How a Healthy Recovery Diet Can Reverse Damage from Addiction

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Detoxification, group and individual therapy, 12-step meetings, carefully prescribed medication and the involvement of friends and family are vital to recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction. But there’s another aspect that can work miracles in early recovery: a proper diet and natural supplements.

How Drugs and Alcohol Negatively Impact Health

Addicts and alcoholics have neglected their diets and therefore suffer from a variety of gastrointestinal disorders such as diarrhea, constipation, poor appetite and an ability to digest foods properly. Below are just some of the many ways that drugs and alcohol damage the body.

Skin and Hair: Depletes nutrients needed for healthy skin and hair.

Liver: An overworked liver swells and prevents bile production and filtering.

Pancreas: Irritation causes swelling that can block the flow of enzymes into the stomach.  This
results in digestive problems.

Kidneys: Frequent infections, inflammation and increased water output.

Heart and Circulation: Inflammation occurs, as well as fat deposits and high blood pressure. Low protein also speeds up muscle loss.

Central Nervous System: Alcohol and drugs sedate and aggravate the CNS.

Hypothalamus: Alcohol and drugs affect memory, coordination and thinking. Brain cells are killed permanently. Messages are sent to the stomach to confuse hunger and thirst.

Stomach: Higher risk of ulcers and gastric distress.

Intestinal: Transit times are slowed, leading to poor absorption.

Mucous Membranes: Membranes are irritated and sedated.

Rectum: Frequent diarrhea can lead to hemorrhoids.

Loss of Sex Drive: Alcohol and drugs decrease sex drive, especially in males.

Every early recovering addict struggles with temptation. While the above mentioned factors, 12-step meetings, counseling and family involvement, are important, diet should be a priority too. A diet that is high in protein and carbohydrate-rich foods can make a big difference in controlling cravings, mood and overall health.

What to Include in a Recovery Diet

Remember all of the ways that alcohol and drugs affect the body? Many can be repaired with the right diet, one that is high in protein, carbohydrates, good fats and fruits and vegetables.


To repair tissues and restore organs like the kidneys, pancreas, liver and heart, protein is need. Protein also stabilizes blood sugar. Recovering addicts should eat foods like eggs, lean red meats, chicken, fish and turkey on a regular basis.


Carbohydrates fuel the body and prevent cravings, but it’s important to choose the right types of carbohydrates. The best options available include brown rice, wild rice, beans, lentils and millet. Vegetables and fruits are also excellent options.

Good Fats

Good fats are responsible for absorbing vitamins and nutrients that repair damaged cells. Nuts, butter, avocados and olive oils are all examples of healthy fats. Just a small serving of healthy fats is needed to do the job; more isn’t better in this case.

What to Eliminate from a Recovery Diet


Years ago, recovering addicts were able to eat all the cookies and ice cream they wanted to feel better, but new research warns us differently. High levels of sugar consumption leads to prolonged cravings, fatigue and imbalances. It’s most important to keep blood sugar levels stabilized and nourish the food with long-lasting sources of energy that reduce cravings.


Caffeine should also be minimized or eliminated since it causes anxiety and insomnia, plus overstimulates the nervous system. Many recovering addicts feel that they can’t survive without a daily fix of caffeine, but this can lead to a different form of dependence. Herbal teas and decaffeinated coffee are preferable.

Artificial Foods

Artificial foods should be removed from a recovery diet. Otherwise, an already taxed liver has to work extra hard to break down chemicals and preservatives. Also, artificial foods are known for causing allergies and cravings, especially as many are packed with preservatives and empty calories that do nothing for the body. Steering clear of artificial foods doesn’t have to be difficult. Stick to foods that are as close to their natural form as possible and shop on the outside aisles of the supermarket.

Many people rely on sugar and caffeine to make them feel better, but this isn’t good for anyone, especially those who need to rebuild their physical health after addiction. Focusing on a diet that is rich in lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables and good fats will lead to improved health and well being, as opposed to the quick fixes that come from sugar, caffeine and processed foods.

What Vitamins and Supplements are Available?

Often times when addicts are actively using they are not properly caring for their bodies and are not eating nutrient-rich food, or any food at all.  Most addicts have nutrient deficiencies due to this lifestyle. Because of these nutrient deficiencies, many addicts will benefit from supplementing their diets with additional vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins that can be used to increase energy, mood and focus. Recovering addicts also report decreased anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue, and pain. Vitamins and supplements should always be discussed with your health care provider prior to taking them as some supplements may not be appropriate for everyone