One crucial component of recovering from addiction is to eliminate toxins from your body and enable its natural healing processes. It’s not always enough to simply stop abusing drugs or alcohol: the body has to be restored with proper hydration, nutrition, immunity, pH balance, regular exercise, and good sleep hygiene.
Medical detoxification isn’t always necessary for some people. However, it may be mandatory if your substance abuse:
- Lasted for an extended period of time or was particularly intense
- Compromised existing co-occurring mental or physical conditions
- Involved daily use to help you function
- Involved multiple substances
- Reoccurred after a period of prior rehabilitation
This first step toward wellness is nothing to fear. Detoxification administered and supervised by certified medical personnel helps purge your system of harmful chemicals. This release will also enable your brain begin the process of relaying proper signals instead of those caused by the false stimuli of drugs or alcohol, thus improving cognitive function and behaviors.
Substance abuse often results in damage to your nervous system; vital organs such as the liver, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, and heart; metabolic and digestive processes; and cellular structure. Without a proper physical detox, it may be harder to help your body return to its normal regulatory ability and natural cleansing processes.
Does detoxification make you uncomfortable for a while? Sometimes, but only for a few days up to a couple of weeks. There are many variables that contribute to how you may differ in the procedure compared to someone else, but an evaluation by a clinical care team assesses your need and how the process should go. Under no circumstances should you attempt to detoxify your body after substance abuse without guided medical supervision.
If your addiction was quite severe, such as involving excessive use of narcotics or alcohol, your initial detoxification may be part of a series of components your care team will use to help you on the road to recovery. You may require additional medical intervention to re-calibrate your system at various intervals to make sure you’re returning to an effective position of physical wellness, especially if you have other major health concerns caused or exacerbated by substance disorder. This may mean you’ll have more difficulty handling cravings or have an acute awareness of physical pains and other chronic health symptoms than you did before, but only for a short time.
Proper Nutrition and Hydration
We’ve written a number of articles about the necessity of proper nutrition in recovery in our blog, including:
- Using Good Nutrition to Support Your Recovery
- Why Substance Abuse Affects Nutrition
- Adapting to a Healthy Diet During Recovery
Scientific research supports wellness through a whole foods diet for everyone, not just people coming out of addiction. However, your body and mind need additional vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients to recover from the harm caused by addiction. This boosts your immune system and provides greater wellness.
Whole foods nutrition also helps the body reduce the acidity caused by substance abuse. A low pH level due to fatty foods, artificial sweeteners and sugary substances, and processed meals, as well as drugs and alcohol, leaches vital compounds from muscles and bones while the overall physical system breaks down. This prompts excessive mood disorders and a greater risk for chronic diseases and pain. A more alkaline system, or a higher pH level, is supported by lean protein choices, leafy greens and other vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates.
Cottonwood Tucson has behavioral health dieticians who work directly with patients to develop individual healthy eating plans. Our experts believe a moderated whole foods diet helps people:
- Regulate moods
- Have ample energy
- Improve concentration
- Deal with cravings more efficiently to avoid relapse
We have a comprehensive approach to nutrition designed to make it easier to feel healthier more quickly.
Hydration is another important factor for creating balance in the body. Every organ, tissue, and cell needs water to function properly. Your entire system uses water to eliminate waste, maintain temperature, and keep joints mobile. It’s not always necessary to drink the often-touted eight glasses a day, as everyone is a little different. But most people need four-to-eight glasses a day, usually about eight ounces each.
It’s best to drink non-caffeinated, non-sweetened water when you first feel thirsty. However, you should also drink a few ounces before, during, and especially after a workout.
How can you tell if you’re not having enough water? The first indicator is your urine. If you only visit the bathroom once or twice all day, and eliminate very little, that’s a sure sign you’re dehydrated. Also look at the color: the darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you are. Some people also experience symptoms of dehydration such as confusion, headaches, dizziness, or fatigue.
Regular Exercise and Good Sleep
These two wellness efforts often go together, because someone who exercises even three times a week develops better sleep hygiene, or healthy sleep habits.
In fact, the National Sleep Foundation indicates that a whole foods diet and as little as 10 minutes of some type of cardio exercise daily can “drastically improve sleep quality.” Since many people in recovery frequently have trouble with insomnia in their first year, it might be good to create an exercise and sleep plan, and see how the two affect each other.
You don’t have to become an Ironman triathlete—unless you find Todd Crandall’s recovery story particularly inspiring—but you should dedicate 30 minutes a day to walk, jog, swim, strength train, play basketball, do yoga, garden, bicycle, or play Frisbee—whatever makes you happy to be moving. Keep a record of your activities and your sleep patterns for six weeks, and see what changes.
Cottonwood’s Holistic Adult Program
Our experts can help you find new ways to recover from substance abuse through a variety of holistic approaches designed to treat your entire being. See what we can do for you.
By Tracey L. Kelley