Nutrition Therapy: Recovering from Opiate Addiction

Nutrition Therapy

It is seldom that one thinks of nutrition therapy as the first treatment to detox from opiates, but that does not decrease its importance. To understand, one has to recognize the extent of the harm that opiates cause to the body as well as the mind.

In some ways, the emotional and mental effects of opiates are easier to recognize because people with addictions don’t behave the same as before. They are more prone to mood swings, anxiety, paranoia, depression, aggression, memory loss, even dementia.

Not as obvious to the untrained eye are the physical and behavioral harms of opiates:

  • Opiate use causes changes in the body, possibly including:

    • Damage to the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys

    • Hormone imbalances

    • Constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders

    • Cancer

    • Pain

  • Opiate use causes a deterioration in lifestyle habits:

    • Grooming

    • Ability to hold down a job

    • Eating irregularly or an unhealthy diet

Not that nutrition therapy should be the only treatment, but to a body going through the rigors of detoxification, good nutrition is even more imperative for recovery. Many opiate users show signs of nutritional imbalance or deficiencies that a structured meal plan with proper liquid intake can prove critical.

Like most drugs, the use of opiates is likely to cause a change in lifestyle. This often features irregular eating and/or poor dietary habits, potentially leading to malnutrition. As a user, you may find yourself missing meals due to depression or simply abandoning meals due to behavioral changes due to opiate use. Users exhibiting such symptoms may soon grow skinny due to undernutrition.

Eating well can improve your mental health as well as your physical health. After a long period of fast and processed food, a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat, and fish can make your whole outlook on life a lot sunnier.

Nutritional Supplements

To get the most from your treatment regimen, there are some nutritional supplements to consider, endorsed by a rehab center in Texas and other treatment facilities.

  • Fluids. Opioid use, addiction, and detoxification all can play havoc with your gastrointestinal system. Constipation is a common symptom among opiate users, while symptoms experienced during withdrawal from opiates include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The result can be dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and loss of vital nutrients. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water, will help you replenish the bodily fluids lost.

  • Fiber. Another remedy for constipation due to opiate addiction is a high-fiber diet: whole grain bread, brown rice, oatmeal, tomatoes, and carrots. Foods rich in fiber will return your digestion to normal.

  • Protein. The loss of body mass can be reversed by increasing your protein intake. Protein not only makes recovering users healthier; it makes them look healthier. Proteins also contain amino acids, some of which are responsible for triggering the release of hormones that control mood and sleep, which are negatively affected by opiate-induced paranoia and insomnia. Some protein-rich food sources—milk, beans, soy, beef, and eggs—are great sources for calories and the energy necessary for recovery

  •  Vitamins and Minerals

    • Vitamin C: Repairs tissue and boosts the body’s immune function, which is particularly helpful when looking to restore organ and metabolic functions impaired by opiates. Strawberries, citrus fruits, watermelon, and red bell peppers are rich in Vitamin C.

    • Vitamin A: Associated with cell growth and development, it also helps to boost the immune function. Carrots, sweet potatoes, papaya, and tomatoes are great sources of Vitamin A.

    • Vitamin B-complex: Works well to promote the production of neurotransmitters and hormones, which offer relief for depression and anxiety. Vitamin B-complex also works as a detoxification agent, helping to clean opioids out of your system. Sources include eggs, meat, seafood, and dairy products.

    • Calcium: Widely known for its role in the development of healthy bones, calcium also helps with the painful muscular twitches experienced during withdrawal. Sources include milk and fortified yogurt and soy milk.

    • Omega 3: Boosts healing, assists in muscle protein synthesis, and has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce users’ increased sensitivity to pain. Ironically, using opiates for pain control results in tolerance, which reduces their ability to relieve pain, and decreases the body’s own ability to stop the pain.

However, the most important benefit of omega 3 in opiate addiction is to suppress the craving for drugs. It triggers the release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward) in the brain, thus arresting the need to seek and use drugs to attain a “high”. Omega 3 is chiefly found in fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel.

Of course, recovery from opiate addiction still requires many other steps—primarily cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, and fellowship—but good nutrition is a good and necessary first step.