According to the CDC, chronic diseases are diseases that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention. Some examples are heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. When people begin treatment for chronic diseases there are always nutritional prescriptions that go along with medication. Sometimes, patients even have to constantly see a specialist nutritionist for counselling and supervision of special diets to help improve treatment outcomes. Do you know that Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), are also classified as chronic diseases?
When it comes to Substance Use Disorders (SUDs), which are also 100% chronic diseases, the role of nutrition in recovery is not usually incorporated in treatment. What not to drink is obviously all that is emphasized. Many clients are taught about the severe impacts of drugs and alcohol on the body and brain, cravings and triggers but are not taught about how daily routines like eating food can be done properly to enhance recovery.
Optimal recovery is said to be achieved when the client returns to normal state of health and wellness where the client is physically, mentally and socially functional. Apart from pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy, nutrition therapy (‘Nutritherapy’) is also very key to achieving positive treatment outcomes.
Nutritherapy is a form of therapy which uses nutrition to help clients improve health by adopting healthy food choices that will lead to gaining the nutrients and vitamins necessary for achieving optimal recovery.
Nutritherapy, just like any form of therapy, should be individualized and therefore information which is provided in this material will be a general overview of what is ideal. To reap very positive outcomes from nutrition therapy, clients should consult a specialist nutritionist for proper assessment and prescription of a personalized eating plan as well as learn new skills to improve eating habits.
Nutritherapy for optimal physical functioning
A person in recovery from alcohol and drug use should eat foods rich in carbohydrates especially whole grain cereals like brown rice, oatmeal, wheat, millet, sorghum, quinoa and corn. These foods help produce energy for the body which help in feeling strong enough to go about the daily routine. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), whole grains are associated with lower risk of several diseases.
Whole grains also contain important nutrients including vitamins, protein, fibre and other healthy plant compounds. (Jennings, 2019)
Proteins like beans and eggs are also highly recommended for hair, nails, bone and muscle growth. They also help the body organs function as optimally as they should.
Fluids are necessary to meet the daily hydration needs of the client. Water is the best fluid that can be taken. Other good choices are natural fruit juices, milk, tea, coffee in moderation and other low sugar drinks (non-alcoholic).
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and fibre. Dietary fibre is essential for the prevention of constipation and other digestive problems. Some good choices are Watermelon, Orange and Apple.
Nutritherapy for optimal mental functioning
For optimal mental functioning and health, foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids such as Salmon, dark leafy green vegetables like ‘Kontonmire’, nuts, seeds, and legumes such as beans and lentils, healthy fats like olive oil are highly recommended.
This sounds a lot like the Mediterranean diet. This style of eating is based on the traditional cuisine of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the Mayo Clinic (2019), many people who switch to the Mediterranean diet say they will never eat any other way. It includes; a daily consumption of vegetables and fruits, whole grains and healthy fats, weekly intake of fish, poultry, beans and eggs, moderate portions of diary products and very limited intake of red meat.
Guidelines for following the Mediterranean Diet
- Eat more seafood like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herrings twice a week. Grill instead of deep frying.
- Eat whole grain bread, cereal and pasta. Introduce oatmeal and sorghum into your meals if possible.
- Eat healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil instead of butter for cooking and for eating with bread. Avocado and avocado oil is also a good choice.
- Eat up to between 7 and 10 servings of fruits like water melon, grapes, oranges and apples daily.
- Eat fresh vegetables like Kontonmire, spinach, okra, tomatoes and more.
- Eat low fat dairy like Greek or plain yogurt, milk and small amounts of different types of cheeses.
- Eat protein like poultry. It should be lean, and in small portions. Red meat should be eaten rarely.
- Eat legumes like black beans, peas, lentils and other types of beans often.
- Eat nuts and seeds like cashew, flaxseed, sesame seeds and almonds.
- Eat spices and herbs for flavour and vitamins like garlic, oregano, basil, rosemary, cinnamon, thyme and more.
Dark chocolate is also very good for memory, mood, attention and fights cognitive decline.
Nutritherapy for social functioning
Reduce caffeine intake to the barest minimum if you have social anxiety because caffeine is a stimulant which can make anxiety worse.
Water is good for hydration. Herbal tea is also very good for keeping hydrated and refreshed all day long.
Low fat milk is recommended for beverages.
For optimal health and wellness in recovery, clients should be encouraged to follow a healthy eating plan and be taught healthy eating habits. For the very best outcomes, a consultation should be arranged with a certified nutritionist who will do a proper assessment of nutritional deficits and overloads so as to create an individualized plan to suit the specific needs of the clients.