Alcohol and drug abuse /addiction can result in numerous and gross nutritional deficiencies that hamper the physical and mental health of the individual.
A healthy diet plays a major role in sustaining and improving the quality of life in recovery.
Alcohol and drug use can affect nutrition in the following ways
(i) Not eating- drinking and using drugs causes a drop in appetite and at times they forget to eat.
(ii) Eating insufficient– Drinking /using drugs is given a priority over eating .
(iii) Overeating- at times there can be an increased appetite due to drug and alcohol use and the person eats unconsciously without an idea of satiety.
(iv) Damage to organs- Alcohol and drug abuse can result in damage to the liver, pancreas, stomach, intestinal linings which are all involved in the digestion, absorption and retention of nutrients in the body.
(v) Drop in Immunity- The depletion of nutrients causes a fall in immunity making the person prone to various ailments
(vi) Gastrointestinal disorders
(vii) drop in glucose levels resulting in mental and physical imbalances.
Those addicted to alcohol have poor food intake. Either they do not eat at all in order to drink or eat a lot without awareness of satiety.
In both cases there is nutritional depletion as the body is busy processing the alcohol that needs to be metabolized before the food.
Alcohol results in inflammation of the gut and stomach lining resulting in indigestion, acid reflux, gastritis, malabsorption resulting in diarrhea and consequent dehydration.
Severe deficiencies of Thiamine, B12,B6 and Folic acid develop resulting in conditions like peripheral neuritis , anemia, fatigue, headache, memory problems and Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome due to Thiamine deficiency.
Muscle wasting, immunity reduction happens making the person prone to ailments , and in Indians the most common ailment that afflicts a person when the immunity drops is Tuberculosis.
Chronic alcohol use can cause significant damage to the liver and pancreas which are involved in digestion of proteins, fats, carbohydrates , hormones and sugar balance thus causing an imbalance in them.
Withdrawals from drugs like opium, heroin etc results in cramps and severe diarrhea preventing the person from eating resulting in dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Eating carbohydrates and enough fluids will tide over this.
Stimulants -like amphetamines, MDMA, Crystal meth, cocaine
Stimulants keep the drug user awake for hours on end, hyperactive and kills the appetite whereby people do not eat for days . This results in malnutrition , electrolyte and hormonal imbalance leading to severe weight loss, muscle loss, alopecia, increased risk of infections , heart ailments, depression, apathy, confusion etc.
In treatment, eating more can result in an upset digest system as it is just getting used to food. this requires an experienced medical care. meals should be had in small portions.
Marijuana usage results in a ravenous appetite but for mainly junk food excessive consumption of which can result in obesity. Lack of any nourishment in junk food results in malnutrition also. There is a deficiency of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which can result in skin ailments like eczema, rash and other inflammatory processes. Healing of wounds is delayed and susceptibility to infections is increased.
Diet during Treatment and Recovery
-A craving for sweets develops in most people in recovery from addiction to alcohol and drugs , as sweets trigger the same dopamine reward pathway that are triggered by the substances in brain.
-Exercise regularly- various yoga asanas aid in bringing the hormonal balance in the body and regain optimum organ functioning, regain physical and mental balance and core muscle tone. Start working out slowly being in connect with one’s body as the existent muscle wasting and lack of tone if pushed into working out too soon and too hard will result in recurrent injuries.
-Eat more complex carbs – Green vegetables,Whole grains and foods made from them, such as and whole-grain breads,rotis, Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin, Beans, lentils, and peas.
(i) Eat small portions of frequent meals, the appetite will slowly improve.
(ii) There should be an increase in intake of fiber which will maintain gut health and proteins would help build muscles affected by alcohol and drug abuse.
(iii) Avoid or reduce Caffeine intake in the form of coffee or carbonated drinks.
(iv) Have plenty of water
(v) Taking supplements of vitamins and minerals are essential as they will help initially to replenish immediate deficiencies and then enable the body to function well.
Every treatment /rehab facility should have a good and nutritious diet provision with adequate opportunities to exercise . We at AH provide such an optimum blend of nutrition and physical and mental growth in a luxurious ambience.