can provide: when addicts feel strong and healthy, they are less likely to relapse with drugs or alcohol. In short, the benefits of a healthy diet cannot be ignored, especially for those suffering from substance abuse. 

Written By: Alex Kerwin - Works closely with Treatment Centers to help raise awareness of the dangers of addiction.

photo by Jessica Leibowitz

A note from Jamie: 

Thank you, Alex, for writing and sharing this import article. Alcohol in moderation can be a healthy part of your diet, but addiction is serious and the costs far out weigh the benefits, so if you do not currently drink, I would not recommend you starting, and if you feel like you or someone you know has a problem, please use the links above to find help. 


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