Before learning how to detox from alcohol, most people think only of removing the toxic substance from the body. However, an essential part of the detox process is feeding your body to replace lost nutrients. A healthy body makes it easier to avoid a relapse and will make a world of difference during your recovery.
What to Eat: The Foundations of a Healthy Detox Diet
Start with hydration
Alcohol is notorious for dehydrating the body, and many drug users do not feel the need to drink water while using. Your body needs hydration to function well. In addition to lots of water, try electrolyte-packed beverages such as Gatorade and coconut water as well, especially if you’ve been vomiting. If you’re able to make an investment, consider getting a juicer and plenty of fruits and vegetables to start getting vitamins back in your system while you hydrate.
Dark green, leafy vegetables
Vegetables like spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and other salad greens can provide vitamin B6, folic acid and beta-carotene. These are all nutrients that are often found to be deficient in alcoholics. And guess what? Collard greens are actually a better source of calcium than milk.
Protein from both animal and plant sources are broken down into amino acids that the body uses to repair cells. Animal sources of protein like tuna, turkey and chicken are also great sources of vitamin B6. Red meat, pork and poultry provide iron, and fish like salmon are great sources of both omega-3 fatty acids and calcium. You can also get plant proteins from lentils, tofu (soy), black beans and quinoa.
Bright fruits & veggies
Foods like papayas, bell peppers, strawberries, pineapple and oranges are all high in vitamin C and many other vitamins. Load up!
Your body needs complex carbohydrates, from rice to beans to bread to potatoes. These contain fiber to help with digestion and boost your energy. When buying bread, stick to whole grain. White bread won’t provide nearly the same benefits.
Milk isn’t just for calcium. Whole milk, cheese and butter are great sources of vitamin A, and yogurt provides both vitamin B2 and live cultures that can promote digestive health.
Do You Need Supplements?
Your doctor may prescribe or recommend specific dietary supplements during the detox and recovery processes to rapidly replace some of the lost nutrients. Be sure to stick with the exact recommended amounts, and if you’re attempting detox on your own, be careful. It is possible to take too much of a nutrient and cause further problems in your body. For example, alcoholism causes a deficiency in vitamin A, but replacing too much vitamin A in your system can actually cause fibrosis (scar tissue buildup) in the liver (Related: How to cleanse your liver from alcohol). Similarly, omega-3 has a host of beneficial properties, but too much can lead to blood thinning.
Establishing Healthy Habits for Recovery
Eating the right food is just the first step. When detoxing, it’s also important to:
You’re probably not going to be lifting weights or jogging, but do your best to get some fresh air every day. A simple walk will help you clear your head, and the endorphins may help with your withdrawal symptoms.
Don’t force food
You might feel nauseous during your detox. It’s important to eat what you can, but don’t force it and make yourself sick.
Stick to regular mealtimes
You may be used to eating sporadically, and changing that habit may take a little while. Focus on three healthy meals a day.
Know when it’s time to get professional help
It’s not usually a good idea to tackle addiction alone, but if you are detoxing on your own, have at least one close friend or family member present to help you prepare food and monitor your symptoms. Some substances, such as alcohol and benzodiazepines, can cause dangerous withdrawal symptoms that can lead to hallucinations and seizures.
If you have been using a substance for a long time, consider a medical detox program. In an accredited rehab facility, doctors will be able to help alleviate some of your withdrawal symptoms, prepare nutritious meals for you, and keep you safe.
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