Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Guest Blog Post: Nutrition for Drug & Alcohol Addiction

The following blog was written by a guest blogger, Paige Taylor:

How Nutrition Can Help With Drug and Alcohol Addiction

Drug and alcohol abuse have two major negative effects on health: Not only do the alcohol and drugs affect the body itself, but they can cause adverse lifestyle changes like poor dietary habits.
A woman who drinks while pregnant may give birth to a child with physical or mental defects. As the American Pregnancy Association explains, the alcohol a pregnant woman consumes permeates the placenta to reach the baby and can cause major developmental problems that might be irreversible. Since alcoholism is “one of the major causes of nutritional deficiency in the United States,” according to Medline Plus, normal growth and development of the baby is harmed even more.

High levels of alcohol consumption changes gut permeability.  The gut absorbs endotoxins released by bacteria, and these endotoxins impair the liver.  When the liver can no longer detoxify, Kupffer cells release free radicals, increasing oxidative damage.  This could result in a hypermetabolic state, which causes a negative nitrogen balance in the body and increased peripheral insulin resistance.  People suffering from hypermetabolism often experience symptoms such as weight loss, anemia, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate.

Substance abuse has other negative effects on the body, especially, when trying to recover. Abusing drugs and alcohol slows the body’s metabolism, impedes the proper functioning of the organs, and adversely affects mental health. Eating a diet full of the proper nutrients during recovery can help the body to heal.

How Certain Drugs Affect the Body

Different drugs have different bearing on nutrition, according to Medline Plus.

• Opiates like heroin, morphine, and codeine can harm the gastrointestinal system, causing symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting during withdrawal from the drug. Each one of these symptoms can result in the body losing valuable nutrients. The proper levels of electrolytes like sodium, potassium and chloride can also be thrown off balance. Eating foods high in fiber and complex carbohydrates during recovery from an addiction to opiates is suggested.

• Regular alcohol use, especially amongst alcoholics, can cause severe nutritional deficiencies. Those nutrients that are most commonly depleted due to alcoholism are vitamin B6, folic acid, and thiamine. The result of these deficiencies is often depression, fatigue, and problems with the nervous system.

Alcohol abuse is also harmful to the liver and the pancreas, which are both important for nutrition and metabolism. If these two organs are damaged, there can be an imbalance of electrolytes, protein, calories, and fluids in the body.

Other side effects of alcoholism are diabetes, malnutrition, cirrhosis of the liver, high blood pressure, and seizures.

• Using cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine reduces the appetite, which can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss. These stimulants also cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Problems with memory can be a side effect of stimulant use.

• Marijuana stimulates the appetite and long-term use can lead to
weight gain, according to a study published by John Hopkins University.

Nutrition and the Mental Aspects of Substance Abuse Recovery

A nutritionally balanced diet is known to improve not just overall health but mood as well. That is why it is so important for those in recovery to maintain a healthy diet. Generally, when people feel healthy the chances of a relapse are less. The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests guidelines that those in recovery should follow:

• Have a regular meal schedule
• Eat foods low in fat
• Eat plenty of foods with protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates
• Take vitamin and mineral supplements
• Make sure all snacks are nutritious
• Stop smoking
• Cut down on caffeine
• Incorporate physical activity

For any questions or comments regarding this article, please contact Paige Taylor at: pgtaylor8@gmail.com 

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