How Nutrition Can Aid in Addiction Relapse Prevention

Updated on 2/3/2023

Content reviewed by Karen Rubenstein, LMFT, Chief Clinical Officer at Cliffside Malibu

Achieving and maintaining sobriety from alcohol and other drugs is about more than simply avoiding substances. Individuals seeking lifelong recovery must be aware of multiple strategies that help them prioritize their sobriety without succumbing to cravings and relapsing. Such strategies can be used as relapse prevention techniques.

At first thought, many people consider the most useful relapse prevention strategies to be learning how to manage substance use triggers and withdrawal symptoms or instilling positive coping mechanisms into one’s life. While these strategies are incredibly important, there are other relapse prevention strategies that many may underestimate the importance of, although they are just as effective a part of sustaining sobriety and recovery. One of these strategies is nutrition.

What is nutrition in addiction recovery?

Nutrition is an umbrella term for the process of obtaining and consuming food for wellness, nourishment and growth. Nutrition plays a vital role in health and development. Eating a healthy has several benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Keeping organs healthy
  • Supporting muscles
  • Boosting immunity to illness and disease
  • Strengthening bones
  • Lowering risks of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer
  • Supporting healthy pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Supporting healthy growth and development
  • Helping the digestive system function properly

Nutrition and relapse prevention in addiction recovery

When an individual is actively using alcohol and other drugs, proper nutrition is often far from their minds. This is because the chemical mechanisms of addiction cause an individual to prioritize substance use and achieve the associated desired high at all costs. More often than not, individuals struggling with addiction lack the proper nutrition necessary for survival.

While eating healthy can positively influence well-being in general, doing so may also make the detoxification and treatment processes easier, both physically and mentally. There is no easy way to begin the recovery process from substance use; however, prioritizing nutrition can reduce the intensity of substance use cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, nutrition can act as a protective factor against stress, which can also prevent physical relapse. ​

Maintaining good nutrition does not come easy for most people. This is especially true for people who are constantly on the go or picky eaters. Still, nutrition does not have to be a chore. During recovery, meal planning can serve as an exciting new way to stay busy and help integrate healthy eating habits into one’s new recovery lifestyle. Good nutrition can help individuals in recovery focus on something that actively betters their health and well-being, rather than just sitting back and waiting for improvement during recovery.

What does it mean to eat well in addiction recovery?

Though it may be common knowledge that eating healthy is important for our health and well-being, many people do not know how to implement good nutritional habits. In general, eating healthy involves balanced nutrition that includes a wide variety of foods and drinks.

Cliffside Malibu is an addiction treatment center that understands the value of nutrition in one’s treatment and recovery process. We create individualized treatment plans for all of our patients and incorporate healthy eating as a relapse prevention strategy. To learn more about our treatment programs, call (855) 403-5641.