How a Nutrition Program Works Within In a Drug Recovery Plan

Substance use disorders can disrupt many areas of health, including nutrition. The nutritional effects of substance abuse are often overlooked in the treatment of addiction, but growing bodies of research have demonstrated that a nutrition plan that includes a well-balanced diet can have beneficial outcomes on addiction recovery efforts.

Why Is Nutrition Important in Recovery?

Nutritional deficiencies can have a detrimental effect on some of the symptoms of withdrawal. Suboptimal nutrition and poor eating habits during treatment can result in lower levels of focus and information intake during treatment and therapy, which in turn can contribute to negative outcomes in the treatment process.

For these reasons, evidence-based rehab programs incorporate nutritional planning — balanced, scheduled, and satisfying meals —  into the overall addiction treatment plan, helping to improve treatment outcomes for those in rehab.

How Do Nutrition Plans Work?

Meet with a nutritionist to determine nutritional deficiencies

Nutrition plans work to incorporate necessary vitamins and nutrients into day-to-day diets. They can also provide healthy eating education. The process of incorporating this nutrition plans into an overall treatment program involves some simple steps:

  1. Meet with a supervising doctor to determine nutritional deficiencies
  2. Work with a nutritionist to determine needs
  3. Develop a nutritional plan
  4. Incorporate the plan into the treatment program

Meet With a Supervising Doctor to Determine Nutritional Deficiencies.

During the intake process, a supervising physician reviews the individual’s overall health and wellness, as well as the specific physical consequences from the effects of addiction. This includes measuring the individual’s weight and discussing eating habits. This can determine nutritional issues such as:

  • Weight gain from taking depressants or sedatives, such as opioid drugs like heroin, benzodiazepines, or alcohol.
  • Weight loss due to appetite suppression for those using prescription stimulants or other stimulant drugs, like cocaine.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies from poor eating habits or the body’s response to drug or alcohol misuse.
  • Co-occurring disorders that can impact dietary and eating habits (e.g., depression and anxiety)

As the doctor notes these issues, they are included in the overall analysis of the person’s individualized needs during treatment. This analysis can include treatment for co-occurring disorders which need to be managed in concert with the nutritional plan and addiction therapies provided during treatment. All of these elements are given to the nutritionist for consideration in developing the nutrition program for the individual.

Work With a Nutritionist to Determine Needs.

When the nutritionist receives the doctor’s notes, the information is analyzed to determine the specific nutritional needs for that individual. Potential areas of vitamin and mineral depletion are considered, as are the individual’s eating habits and other nutrient needs.

Additionally, the individual’s stress levels and other mental health considerations are taken into account. When the body goes through the extreme changes of transitioning from chronic drug use to abstinence and treatment, the body has to work hard to replenish neurotransmitters and heal the physical damage caused by drugs or alcohol. This can result in increased production of stress hormones like cortisol that deplete nutrients, including:

  • Vitamins A, E, C, and the B family of vitamins.
  • Minerals such as zinc.
  • Electrolytes like potassium and sodium.
  • Essential fatty acids.

A nutrition plan will take the impact of stress on the body’s nutritional health into account and provide meals that can replenish these nutrients, as well as developing meal plans that provide complex carbohydrates, protein, and fiber to normalize digestion, provide energy, and support healthy muscle.

Develop a Nutritional Plan.

Upon determining the individual’s nutritional needs, a specific nutritional plan can be developed. This involves planning meals and making sure the individual has an eating schedule that conforms to the treatment plan.

A main goal of a good nutrition program is to help the individual learn to eat for health rather than to fill emotional needs. Integrated with treatment, this can reinforce the ability to avoid responding to triggers and cravings for other substances.

Incorporate the Nutrition Plan Into the Treatment Program.

As described by Medline Plus, the kind of food provided is not the only aspect of the nutrition program. Meal planning is also provided to help the person manage eating habits, such as:

  • Limiting eating to scheduled meals.
  • Eating low-fat foods or foods with healthy fat.
  • Choosing healthy carbohydrates and eating enough fiber.
  • Avoiding substances that can slow normalization of brain function, such as sugar and caffeine.
  • Taking vitamin and mineral supplements, if needed.

When these elements of a nutrition program are integrated into the treatment plan, it can help reinforce some of the other ideas that are shared through therapy, including managing cravings, limiting exposure to triggers, and providing alternatives that support healthy, desirable behaviors.

Drug and Alcohol Rehab in Lafayette, NJ

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, we can help. At our inpatient rehab in New Jersey, we use addiction-focused healthcare and other evidence-based treatment to help individuals find meaningful relief from addiction and get on the road to recovery.

Contact our helpful and knowledgeable admissions navigators at to learn more about our different levels of care, starting the admissions process, and how to use your insurance to cover to treatment. They can also answer your questions about other ways to pay for rehab — and help make travel arrangements.

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