Going through drug and alcohol withdrawal can be tough on both your body and mind, affecting your overall well-being. You may experience distressing symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, sweating, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. To make this process more bearable, it's important for you to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Eating well can help alleviate these symptoms and promote a smoother recovery. So, if you or someone you love is undergoing drug and alcohol withdrawal, here are some practical tips on what to eat.
Foods To Eat When Going Through Withdrawal
Eat nutrient-dense foods
Focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants it needs to heal and repair. Some good choices include:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables: These are packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants that can boost your immune system, improve digestion, and reduce inflammation. Aim for a variety of colors and types, such as berries, citrus, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and root vegetables.
- Whole grains: These provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, and B vitamins that can help stabilize your blood sugar, boost your mood, and support your brain function. Some examples include whole-wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, oats, and barley.
- Lean protein: This can help repair your muscles, organs, and tissues that substance use may have damaged. Good sources include fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, beans, and nuts.
- Healthy fats: These can provide energy, satiety, and anti-inflammatory benefits. Some options include avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel.
During withdrawal, you may experience fluctuations in your appetite and energy levels, which can make it challenging to stick to a regular meal schedule. To avoid feeling too hungry or too full, snack wisely. Be intentional about snacking on small, nutrient-dense foods throughout the day. Some examples include:
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Raw vegetables with hummus or guacamole
- Yogurt or cottage cheese with berries
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit
- Smoothies or protein shakes with fruit, veggies, and protein powder
Focus on Protein
Protein is an essential nutrient that your body needs to repair and regenerate tissues. Eating protein-rich foods can help support your body's recovery during withdrawal. Excellent sources of protein include lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, and legumes. If you're vegetarian or vegan, you can get protein from sources like tofu, tempeh, and quinoa.
Eating protein during drug and alcohol withdrawal can help improve your body in several ways:
- Reduced cravings: Consuming protein can help reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol by providing the body with sustained energy and reducing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
- Improved neurotransmitter production: Protein is essential for the production of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are important for regulating mood and reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are common during withdrawal.
- Repairing tissues: Drug and alcohol abuse can damage various tissues and organs in the body. Consuming protein can help repair damaged tissues and promote healing.
- Boosting immune function: Protein is important for building and maintaining a strong immune system, which can be compromised during drug and alcohol abuse and withdrawal. Consuming protein can help boost immune function and reduce the risk of infections.
Incorporate Healthy Fats Into Your Meals
During drug and alcohol withdrawal, the body undergoes significant stress, and the brain chemistry is altered. Consuming healthy fats during this time can provide several benefits, including:
- Boosting brain function: Healthy fats, such as omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish and nuts, can help improve cognitive function, boost memory, improve mood, and reduce inflammation, which can be helpful during the withdrawal process.
- Regulating mood: Consuming healthy fats can help regulate mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are common during withdrawal.
- Supporting overall health: Healthy fats are essential for maintaining overall health and can help improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
- Reducing cravings: Consuming healthy fats can help reduce cravings for drugs and alcohol by providing the body with sustained energy and reducing the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.
Unhealthy fats, such as trans fats and saturated fats found in processed foods, can have the opposite effect and may worsen withdrawal symptoms. Therefore, it's important to focus on consuming healthy fats from whole foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish, during drug and alcohol withdrawal.
Adding healthy fats to your diet can also help stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce cravings for sugary foods. Good sources of healthy fats include:
- Olive oil
- Fatty fish like salmon
Don’t Forget Supplements
During drug and alcohol withdrawal, the body undergoes significant stress, and the normal absorption and utilization of nutrients can be compromised. Withdrawal can deplete the body of certain vitamins and minerals that are essential for overall health and recovery, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, and zinc.
While getting your nutrients from whole foods is ideal, it can be challenging to consume a well-balanced diet during withdrawal because of nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms. Sometimes, it may be beneficial to take supplements to help replenish depleted nutrients.
Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for your individual needs. They can help determine which supplements may be beneficial for you based on your specific symptoms and nutritional needs. They can also monitor your progress and adjust your supplement regimen as needed to ensure that you're getting the nutrients you need to support your recovery.
Beverages To Drink When Going Through Withdrawal
Staying hydrated is essential during drug and alcohol withdrawal, as the body loses fluids through sweating, vomiting, and diarrhea. It's important to drink plenty of water and other hydrating beverages to prevent dehydration and support the body's natural detoxification processes.
Some beverages that can be helpful during withdrawal include:
- Water: Drinking plain water is the most important way to stay hydrated during withdrawal. It's recommended to drink at least eight glasses of water per day, and more if you're experiencing excessive sweating or vomiting.
- Herbal tea: Herbal teas, such as chamomile, peppermint, and ginger tea, can be soothing and calming during withdrawal. They can also help ease symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and anxiety.
- Coconut water: Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes, which can be depleted during withdrawal. It can help replenish electrolytes and keep you hydrated.
- Fresh juice: Freshly squeezed juices made from fruits and vegetables can provide essential vitamins and minerals that may be depleted during withdrawal. They can also be a refreshing way to stay hydrated.
- Broth: Drinking broth made from bone, chicken, or vegetable stock can be helpful during withdrawal. It's rich in nutrients and can help soothe the digestive system and reduce nausea.
Try to avoid caffeine and sugary drinks like soda or pop during withdrawal, as they can dehydrate the body and make your symptoms worse. If you're unsure about which beverages to drink during withdrawal, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist for personalized recommendations.
Foods To Avoid During Withdrawal
While it's important to eat enough calories and nutrients during withdrawal, it's also crucial to avoid foods that can make your symptoms worse or hinder your recovery.
Some foods to avoid during withdrawal include:
- Sugary and processed foods: Sugary and processed foods can cause blood sugar spikes and crashes, leading to mood swings, fatigue, and anxiety. These foods also often contain additives, preservatives, and high levels of sodium or sugar that can disrupt your digestion, mood, and sleep. Sugary and processed foods can also lead to inflammation, which can exacerbate symptoms. Examples include chips, cookies, frozen meals, and sugary cereals.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can worsen anxiety and interfere with sleep during withdrawal. It can also dehydrate the body, leading to further symptoms.
- Fatty and fried foods: Fatty and fried foods can be hard to digest and may worsen nausea and vomiting during withdrawal. They can also contribute to inflammation and interfere with nutrient absorption.
- Spicy foods: Spicy foods can irritate the digestive system and worsen symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea during withdrawal.
- Alcohol and drugs: As expected, alcohol and drugs should be completely avoided during withdrawal, as they can cause further damage to the body and prolong recovery.
Don’t Forget To Plan Ahead
To make healthy eating easier during withdrawal, it's helpful to plan ahead and prepare your meals and snacks in advance. This can help you avoid making impulsive or unhealthy food choices when you're feeling overwhelmed or fatigued. Some tips for meal planning include:
- Make a grocery list: Before you go shopping, write down the foods you need for the week and stick to the list. Avoid buying junk food or processed snacks that might tempt you later.
- Cook in batches: When you have the energy, prepare larger portions of healthy meals that you can store in the fridge or freezer for later. This can save you time and effort on busy days.
- Use simple recipes: Don't feel pressured to cook elaborate or complicated dishes. Instead, focus on simple recipes that are easy to follow and require minimal preparation. You can find many healthy and affordable meal ideas online or in cookbooks.
- Get support: If possible, ask a friend or family member to help you with grocery shopping, cooking, or meal planning. This can make the process more enjoyable and less stressful.
Eat Well, But Maintain Your Hygiene, Too
When going through the discomfort of withdrawal, it's easy to neglect basic self-care activities like showering, brushing your teeth, and changing your clothes. However, making an effort to take care of your hygiene can have significant benefits for your physical and mental health.
Showering or taking a bath can help soothe sore muscles, ease tension, and promote relaxation. It can also help reduce body odor, which can be a common symptom during withdrawal. Brushing your teeth and using mouthwash can help freshen your breath and maintain good oral health. Additionally, changing your clothes can help you feel clean and comfortable, which can boost your mood and reduce feelings of anxiety.
Incorporating minor acts of self-care into your daily routine can help improve your overall mood and well-being during withdrawal. These activities can also provide a sense of control and structure during a time when you may feel overwhelmed and disoriented.
Be Mindful Of Triggers
During withdrawal, you may experience intense cravings for drugs or alcohol. Make sure you’re mindful of your triggers and avoid situations that may tempt you to use drugs or alcohol. Eating a balanced diet and taking care of your hygiene can help you feel more in control of your emotions and cravings. You may also want to consider mindfulness practices like meditation or deep breathing exercises to help you stay centered and focused on your recovery.
Listen to Your Body
Finally, remember to listen to your body and honor your cravings and preferences. While it's important to eat a balanced and nutritious diet, it's also okay to indulge in a treat or comfort food once in a while. If you feel like eating something specific, try to find a healthier version of it or enjoy a small portion. For example, if you crave something sweet, you can try a piece of dark chocolate or a fruit smoothie instead of a candy bar. If you crave something salty, you can try roasted nuts or air-popped popcorn instead of chips. By tuning into your body and nourishing it with kindness and compassion, you can support your recovery and build a healthier relationship with food.
Make Sure To Get Professional Support
Finally, it's important to remember that going through drug and alcohol withdrawal can be a challenging and sometimes dangerous process. If you're struggling with withdrawal symptoms, seek professional support. Your doctor or a substance abuse counselor can help you manage your symptoms and provide guidance on how to best support your body's recovery.
Let Us Help
Going through drug and alcohol withdrawal can be a difficult and challenging time, but by focusing on your nutrition and eating habits, you can support your recovery and feel better in the long run. Remember to hydrate with water and electrolytes, eat nutrient-dense foods, avoid processed and sugary foods, snack wisely, plan ahead, and listen to your body. By taking care of your physical health, you can also improve your mental and emotional well-being and increase your chances of a successful recovery. Contact us if you or someone you love needs help staying strong.