People suffering from addiction are all too familiar with the cycle of craving and dependence that has come to dominate their lives. One of the many consequences of addiction is inattention to nutritional needs. Drugs can both create the illusion of not needing food and decrease the motivation to seek it. These are among the reasons the brain and body fail to function properly during active addiction.
Oxidation and Free Radicals
As vital as oxygen is to human biology and survival, it does not come without cost. According to Gloria Tseng of HealthCastle, when body cells consume oxygen, they produce by-products known as free radicals. These free radicals cause a range of damage and health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. In contrast, antioxidants clean up free radicals and are effective at both preventing and repairing the damage done by them. Antioxidants also provide a general boost to the immune system.
While a certain level of oxidation within the body is obviously unavoidable, some sources, such as smoking and excessive sunlight exposure, are preventable. Eating foods rich in antioxidants is the best way to ingest them and is preferable to relying on supplements. An antioxidant deficiency is one of the consequences of inadequate nutritional intake during active addiction.
Antioxidants and Recovery
Some treatment programs incorporate diet into a comprehensive and holistic plan of recovery. Hunger is one of the triggers that can lead to cravings and relapse, and changes in blood sugar can lead to other triggers, such as irritability. Clients are taught to recognize these internal signals for what they are and respond accordingly.
Antioxidants and Pregnancy
Many women become pregnant while struggling with addiction, and drug and alcohol use during pregnancy is a well-known cause of birth defects in part because of the impact of such use on nutrition. While not a substitute for recovery or an excuse to consume substances during pregnancy, there is some evidence that antioxidants may reduce the risk of birth defects resulting from drinking during pregnancy. Specifically, a study done by the medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill showed a 36 percent reduction of birth defects in mice born to mothers that were given both alcohol and antioxidants while pregnant.
Proper nutrition is an essential but often overlooked part of recovery. Balanced meals that provide sufficient antioxidants are necessary for helping the body heal from the toll of addiction and for managing triggers. It also has the potential for harm reduction in pregnant women with addiction. If you have an addiction to drugs, recovery is possible—and you don’t have to make it alone. Reach out to ARCA today!