How Women Can Disrupt Recovery with Better Nutrition (and Why it Matters)

Treatment for addiction is not just about getting help to stop drinking or using drugs. Some people go to rehab for help with process addictions like gambling or eating disorders, but they may co-occur with mental health and other substance use. With this multitude of things to consider, it is no wonder women can feel overwhelmed by the realities of treatment. One of the best ways for women to disrupt the narrative around recovery is to think about nutrition as a necessity for healing. A well-balanced diet is often a big missing link to finding greater healing for the mind, body, and spirit.

Finding Nourishment

One of the keys to finding nourishment in recovery is to think more broadly about goals in rehab. Eating properly and getting enough sleep are two of the ways women can often care for themselves the most but it is put on the back burner to detox and therapeutic work. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to recovery, but to leave sleep and nutrition on the back burner is to deny a woman’s biology. Fruits and veggies are only part of the picture. With addiction, eating healthy will not do much good because substances strip a woman of nutrients. If she struggles with an addiction to food or has an eating disorder, she is likely not getting enough of what she needs. Getting nourishment is not just about eating well, it is about feeling good enough mentally by feeling satiated and healthy enough to participate in their recovery. 

Substance Abuse and Nutrition

An unhealthy diet is mainly malnutrition, or lack of nutrients, an effect of drinking and drug use. Substance abuse greatly increases the risk of malnutrition because of how the body is deprived of necessary nutrients. When women are using substances, they cannot separate feeling hungry from other emotional needs. While they may be concerned about their weight or how they look, this often takes a backseat to continued drug use in spite of consequences. This looks different for women with eating disorders, but with substance abuse, there are cues that can be missed because of the focus on using drugs first. Some of the ways substances can disrupt proper nutrition include:

  • Alcohol: deprives the body of thiamine, which can increase the risk of heart disease and heart failure
  • Opioids: slows digestion and metabolism so the body cannot process nutrients from food
  • Stimulants: stimulant use can lead to eating disorders because they go days without eating or sleeping and often starve, then binge eat 

Eating Disorders and Nutrition

Women who use alcohol or other drugs are more likely to struggle with eating disorders. About half of all people with eating disorders abuse alcohol or other drugs. When women do not get enough calories, their muscles break down, the heart does not work properly, and they can struggle with cardiovascular issues. Purging can create other issues that disrupt their body’s normal processes of digestion, often depriving the body of necessary nutrients. The brain is also disrupted by eating disorders. Being too full or too hungry can create sleep problems. The nervous system often responds to a lack of electrolytes with seizures and numbness. Hormone production slows down when this is going on and disrupts how the body feels overall. While getting proper treatment for co-occurring eating disorders and substance abuse, a woman can find a multi-pronged approach to healing in recovery with proper long-term care. 

Nutrition in Rehab

With a comprehensive approach, women are often able to create a good plan of attack for healing in recovery from addiction. When nutrition is introduced, women can learn how to nourish the brain and body properly while sober and clean. To refeed the person is remiss if women are not fed both resources and tools, along with nutritional information, to help them learn how to shop, cook, and eat properly. An assessment should be done on the intake to get a better picture of what a woman’s eating patterns are like when she was using drugs. With this assessment, a registered dietitian or nutritionist can meet with her to schedule time for evaluations on a deeper level that helps tailor a program for her during and after rehab. 

Nutrition therapy is not limited to making sure women eat the right food during treatment. It is also about teaching them the difference between knowing their body’s signals after ignoring them for so long. Learning to read their body’s signals properly, they can recognize when they are hungry, thirsty, tired, and notice their energy levels throughout the day. This can tell them a lot about how to eat and when to eat for proper health. Each woman will have unique challenges when it comes to shopping and cooking so a realistic plan is needed to support their challenges and needs after rehab. Meeting these needs is critical to support women’s health and recovery if they are going to find healing for the journey ahead.

Casa Capri is designed for women who are struggling with addiction to find hope and a purpose. A licensed nutritionist is available on-site to provide culinary classes and teach the women about how to shop, prepare, cook, and eat well for their optimal health. Every woman gets an individualized plan for their specific overall needs. If you are looking for community and connection in rehab, call Casa Capri today: 844-593-8020


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If you or a loved one has a substance addiction, please give us a call today at 949-535-4998. It’s time to heal your heart and find true happiness. Our admissions team is always available to talk and answer any questions you may have about our Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs at Casa Capri Recovery for women.