Famished: Including Good Nutrition in Your Recovery

By February 26, 2020 Stepworks Connect
good nutrition

Substance use disorders can have long-lasting emotional, mental, and physical side effects. Many of these side effects are very well known, but the lesser-known lack of good nutrition is one we tackle daily in our treatment programs at Stepworks. Regular consumption of alcohol or other drugs deprives the body of essential nutrients, while many other drugs suppress or increase appetite, wreaking havoc on the overall digestive health of people suffering from addiction. Meth users may go days without eating. Marijuana smokers are notorious for binge-eating junk foods.

When our clients come to us, they don’t feel of worth or value. They simply don’t know how to take care of themselves.

– Melissa Banton, Stepworks Nurse

Most people don’t think about diet and exercise when they enter treatment for addiction. They think of detox, group therapy, or medication-assisted treatment. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and getting exercise is rarely mentioned. Good nutrition and exercise are imperative for good health. They help ward off illness and disease and keep your body and brain active and engaged—and less vulnerable to the many factors for relapse.

How do addictive substances prevent good nutrition and digestive health?


– may make you physically sick, oftentimes resulting in gastrointestinal difficulties, such as vomiting and diarrhea


(includes heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers)

– can cause gastrointestinal difficulties, such as constipation


(includes cocaine, crack, and methamphetamine)

– may suppress your appetite and cause a significant amount of weight loss and malnutrition


– may cause increased appetite and overeating, which can lead to weight gain. Oftentimes, the foods that these individuals eat are high in fat and sugars

Why is exercise important for your recovery in addition to good nutrition?

Brain Chemistry

Exercise positively impacts your brain chemistry. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that create a natural feeling of reward. Exercising can help retrain your brain’s reward system to function normally after years of addiction.

Stress Release

Exercise relieves and reduces stress. Exercise has been shown to alleviate both physical and psychological stress that could otherwise lead to destructive behaviors.


Exercise improves your attitude. Those who exercise regularly report increased feelings of self-confidence and optimism and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.

At Stepworks we only get to interact with our clients for a brief period of time, and we want to use every moment we can to strengthen their confidence in caring for themselves after they leave our facility. We work in conjunction with a dietician to provide healthy, well-balanced meals that give our patients the energy they need to work towards their recovery goals. But the plan doesn’t stop there. We reinforce better care for the body through good nutrition and exercise everyday at our facilities.

If you need help getting on the path of recovery, or if you want to help a family member find treatment options, give us a call today: 800-545-9031