The Impact of Nutrition on Recovery
Exercise increases the levels of mood-elevating neurotransmitters in the brain-such as endorphins, so that we feel better mentally as well as physically. This is crucial for the brain when the body is trying to combat anxiety or depression or re-stabilizing after alcohol and drug abuse.
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Exercise, like all things in recovery should be taken in moderation. In order for an exercise program to work, it needs to be both consistent and frequent. Make time to exercise at least four times a week, and give yourself at least an hour per session.
Increases the metabolic rate so that calories are burned more efficiently even when we are at rest.
Burns fat stores and builds up muscle tissue. Muscle cells are metabolically active and burn calories, whereas fat cells are inert.
Increases free fatty acids, which better enable the body to process and utilize dietary fats.
Decreases cholesterol and increases levels of (HDLs) the "good fats" associated with lower risk of heart disease.
Lowers blood pressure
Aerobic Exercises are those that cause the body to use large amounts of oxygen (and burn calories) and prompt the heart and pulse rate to rise through steady, constant movement.
Aerobic exercises tend to involve the large muscle groups, such as those of the legs and arms. They include: walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing, step training, cross country skiing, exercise machines, and sports such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, and soccer.
Anaerobic exercises develop muscular strength and flexibility and do not necessarily increase the pulse or heart rate.
Anaerobic exercises include: weight training and calisthenics.
Choose an activity you like
Choose your location
Use appropriate dress
Listen to your body's cues
Stick with it!
The essence of recovery is changing negative behaviors into positive ones. Good nutrition, relaxation, and exercise all play an important role in successful change. Learning to make healthy food choices is important to achieving a healthy life style.
When we are depressed, anxious, or using alcohol and/or drugs to cope with intense emotions, we often neglect our diet. We may experience diarrhea, constipation, or an inability to digest foods properly, along with a poor appetite. As a result, as part of recovery we have a special need for foods that are high in nutrients to rebuild damaged tissues, organs and regain appropriate functioning of various systems including the nervous and gastrointestinal systems.
When a person with an addiction is newly recovering we may struggle with craving to use alcohol and drugs. Research has shown that diet with the right types of high protein and high carbohydrate (the right carbs)-rich foods can make a difference.
Food affects mood. Along with amino acids, deficiency of nutrients like folic acid and the other B-complex vitamins also have a serious and negative impact. Sugar and caffeine can contribute to mood swings, so intake of both should be reduced during the early stages of recovery.
Alcohol and drug use prevents the body from properly processing two important amino acids, tyrosine and tryptophan. They are responsible for the production of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These compounds are neurotransmitters that are essential for emotional stability, mental clarity, and a general state of well-being. Decreased levels of these neurotransmitters negatively affect mood and behavior.
Tyrosine is a precursor to the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine---chemical messengersthat promote mental acuity and alertness. It is is one of the nonessential amino acids found in protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, and tofu.
Tryptophan is integral to the production of serotonin, which has a calming effect and is important for proper sleep. It is found in foods such as bananas, milk and sunflowers seeds, as well as turkey meat.
Nutritional studies recommend that people in recovery eat on "cruise control" throughout the day. This means eating small, frequent mini-meals to maintain energy levels and help moods stay even.
Suggestions for a Diet that Promotes Recovery:
Use the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid as a guide to prepare well-balanced meals.
Eat 3 snacks and 3 meals per day.
Drink decaffeinated coffee and green teas to decrease caffeine.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetable. 5 servings per day.
Eat foods made of whole grains-NO white bread, white potatoes or white rice
Eat more beans and grain products, limit the amount of red meat eaten, it is harder to digest.
Eliminate or keep to a minimum foods that contain sugar and caffeine.
Be aware of hidden sugar in cocoa, condiments, and over the counter medications
Be aware of caffeine in over the counter and prescribe medications.
Drink lots of water.
Composition of a Recovery-Friendly Diet
Sample Meal Suggestions:
Breakfast: oatmeal muffins, whole wheat pancakes, quiche, omelet, greek yogurt
Lunch: Sandwiches on whole wheat or pumpernickel bread, salads, soups
Dinner: Soups, chowders, brown rice and beans, chicken and vegetables, whole wheat or corn tortillas, whole wheat lasagna with vegetable
Dessert: Berries, greek yogurt, custard
Snacks: Celery or apple and peanut butter, carrots and hummus, nuts
A Note on Vitamins
Because long term absence of good nutrition or use of alcohol and drugs can deplete the body of vitamins and minerals, a multi-vitamin / mineral plus B supplements can be especially helpful.
Vitamins and dietary supplements should be taken with meals for optimum absorption.
"Recovery" is a process of change whereby individuals work to improve their own health and wellness and to live a meaningful life in a community of their choice while striving to achieve their full potential."
With this definition, recovery is not just referring to people who are working to abstain from alcohol and drugs. Those who are dealing with bouts of depression, anxiety, mental illness or trauma are also in recovery!
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