Having a healthy diet has many positive impacts on a person’s mental and physical health. For those going through detox and treatment for addiction, nutrition plays an important role as they are taking the first steps of healing from addiction. However, many people struggling with addiction and mental health disorders have poor nutrition, including working professionals.
Working professionals are commonly very busy, making it challenging to prioritize nutrition. For those working professionals struggling with addiction, their eating habits are likely to suffer even more. However, individuals can improve their nutrition in one of the initial steps of treatment: detox. As they begin to improve their nutrition, they will improve nutritional deficiencies and the healing process.
What Is Detox?
When a person uses drugs or alcohol regularly, they often become physically dependent. This means that the body and brain are expecting the substance and do not function well without it. Therefore, a person who is physically dependent on a substance will experience withdrawal symptoms when they no longer use the substance.
When starting a detox, a person stops using drugs or alcohol. During detox, a person will experience symptoms of withdrawal. Detoxing at home is tempting for many accomplished individuals, like working professionals. However, it is safer and more effective to detox at a treatment facility. Individuals going through detox at an addiction treatment facility are supervised 24 hours a day, getting the help they need to stabilize symptoms and move forward to the next steps of treatment.
Withdrawal Symptoms During Detox
Every individual experiences a different combination of symptoms during detox. The exact symptoms a person has will vary depending on their age, amount of time they have used a substance, type of substance, and overall health.
Common withdrawal symptoms that occur during detox include the following:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Hot and cold fluctuations
- Muscle cramping, spasming, or shaking
- Aches and pains
- Heart pounding
- Agitation or anger
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Lack of focus
- Poor appetite
Importance of Nutrition in Detox
Detox is often the first step in addiction treatment. Common symptoms during detox are lack of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. However, when an individual can begin to eat, food with high nutritional value is important to begin the healing process.
By focusing on nutrition in detox, individuals begin the healing process by removing substances that hurt them and adding those that help. While nutrition might seem unimportant in comparison to other factors, it can help individuals to heal the brain and improve nutritional deficiencies. Both of these make a huge difference in the long-term journey of healing from addiction.
Healing the Brain
Addiction is a disease that impacts the brain, and the brain changes due to long-term substance use. It is first important to understand the basic functioning of the brain. The brain is a processing center for information. It has many circuits that affect each other and creates change in how a person feels, acts, and reacts. These circuits sent signals through neurotransmitters, which can be likened to messengers.
Drugs and alcohol impact the brain as they interfere with the signals. As a result, different substances create different feelings and reactions in the body. However, many substances dull pain and create a sense of euphoria. Due to the interaction with the brain, the release of dopamine that results from many substances helps the brain to rewire and orient towards using more substances. In a healthy individual, dopamine is used to reinforce positive and healthy behaviors such as social interactions or exercise.
During detox, an individual is in the first phase of healing the brain. By removing the substance that they are dependent on, a person is likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal. This is the first step to rebalancing the structure and function of the brain, and nutrition can help.
The brain is capable of change, which is commonly called neuroplasticity. As a result, individuals can become addicted to substances. However, they can also heal from the changes that resulted in substance use. Researchers have found that dietary management is a non-invasive strategy that helps the brain heal. Therefore, nutrition can help during detox and the first steps of healing.
Improving Nutritional Deficiencies
People who struggle with mental health disorders and addiction commonly lack self-care skills, such as eating a healthy diet. Working professionals who live busy lives and struggle with addiction are especially likely to not prioritize their nutrition. Therefore, by the time they are in addiction treatment, working professionals have had years of nutritional deficiencies. Additionally, specific substances can also increase these deficits.
When an individual uses drugs and alcohol, they are adding a substance that influences their brain and body in multiple ways. This especially includes alcohol, and the amount and frequency of alcohol use will impact how it affects a person’s body. However, research has shown that heavy alcohol consumption commonly causes a person to be deficient in zinc, linoleic acid, and other essential micronutrients. This is a result of how alcohol impacts the absorption of nutrients and a person’s internal organ function.
Other drugs, like opioids or stimulants, also cause nutritional deficiency. Some of these deficiencies are related to changes in appetite or digestion, while others are more specific to a certain substance. However, the commonality of nutritional deficiencies provides a clear picture that treatment and nutrition are tightly connected. This means that integrating improved nutrition into detox, when possible, is ideal to help individuals to begin the healing process.
Value of Improved Nutrition Beyond Detox
Addiction is a complete disease. While detox is often the first step, treatment for addiction includes steps beyond detox to address other aspects of addiction. This often includes individual therapy, group therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Improving nutritional choices is important in detox. However, it is also vital to maintain these changes after detox while moving through treatment and positive lifestyle changes. It can help individuals improve their health, capacity, and stress management. For working professionals, these are all very important in both staying sober and thriving in their careers.
Many individuals who struggle with addiction have co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety or depression. For those with co-occurring mental health disorders, mood changes are common symptoms. Going through detox and treatment for addiction can amplify the challenges due to irritability, anger, and mood swings occurring as a result of detox.
However, nutrition can help. The type and amount of food a person eats provide varying nutrients to the body and brain. Research has found that these play an important role in mental health and mood. One study found that individuals have a lower risk of developing depression when eating a Mediterranean diet or a diet high in eggs, dairy, poultry, vegetable, fruit, nuts, and a small amount of red meat. Due to these results, it is theorized that a diet high in carbohydrates and sugar increases a person’s symptoms and risk of anxiety and depression.
An important part of addiction treatment is learning how to live a life without drugs and alcohol. Good nutrition, which is commonly lacking in busy and stressed working professionals, is one way to improve self-care. Improving self-care and nutritional habits helps people to stabilize their mood, decrease mental health symptoms, and, ultimately, stay sober.
When individuals struggle with addiction, their physical health is not prioritized. This is because substances hijack the brain to create pleasure from using substances, making physical health feel far less important. As a result, individuals entering detox and addiction treatment commonly suffer from a variety of physical health concerns.
Nutrition and physical health are closely tied. Having a good diet helps individuals to decrease their risk of many chronic health conditions. By improving nutrition in detox, treatment, and life after treatment, individuals are more likely to feel better. This can look like having more energy, sleeping better, and having less physical discomfort.
Feeling better physically is particularly important for working professionals who struggle with addiction. Working professionals often have a high amount of responsibility and stress in their life. As a way to continue forward and function regularly, many reach towards substances to stave off fatigue and other physical ailments. Therefore, by improving how they feel through nutrition, they are less likely to feel a need to use substances in the future.
During detox and throughout treatment, it is common for individuals to feel below their normal capacity for critical thinking and focus. This is especially true during detox, although it can last longer depending on the person. For working professionals, thinking clearly and being able to focus are internal to their ability to work. As a result, many working professionals turn to stimulants to help them improve their thinking.
However, the consistent use of stimulants will lead to addiction over time. Part of detox and treatment is to return the body and brain to normal functioning. Fortunately, nutrition can help the process of rebalancing the brain and improve a person’s cognitive abilities. Research has found that a nutritious diet high in omega-3 fatty acids helps improve brain functioning, supporting cognitive processes.
Therefore, nutrition can help an individual improve their ability to think and focus in detox and treatment. This helps individuals, especially working professionals, be able to return to their life without feeling the need for stimulants to think clearly and do their work.
Building a Healthy Diet as a Working Professional
Improving nutrition through a healthy diet plays an important role in detox and addiction treatment. A healthy diet will look different for each individual depending on preference, allergies, and goals. However, it generally involves eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods. This means decreasing the number of processed foods like cookies, chips, or fast food.
During detox and addiction treatment at a treatment facility, nutrition is often easy because meals are provided by the facility. Therefore, many treatment facilities offer healthy food options that help clients to begin the healing process. Many clients will be limited in their ability to eat during the detox. However, when they can eat, nutritional options are available.
Building a healthy diet after treatment can be challenging. Attending nutrition therapy during treatment can help. This involves working with a dietitian or nutritionist who helps individuals understand what they need to heal. As noted above, each individual will have unique needs depending on their goals and the type of substance they have struggled with and used long term. Once an individual has a clear understanding of what is necessary for a nutritious diet, the next step is learning how to maintain it after treatment. For working professionals, this can pose many challenges.
Working professionals commonly have busy, structured, and stressful lives. With the addition of family responsibilities, a working professional’s schedule generally fills up quickly. However, a healthy diet does not mean complicated. A good first step is to consider a couple of healthy options for a meal. This helps by providing choices that are easy and fit into the schedule rather than adding stress.
The skills that are necessary to build a healthy diet after treatment begins in detox. When a client begins to learn about good nutrition and its benefits during detox, it sets them up for success going forward. This is because they have a clear picture of what their diet needs look like and why it is important for them to prioritize. For many individuals, the task of transforming their diet can feel overwhelming. However, with support from a treatment center, working professionals can learn the skills necessary for changing their lives.
A healthy diet can greatly impact a person’s health at any point. During detox, it is extremely important. This is because detox is the time when the body needs the most help healing. While it is normal to have a lower appetite or not be able to keep food down during detox, a healthy diet is important when it is possible. At Pacific Sands Recover Center, we offer medically assisted detox that helps working professionals begin the process of healing from addiction. By attending nutrition therapy, clients learn how to make adjustments to their nutritional choices to maximize healing and decrease their risk of relapse. To learn more about our programs, call (949) 426-7962 today.