Nutrition & Exercise: Do They Help Drug Addiction Recovery?

Individuals who are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction may not fully realize just how important that their diet is particularly during the early stages of their recovery. Individuals who are battling addiction are accustomed to abusing their bottles. Most of these individuals have also fallen into a very unhealthy lifestyle based on their addiction. While there is a significant amount of emotional work and effort involved in rehabilitation, physical healthy is just as important—and diet is just one of the numerous ways that can be used to boost one’s overall well-being.

Most drug addicts or alcoholics are accustomed to poor diet choices due to their addiction, and many of them wind up with very serious nutritional deficiencies as a result. By focusing on healthier dietary choices, these individuals can make a positive move toward not only better health overall but also more stable moods. During the recovery process, an addict will become familiar with good nutrition fundamentals and continue to apply these basics to their eating habits long after they leave rehab. Therefore, the healthy lifestyle as a whole is crucial even after recovering from addiction as it can help the addict become strong enough to avoid relapsing back into the old and possibly life-threatening addicting habits that he or she was once a part of.

Nutritional Problems with Addiction

For an individual with a drinking problem, alcohol tends to replace food. Alcoholics often get the bulk of their caloric intake from alcohol as opposed to healthy sustenance. It isn’t uncommon for alcoholics to lack vital nutrients and suffer from nutritional deficiencies that can result in serious health problems. Many alcoholics are often deficient in vitamin A, vitamin B12, folate, as well as calcium—all of which are necessary for a strong immune system and vital body functions. Individuals with drug addictions may have deficiencies as well due to the certain illegal drugs drastically reducing appetite like opiates, methamphetamines, and cocaine. Individuals who are addicted to drugs like these may become emaciated and frail due to improper food intake. Individuals who finally enter into recovery after suffering from drug or alcohol addiction will need to start eating regular meals again, which will provide their bodies with the vital nutrients that their bodies need.

The Issue with Comfort Eating

One of the many dangers that addicts tend to experience during the recovery process is the inclination to replace their addiction with a substitute addiction or engage in another type of unhealthy behavior that relates to running away from their initial problem. The lack of being able to escape from drugs or alcohol could result in addicts seeking comfort food in an attempt to avoid the issues that they have and are currently dealing with. The addicts may become addicted to unhealthy foods or binge on junk food as a substitute for their prior substance abuse. It’s important that this type of behavior is avoided. While it is less harmful than substance abuse, it is still an escape that doesn’t need to be encouraged. Addicts could potentially begin gaining weight and feeling depressed or tired due to the poor dietary habits while in rehab. Therefore, with a healthier diet plan, the negative mental and physical effects of poor dietary habits can be prevented, which ensures that those effects don’t interfere with the recovery process.

How to Eat Healthier

Ultimately, a healthy lifestyle resolves around two things. First, one must nurture the body. Second, one must understand the popular saying that “you are what you eat”. For an individual in recovery, balanced nutrition is essential to ensure that he or she is able to take care of themselves in a positive light. With a healthy diet, an individual is able to feel better, think more clearly, and have more energy. With an adequate amount of nutrition, an individual’s moon can be stabilized, which is important with addicts who have numerous volatile emotions.

A healthy diet consists of lots of fruits and vegetables so that you are getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals the body needs. In addition, complex carbohydrates and lean proteins are essential to repair the body and maintain energy. Consuming lots of water is also important to help prevent negative effects of dehydration on one’s overall well-being. To improve an individual’s health, it is important that addicts avoid refined sugar and caffeine as there are negative crashing effects associated with both and they are both harmful to both the body and mind.

As an addict starts to eat healthy, they will be more focused and able to handle the recovery process better. Rather than becoming addicted to junk food and resorting to comfort eating, an individual in rehab needs to be aware of the how important healthy food is and the role of healthy food in his or her ability to fully recover.

Taking Control

One of the biggest advantages of eating a balanced diet is that the recovering addict is learning how to feel in and take control again. As an addict, he or she is essentially slave with the addiction running their lives. By learning about a healthy balanced diet, an addict is taking full control of his or her life and future.

He or she will learn how to prepare and cook healthy meals that will make him or her feel good, which combats weight gain and keeps him or her busy learning brand-new skills and knowledge about nutrition that he or she may not have known before. This can help to evade some of the cravings that the addict may be having.

Balanced Nutrition = Balanced Life

Addicts learn many important life lessons during recovery, but among the most important are probably learning how to properly live a balance life. The addict’s life previously was spiraling and wildly unbalanced with the addiction taking control. In recovery, however, a healthy balance needs to be obtained in all aspects of his or her life in order to be successful at obtaining long-term recovery and learning how to navigate his or her brand-new life without feeling that urge to turn to alcohol or drugs in order to cope with things.

At the core of holistic healing, which tends to be part of inpatient rehabilitation centers, is the suggestion of maintaining a balanced energy. When an individual consumes a healthy, balanced diet, it can contribute to the person’s positive lifestyle since the food is fuel that the body is depending on day in and day out.

Focus on Replenishing the Body

When an addict initially enters rehab, the body is still recovering from the detoxification and requires nurturing and replenishing. The addict’s body will need to heal. In order for the body to grow healthy and strong again, a healthy diet is crucial. More important than the diet, the individual’s awareness of all this.

Along with a balanced nutrition, mental affirmations will assist an individual both physically and spiritually in replenishing him or herself after reaching the lowest possible point. Some of the healthiest foods to eat as a recovering addict include the following:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Low-fat dairy products

The aforementioned foods will help with the replenishment of an addict’s serotonin levels, which depletes due to previous addiction abuse. Fresh fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that can aid in revitalizing the previously abused body. Individuals who eat right like this will begin to feel healthier, happier, and emotionally and physically stronger.

Lifelong Benefits

Probably most importantly, learning how to eat a balanced meal will prepare an individual with lifelong and necessary tools to battle addiction. It is a journey to recover from addiction, and individuals who have obtained long-term sobriety will tell you that no one is ever 100 percent cured. Along with nutrition, exercise is an important part of the recovery process as this will help ensure that you are maximizing the benefits that are gained through the nutrition.

Addicts need to learn how to nourish their bodies in a variety of ways, and through eating healthy and making and sticking to that commitment, an individual will be far more equipped to gain that long-term sobriety.

Routine Physical Activities Are Effective in Addiction Recovery

As previously touched one, routine physical activity is important as a part of one’s healthy and sobriety. This is important for everyone, but it is that much more important for an individual trying to maintain addiction recovery. When an individual is trying to maintain his or her sobriety, the overall process consists of strengthening him or self both mentally and physically.

The body has been weakened so much already and is accustomed to being abused, but regular physical activity assists the body in becoming strong and healthy again—just like the nutrition. When it comes to sobriety, many individuals opt for the holistic approach—finding balance in life—which consists of integrating a variety of physical activities in their lives that can aid in calming the calm while keeping the body active. Below, you will find 5 physical activities that will not only benefit your health but also your sobriety.


One of the most effective and easiest physical exercises that you can do is walk or run—running should only be done if you feel like you’re in good enough shape already. The great thing about this type of exercise is that anyone can do it regardless of their location, not to mention the fact that it is completely free and requires no training or equipment. To change things up every now and then, individuals can change the location of their walks or runs by hiking on nature trials or through the local parks.

Apart from simply keep an individual in shape, walking and running reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and clears the mind. When a person gets into the routine of walking or running on a regular basis, it adds structure to his or her life, which is good for an addict.

  1. YOGA

Yoga has long been known as an effective form of physical exercise when it comes to breaking patterns of addiction that are formed within the brain. Yoga is a particular type of exercise that enhances body awareness and aids a recovering addict in connecting with the body more intimately through guided exercises and special breathing techniques. Yoga can help an individual learn how to control his or her emotional stasis and learn how powerful and strong his or her body truly is.


Technology drives this world today, so it goes without saying that when an individual is able to physically draw or paint something, it can be amazingly therapeutic. The value of utilizing one’s hands to create something beautiful is highly underrated, and it has the potential to have a calming and healing effect on an individual. With a recovering addict, drawing or painting isn’t about creating a fully-developed piece; instead, it is about accessing the happy and creative part of the mind that has likely been dormant for some time.


Similar to the way that drawing and painting opens up a part of the mind that has been dormant, building something also stimulates a part of the mind that hasn’t been being used. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated and can be rather simple such as building a wall, constructing a piece of furniture, or folding origami—as long as building something is creating a sense of satisfaction and building self-esteem in the recovering addict.

Alternatively, building something can also be landscaping the yard or planting a garden. Ultimately, it simply means that an individual is putting time, energy, and effort into a DIY project and something is being created.


Swimming can be a great physical activity to participate in if an individual is near a public pool, beach, etc. Swimming is one of those physical activities that is easy on the body, yet it offers fantastic heart benefits and can help an individual feel happier and stronger than ever. Being in the water is fun and exciting, and it makes for a very satisfying workout since an individual will need to make use of all his or her body parts while swimming. Similar to walking or yoga, regular swimming workouts will aid in adding structure to one’s life.

Over the long-term, by incorporating regular exercise routines into one’s life, an individual will be stronger emotionally, mentally, and physically and will simply look and feel better. Exercise is an important part of locating a holistic balance in life. Individuals can learn to interact with their bodies in compassionate, kind, and nurturing ways.

If you would like to learn more about nutrition and exercise and how it can helpful in addiction recovery, contact us at Shadow Mountain Recovery today. We are happy to answer any questions that you may have.

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