Drug and alcohol addiction can take a toll on your body and mind. It can also affect how you live your life and deal with the people around you.

Seeking treatment and intervention to address this condition is already a major accomplishment, but it is only the start of the long road to recovery. It doesn’t stop even after you leave the safety of the rehab center.

Since substance abuse has a negative impact on both the body and mind, recovery also requires that you take the necessary steps to ensure you’re back in the pink of health. This essential supplement to rehab also may help to prevent a relapse.

Effects of Substance Abuse

Anyone recovering from substance abuse can convey just how destructive the condition is in the short term, but not many are aware of the negative effects of long-term substance abuse. Each substance being introduced into the body will have side effects because of its chemical ingredients. Before going into healing, it is useful to understand the health risks associated with drugs and alcohol.

Prescription Opioids

  • Short-term effects: Vomiting, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, bowel obstruction, trouble urinating, sweating, itching, headache, irregular heartbeat, and possible death.

  • Long-term effects: Kidney failure, liver failure, and hearing loss.


  • Short-term effects: Itching, the warm flushing of the skin, heavy feelings in the feet and hands, irregular heart rate, and dry mouth.

  • Long-term effects: Pneumonia, stomach cramps, heart disease, liver issues, and kidney problems.


  • Short-term effects: Irregular heartbeat, increased blood pressure, decreased appetite, and increased breathing.

  • Long-term effects: Intense itching leading to skin sores, severe dental problems, and insomnia.


  • Short-term effects: Slurred speech, vomiting, headache, lapses in memory, loss of consciousness

  • Long-term effects: Damage to the heart, liver, a weakened immune system, and increased risk of cancers of the throat, liver, esophagus, and breast.

Healing Through Nutrition

People with drug or alcohol addictions don’t care about much except getting their next fix, and that includes nutrition. They fail to eat healthy food—if they eat at all—and their bodies don’t properly absorb or process the vitamins and minerals from their food intake.

After detoxification, certain foods may more quickly heal your mind and body, ease cravings for drugs or alcohol, repair the physical damage, and improve your mood.


Consuming whey is a great way to reintroduce food and put the central nervous system at ease.

Eating can stress out the body during detoxification due to the damage to the central nervous system. During withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, the mere thought of food can trigger nausea.

Whey—often in the form of protein powder added to shakes—is very easy to consume and contains healing amino acids, such as L-glutamine and L-tryptophan, that may assist the body in nourishing and repairing the nervous system.

Pork and Beans

This classic Southern pairing provides essential vitamins that promote proper brain function and improved neurological health, including the important vitamin B1 or thiamine. People suffering from an addiction often are deficient in this vitamin, which can lead to brain damage.

A lean, six-ounce pork chop has 96% of the recommended daily value (DV) intake of vitamin B1, and a cup of beans has 29%. Unrefined foods with yeast also are a concentrated source of thiamine.

Other thiamine sources include:
  • A bagel, 47% DV

  • One-ounce of sunflower seeds, 35% DV

  • One-ounce of macadamia nut, 28% DV.


Another common nutritional lack among individuals with addiction is low levels of magnesium and potassium, which regulate nerves, muscles, heartbeat, and blood pressure. A deficiency of these minerals can lead to fatigue, confusion, muscle cramps, and weakness.

Banana is a rich source of magnesium (10% DV) and potassium (11% DV) and can give you a double dose of each.

You also could munch on a mix of kiwi, peaches, oranges, cantaloupes, and papayas. If you prefer savory, whip up a fresh salad containing spinach, avocados, and tomatoes.


The key to lasting recovery is controlling how you react to anxiety and stress. Fish has calming effects on the body and can help you become more mentally stable and resilient.

Omega-3 oils coming from mackerel, salmon, sardines, and herring are fatty acids that are proven to stabilize mood and ease feelings of depression and anxiety. Getting at least two servings of these each week is highly recommended. If consuming these types of fish is not feasible or you dislike their taste, there are many fish oil supplements on the market.


Sleep is a necessity to nourish the mind and body, but achieving a restful sleep can be challenging when undergoing detox. Consuming milk or any dairy products before bedtime may help you get your much-needed rest more easily.

These products have tryptophan, which aids in the production of melatonin, a sleep-aiding chemical, and calcium, which helps muscles and nerves to relax. A glass of milk, a cup of yogurt, or similar snacks, can prepare your body for sleep. If you add some carbohydrates—oats, rice cakes—the tryptophan can work better.


Abusing substances can be very damaging to the liver, which is necessary to process the nutrients from food. Eating greens— such as broccoli, arugula, kale, and cabbage—can help repair and cleanse the liver. Shallots and garlic also possess liver-detoxifying properties.


One reason that people recovering from addiction tend to crave the substances they’re quitting is because it makes their blood sugar levels go crazy. For a non-narcotic substitute, they often turn to sugary sweet snacks and drinks, which have their own drawbacks.

Potatoes can help curb this cycle because they are a source of fiber and complex carbohydrates that will help fend off those cravings.

If the craving is too strong, try fruit—whole, not juice, so as to delay the return of the craving—instead. Whole fruit’s fiber is more filling.


Water does wonders for the body. It helps flush out the body’s toxins and also helps the organs work more effectively. A liter a day (about four cups) is recommended.

Nutrition for the Mind

Healing the mind and body are of equal importance—ideally, both should improve at the same time—so it is important to also come up with mechanisms to repair your mental and physical health.

Getting Physical

Exercising stimulates the same wires in the brain that addictive substances affect—they don’t call it a “runner’s high” for nothing—so doing a physical activity is a great alternative to self-destructive substance abuse behavior.

The key is to start slowly so you’re more likely to stick with the new routine. Begin by walking daily. Ask somebody—a friend or a family member— to walk with you. Increase the distance gradually for better results.

In case you want a more intense workout session, get the help of a professional. A trainer—most gyms have one, or get a referral from your primary care physician—can customize a workout plan that caters to your likes, preferences, and needs.

Mental Exercises

People with addictions often experience memory gaps or find it difficult to retain new information. While the damage is not always reversible, you can boost the brain’s ability to learn with good nutrition and mental exercises.

Solving crossword puzzles, reading and writing are among the activities that can keep you mentally active and can help rejuvenate the brain. That helps to prevent Alzheimer’s or other dementia, too.

Engage in Yoga and Meditation

Recovery from addiction often involves crippling anxiety and depression. If these conditions aren’t addressed, they can get worse, leading to relapse and even death. One way to deal with them is through yoga and meditation.

While these are not only physical activities that can benefit people with addiction, during and after rehab, yoga and meditation are mental as well as physical disciplines. They may help improve a person’s overall well-being by teaching proper breathing techniques, the use of contemplation for relaxation, and mindfulness.

In recovery, patients are told to take one day at a time. Mindfulness takes it one moment at a time.

Most upscale rehab centers provide these and similar practices to supplement the patients’ quest for recovery.

There are many ways to heal following recovery from substance addiction. Though all of them require discipline and hard work, the results are definitely worth it. Most of them will help you become fitter and healthier than you’ve ever been, and maybe happier, too. Choose the one that you think will work for you. If it doesn’t, try another.



Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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