Nutritional Therapy

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nutritional-therapyWhile many addicts can successfully recover from substance abuse through modern pharmacological and psycho-social treatments alone, others benefit from incorporating alternative therapy approaches into their healing process. One such complimentary treatment that often produces successful results is known as nutritional therapy.

It is widely known and accepted that nutrition can have a significant effect on physical, emotional, and even cognitive health. People who struggle with drug or alcohol dependence and abuse are often uniquely vulnerable to the negative impact that poor nutrition can have on their body and mind. Nutritional therapy for addiction recovery places a special emphasis on addressing dietary imbalances throughout the addiction treatment process.

How does Addiction Affect Nutrition?

Malnutrition can be surprisingly common among drug addicts and alcoholics. Alcohol, for example, is full of empty calories that can make a user feel full without actually providing any nutritional benefits, often leading to many vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The cycle of using drugs such as opiates and cocaine, on the other hand, can simply distract users from important self-care habits such as making sure to eat a balanced diet. Preparing nutritious food often takes a backseat to getting high, coming down, and looking for more of the substance.

Alcohol and many illicit drugs also tend to cause numerous digestive system problems, such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, and a low appetite. Chronic alcohol and heroin use can severely impair the lining of the intestines. A damaged digestive system has a harder time absorbing nutrients from any healthy food that is consumed, leading to further problems.

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Nutritional Therapy during Rehabhealthy-diet

A trained professional who provides nutritional therapy for addiction treatment typically needs to begin by informing and convincing a patient of the role that nutrition can play in recovery. It can be difficult, at first, for a patient to look beyond the problems caused by their addiction and see the problems caused by improper eating habits as well.

Focusing on nutrition during the early stages of recovery can have a significantly positive impact on the amount and strength of cravings experienced by a nutritional therapy drug recovery patient. A diet high in protein and carbohydrates is encouraged to help an addict make it successfully through the detox process, while caffeine and sugar are largely discouraged.

Throughout the recovery process, the emphasis of nutritional therapy treatment remains on increasing caloric intake from fresh, quality foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish. The healthy fats, nutrients, and fibers in these foods can help restore healthy functioning to the mind and body. Patients are counseled to stay away from food that are highly processed and high in trans fats, such as many different types of frozen, ready-made meals.

What are the Benefits of Nutritional Therapy?

Once a recovering addict or alcoholic understands the effect that nutrition can have on their recovery, they are often highly receptive to the message and show a strong willingness to change. Motivation is an important part of the recovery process. When an addict finds the motivation to pursue abstinence, they typically find motivation to improve other aspects of their lives as well.

Nutritional therapy for addiction recovery can be a beneficial therapeutic approach for just about anyone whose drug or alcohol addiction is linked with poor nutrition. Fixing the damage done by drugs, alcohol, and a poor diet can help resume healthy bodily functioning and improve treatment outcomes.


  1. Cunningham, P. M. (2016, June 13). The Use of Sobriety Nutritional Therapy in the Treatment of Opioid Addiction [PDF]. Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy.
  2. Grotzkyj-Giorgi, M. (2009, June). Nutrition and addiction – can dietary changes assist with recovery?[PDF]. Pavilion Journals (Brighton) Ltd.
  3. Worden, M., & Rosellini, G. (n.d.). Role of Diet in People-Work: Uses of Nutrition in Therapy with Substance Abusers [PDF]. ORTHOMOLECULAR PSYCHIATRY.
  4. Promoting healthy lifestyles as a biopsychosocial approach to addictions counseling. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  5. Barbadoro, P., Ponzio, E., Pertosa, M. E., Aliotta, F., D’Errico, M. M., Prospero, E., & Minelli, A. (2010, November 22). The Effects of Educational Intervention on Nutritional Behaviour in Alcohol-Dependent Patients. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from
  6. Kerr, K., MD, & Cecchini, M., MS. (n.d.). Are we ignoring effective substance abuse treatment solutions? Vitamin therapy as an essential treatment component. [PDF].

Last updated on April 6th, 2017 at 04:45 pm

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