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A balanced diet is essential for the body and the brain to function normally. Unfortunately, most Americans do not receive proper nutrition education, and have difficulty consistently eating a well-rounded diet of nutritious, whole foods. Now, imagine that you not only do not know the information, but you also struggle with a substance use disorder (SUD). Individuals who suffer from SUDs often dedicate their finances, energy and time to using. Substances can cloud the brain’s ability to make clear decisions and prioritize self-care, thus sweeping food and nutrition to the wayside. The lack of adequate nutrition and the effects of substances compound each other, leading to increased risk of malnutrition, depression, decreased immunity, muscle wasting, decreased cognitive function, altered digestion, altered hunger and fullness cueing, and severe organ damage.

In recent years, nutrition has been recognized as a key player in SUD treatment facilities. Many who enter into treatment do not only suffer from substance use, but they also have co-occurring conditions such as depression, anxiety and possibly disordered eating patterns. Depending on the severity of malnutrition, the re-nourishing process can be quite intensive and require specific meal plans, supplements and hydration. Once the individual is stabilized, the real process of healing begins.

During treatment, individuals are relearning how to conduct productive lives without the haze of substances. They are making new relationships, gaining introspective tools for mindfulness and most importantly getting out of their previous harmful environment. This makes treatment an ideal time to educate on nutrition and its importance in the long-term recovery process….