Healthy Body, Healthy Mind: Nutrition, Exercise and Addiction Recovery

 In Addiction

Addiction is a chronic disease that actually changes brain chemistry and function.

This is why recovery involves more than just abstaining from using. It’s a process of healing both the body and the mind.

That’s why diet, exercise, and addiction recovery are inextricably linked.

Diet and exercise have a profound effect on normal individuals. But for those recovering from an addiction, that effect is even more significant.

Keep reading to learn more about exercise and nutrition for recovering addicts.

Nutrition for Recovering Addicts

The goal of nutrition for recovering addicts is to heal the body from years of malnutrition. But it also plays a role in avoiding triggers and reaping the physical benefits of a healthy diet. Below, we explain these benefits in more detail.

Getting Dopamine Naturally

Addiction has a direct effect on dopamine levels. It alters the threshold for the activation and signaling of dopamine. Those who abuse substances have lower levels of dopamine than the average person. Their ability to experience its effects is also impacted.

As such, diet and nutrition can be used to supplement normal dopamine levels. This is why those in recovery should have a low-glycemic, dopamine-boosting diet. Foods fitting that description include avocados, green vegetables, berries, oranges, and dark chocolate.

Avoiding Withdrawal and Craving

Refined flours and simple sugars can slow down the healing process in the brain and body. High-protein diets packed with specific amino acids can help avoid post-acute withdrawal symptoms.

These amino acids and the foods in which they can be found are:

  • L-phenylalanine. Cow and goat milk, sugar substitutes (such as aspartame)
  • Phenylalanine. Meat, poultry, fish, nuts and seeds, dairy, soybeans
  • L-5 hydroxytryptophan chromium salts. Turkey, cheese, seeds of Griffonia Simplicifolia
  • L-tyrosine – Cheese, egg whites, soy protein, spirulina, salmon
  • L-tryptophan – Egg whites, some fish, soybeans, cheese, whey protein, spirulina, dairy
  • L-Glutamine – Meat, dairy, whey protein, beans, beets, spinach, parsley, cabbage

These amino acids found in protein-rich foods aid in the recovery process. 

Heal the Body

When taken in excess, drugs and alcohol are poisonous to the body. Addicts ingest these poisons throughout their addiction. They also abuse their bodies because the substance becomes more important than self-care.

Meaning that addicts have seriously depleted the nutrients in their body. But with the proper diet and nutrition for recovering addicts, the body gets the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that it needs to function properly. This can help reverse the effects of nutritional deficiencies that cause impeded brain functioning, damaged and aged internal organs, as well as the suppression of growth.

General Physical Benefits

Of course, those in recovery will also reap all the general benefits that come with a healthy diet. That means more energy throughout the day and improved focus. It also means weight control, better sleep, and a healthily functioning gastrointestinal system.

Exercise and Addiction Recovery

The relationship between exercise and addiction recovery can’t be understated. Regular exercise offers both physical and mental benefits. It also contributes to higher self-esteem and a sense of personal responsibility.

Below, we explain these benefits in more detail.

Restoring Healthy Brain Chemistry 

Similar to the way that nutrition for recovering addicts has an impact on altered brain chemistry, exercise helps release dopamine and endorphins. A consistent and regular exercise routine will help you create these feel-good chemicals. Over time, this will regulate your brain chemistry and restore its normal functioning.

Creating Structure

Structure and routine is an important part of recovery, especially early recovery when avoiding relapse is more difficult.

Structure gives a sense of personal responsibility. It also works as a distraction from potential triggers by knowing where to be and when. An exercise routine can be a critical aspect of that schedule and routine.

Goal-setting and Achievement

Exercise is a great opportunity to set, measure, and achieve goals. For example, achieving a goal around the amount of weight lifted builds self-esteem. It also represents commitment to oneself and to living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.

Physical Benefits

There are physical benefits to exercise that we all can enjoy. But these are especially pronounced for former addicts.

People with addictions have higher rates of conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Moving, strengthening, and stretching can help the body reduce symptoms.

For example, it can help lower blood glucose levels. But weight loss also brings lower blood pressure.

Years of addiction can also impact a person’s physical appearance. Drug and alcohol abuse often speed up aging, in an internal and external way.

Exercise can reverse that process. It reduces fat, improves circulation, and restoring a healthy physique. 

Mental Benefits

Increasing physical movement helps release dopamine, serotonin, and other feel-good chemicals. That’s especially true when done outdoors. This helps with anxiety, depression, and mood disorders that often underly and addiction.

But exercise also helps relieve and reduce stress. These feelings can be particularly troublesome in the early stages of recovery.

High and low impact activities can relieve psychological and physical stress. They reduce built-up tension and negative emotions. This outlet provides an alternative for the pleasure-seeking behavior of addicts.

Looking for Substance Abuse Treatment in San Diego?

Successful recovery involves a lot more than detoxing the body of the substance in question. It’s also more than abstaining from further use.

The most successful recoveries involve lifestyle changes. These sustain a healthy body and mind. And this is why diet, exercise, and addiction recovery are inextricably linked.

Most of the time, an inpatient treatment program will get people started on the road to these healthy lifestyle changes. But they also offer therapy, medication management, and an environment that’s conducive to setting the tone for a sober life. To learn more about the rehabilitation program we offer, contact us today.


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