Sobriety is hard enough for men – but a healthy diet can help in all sorts of ways. One of the first questions many treatment centers ask is about nutrition; from how much, how often, and what a person eats during the day.
According to US News, a popular acronym can help you remember the signs of a relapse; and that’s HALT, or Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. Any of these conditions, over time, can be dangerous to maintaining sobriety.
There is no actual specific diet for those in early recovery but a good menu puts emphasis on fish protein, poultry and lean meat, fruits and veggies (of course), legumes and whole-grain bread and cereals.
Here are five major tips for keeping a healthy routine in recovery.
Create A Routine
A lot of alcoholics don’t feel hungry because their bodies are flooded with fluids – and that can be dangerous. So by setting a schedule for eating, those in recovery might have an easier time changing their relationships with food. A healthy diet can also improve mood swings.
Just Say No – To Sugar
When alcoholics stop drinking, their blood sugar levels decrease and they can then form cravings for sugar. So keeping blood sugar levels steady is very important as unstable levels can lead to anxiousness and depression – both of which are key for relapsing.
Men in the early stages of recovery especially should only drink one cup of coffee a day, preferably in the morning. Caffeine gives those in recovery a “hit” but there’s a sugar crash coming on the other side.
Easily Digestible Foods
If you’ve also been abusing opioids, you may now suffer from gastrointestinal distress – which leads to constipation. So opt for foods that are easily digestible like oatmeal and rice or high in fiber like fruits and vegetables.
Drinkers are often malnourished and deficient in Vitamins B and D and minerals like thiamine. So focus on a healthy diet with leafy green veggies, avocados, nuts, fresh fish, poultry, and lean meats.
There’s a lot of research to back these suggestions up. The Fix says “proper nutrition helps recovering addicts (and everyone else) feel better because nutrients give the body energy, help build and repair organ tissue, and strengthen the immune system.”
It continues, “Because recovering addicts have usually damaged vital organs during the course of their drug or alcohol abuse, good nutrition provides them with the nutritional building blocks they need to begin restoring these damaged tissues.
Nutrition also plays an important role in mood. Research suggests that changes in your diet can alter brain structure both chemically and physiologically, and influence your behavior. “
Along with a great diet, neurotransmitters also play a huge role in recovery. And addicts, who have repeatedly abused neurotransmitters to the point where they no longer create dopamine, need amino acids which form the building blocks needed for neurotransmitters to do their work successfully. So foods or supplements rich in amino acids can be a great help.
According to the Fix, “Alcoholics going through withdrawal experience an increased turnover of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. The amino acid phenylalanine, however, is a precursor to norepinephrine. If an individual recovering from alcohol addiction eats foods high in phenylalanine, like meat and fish, he will be helping to fulfill the need for this neurotransmitter during withdrawal.”
And a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism states the importance of diet, even from a drinker’s perspective, like this: “A complex interplay exists between a person’s alcohol consumption and nutritional status. When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause diseases by interfering with the nutritional status of the drinker.”
If you think about it, you’ll realize that we’ve always had complicated issues with diet, some of which may have led to alcohol addiction in the first place. According to Windward Way, “Most [kids] start with stimulants like coffee or caffeinated drinks, which they see as harmless. What they don’t realize is that any substance abuse, whether it’s stimulants, alcohol or illegal drugs can affect the way their brain processes and retains information.”
Eating healthy doesn’t just do wonders for your body; it can help you from relapsing. Writing for the Huffington Post, Dr. Maura Henninger says “The link between sugar and alcoholism is not to be denied. The active alcoholic often typically consumes 50 percent or more of his or her total calories in the form of alcohol. Remaining calories are often in the form of junk foods: empty calories that actually deplete the body’s stores of essential nutrients.”
Clearly a healthy diet with essential vitamins and minerals – such as amino acids – can help maintain sobriety and a good mindset. Remember that every time you prepare breakfast; your first meal of the day.