Relaxation, exercise, and better nutrition can improve the physical and emotional health of people recovering from alcoholism or drug addiction and, in their own way, can help prevent relapse.
Let’s face it, if you have come this far in seeking professional treatment or rehab for your alcohol or drug problem, you probably haven’t done a lot of physical exercise and you definitely haven’t been eating as healthily as you should. Improvements in these areas can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and help you stay abstinent.
The benefits of relaxation and rest during recovery
Engaging in a recreational or physical activity can benefit your recovery by reducing the stress that can cause a relapse. It can also help reduce boredom, which is a major relapse trigger for some, and help you emotionally by rebalancing your life.
Of course, as you get more active, you will feel better physically and improve your overall health. This can aid your recovery by reducing the severity of any post-acute withdrawal symptoms that may recur.
Gradually include physical activity
If you have not been physically active at all for a long period of time, you should check with your health care professional before starting any exercise program. You may want to get involved in any physical exercise you choose so as not to overdo it prematurely and become discouraged.
Getting physically active doesn’t mean you have to start exercising to become a world class athlete. You can just walk around your neighborhood or mall daily, play in the park with your kids, ride a bike, or do a sport you once enjoyed like tennis, softball, or basketball.
The aim is to become more active at a level you are comfortable with and make progress in improving your health.
The impact of bad eating habits on alcoholics and drug users
Going hand in hand with physical activity in developing a healthy lifestyle is good nutrition. If you’re like most alcoholics and addicts, you’ve spent so much time on the drug of your choice that many times you haven’t eaten properly.
Research shows that many alcoholics suffer from malnutrition. Many of the drugs on the street today suppress appetite. As a result, many people participating in professional alcohol and drug rehabilitation programs have skipped many meals simply because they did not feel hungry.
Bad eating habits in alcoholics have been found to increase or worsen the risk of the following diseases:
- Liver disease: Alcoholic liver damage is mainly caused by alcohol itself, but poor diet can increase the risk of alcohol-related liver damage.
- Pancreatitis: There is some research to suggest that the harmful effects of alcohol on the pancreas can be increased by eating a low-protein diet.
- Brain damage: Malnutrition can have serious and permanent effects on brain function. In particular, thiamine deficiency, which is common in alcoholics, can cause serious neurological problems.
- Pregnancy complications: Alcohol itself is toxic to the fetus, but research shows that nutritional deficiencies can affect the development of the fetus and potentially increase the risk of developmental damage. Not only can nutritional deficiencies in an alcoholic mother affect the diet of the fetus, but drinking alcohol can restrict the flow of food to the fetus.
The Importance of Good Diet in Maintaining Sobriety
As with physical activity, good nutrition will aid your recovery by reducing the post-acute withdrawal symptoms that you may experience. It helps rebuild a body that has been worn out from alcohol or drug use.
If you find yourself in the follow-up care of your rehab program, you will likely be asked about your usual eating habits and how much you know about good nutrition. Your current eating habits will be taken into account so that appropriate steps can be suggested to eat healthier and feel better about yourself as you recover.
The key is a balanced diet that follows nutritional guidelines and selects foods from the different food groups – meat, poultry and fish; Dairy products; Fruits and vegetables; and bread and grain. It is recommended that you eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.