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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Toller

Nutrition and the Road to Addiction Recovery

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

The road to recovery can be a trying process but equally beautiful and worth it in so many ways. We learn who we are again, how to take care of ourselves and what our needs are mentally, emotionally, and physically.

There are many aspects that affect our overall health. As we recover and let go of harmful things, our body is doing the incredible work of restoring, repairing, and cleansing. While this process can take time and diligence there are many things, we can do to help support our body in recovery. Proper nutrition is one of them. Each person is biologically unique, and it will take time to figure out what works best for you.

When it comes to what we eat, there is not one way of eating that is best for everyone equally across the board. There are many factors that dictate what our unique needs are. What is most important is that we feel nourished, comforted, and fueled to make it through our day.

Our life experience shapes us and our health. All that we have been through, stressors, environments we’ve been subjected to, even the health of our mother and grandmother affects our health.

Not only does this mean what we consume is important to our overall health but what our body needs will be individual to us.

Honoring your unique needs and circumstances

Availability of certain resources may or may not be readily available to you. So, take into consideration your unique circumstances and do what you can, this will look different for everyone. There may be many factors that affect your ability to implement certain changes such as home life, living environment, relationships, and schedule. There is no need to add extra pressure, restrictions, or guilt, what is most important is that you feel your best and empowered when it comes to taking care of your body.

There are a wide variety of vital nutrients needed for our body & brain to properly function and these are easily depleted by stress, substances, even medications. The good news is, our body is so incredibly resilient, if we give it what it needs and create a suitable environment the repair process can begin.

What you can start doing today to support your body

Figuring out what foods work best for you will take a little trial and error but there are some things you can start doing right away, to begin supporting your recovery through nutrition and narrowing down what works best for you.

Water Intake

Water intake is incredibly important and with nearly 70% of our body made up of water it makes sense how vital it is. It is needed for elimination, digestion, and the detox process. Water intake amounts will differ from person to person, factors like activity level, medications, and underlying conditions must be taken into consideration.

Gut Health

The function of our detox organs along with the health of our skin, brain, immune system, and nervous system are connected to our gut. An imbalance in this area can contribute to health conditions as a large portion of serotonin is produced here. Not only that but we have millions of nerve cells lining our gut which communicate with our brain. Doing what we can to support gut health is important during recovery and throughout our life.

Learn if your medications can contribute to nutrient deficiencies

If medications are a part of your treatment plan, it’s helpful to know if they could possibly contribute to nutrient deficiencies. This knowledge will help you manage your nutrient needs.

Eating in a way that supports your body on an individual level

The best way for you to eat is in a way that honors your body and makes you feel good long term. Ignore the trends and narrow down what works best for you individually. Think about foods that you feel are best supporting your recovery effort.

Do you feel better when you limit or eliminate certain foods or food groups? Stay open and aware, this is how you will craft a method of food intake that honors your unique needs.

Focus on colorful foods, aim for veggies, and fruits every day. Nuts and seeds make excellent additions or small snacks. Protein from plant-based sources such as quinoa, beans and seeds or animal sources like lean red meats, eggs, poultry, and fish.

Based on the state of your digestive system, you may find that slightly cooked vegetables are easier to digest than raw, so if raw vegetables tend to cause some symptoms, try cooking, baking, or roasting them a little and see if this makes it easier on your system.

Be gentle and patient. Experiment and try new things. Alternate and use foods that are in season to make sure your body is getting a wide variety of nutrients.

Eat as close to nature as possible even if this means one “as close to nature” meal a week, just start! Release any guilt, pressure or restrictions connected to food.

Whatever it is you are eating enjoy it fully, give gratitude and grace. Visualize the food nourishing all parts of your body.

Specific Nutrients helpful in Recovery

There are many nutrients vital to overall health, these are just a few very important ones when it comes to recovery specifically. Your individual needs may differ, and it is highly recommended you seek out a professional guidance.

*Sources are examples not an exhaustive list*

B Vitamins

-Helpful to the nervous system, aids nerve and organ function, improves energy levels

-Found in Green vegetables, lentils, beets, animal sources, nuts & seeds

Vitamin C

-Powerful antioxidant, eases withdrawal symptoms and cravings, aids detoxification, strengthens immune system

-Found in citrus fruits and some vegetables


-Helpful when coping with stress, eases withdrawal symptoms, supports nervous system, relaxes muscles

-Found in dark leafy greens, sardines, nuts & seeds, salmon


-Helpful when coping with stress, eases withdrawal symptoms, supports nervous system, relaxes muscles

-Found in bananas, avocado, nuts & seeds, salmon, tuna, dark leafy greens

What about supplements?

Supplements can be extremely helpful in recovery. The best practice though, is to aim to get what you need from food first and supplement when necessary.

Exercise caution when adding supplements, always consult a health professional to make sure what you are including is a helpful quality product.

If there is an underlying issue with digestive function, you may have a hard time absorbing nutrients in the first place, so adding supplements could make little to no difference or put further strain on your system.

If you choose to supplement check in often with how you are feeling so you can weigh if a supplement is improving how you feel.

Certain situations will require supplementation when nursing the body back to health such as specific feelings surrounding food, accessibility issues or trouble consuming certain foods. Evaluate with your health care provider the best way to ensure you are getting the proper nutrients you need.

Nutrition as a supportive method in recovery

It can be overwhelming knowing where to start when you begin focusing on improving your overall health, especially in recovery, but it doesn’t have to be difficult, you can take this one-day, moment, hour, or meal at a time.

Allow yourself to zoom out often and look at the big picture.

To help you narrow down what foods may be best for you here is something easy you can do.

Without judgment or focus on calories, amounts or specific foods, Track your food intake and feelings for 5-7 days. This is to help you make connections between what you are eating and how it makes you feel. At the end of this tracking exercise look back and see what you were consuming when you felt your best.

No matter the reason why you are in the recovery process, support through nutrition can help in a large variety of ways not just physically.

As we navigate recovery, learning our bodies unique needs will help us be in better tune, as we age and navigate life ebbs and flows.

Thank you to our guest author, Sarah Steward of The Nutrition Steward


Sarah Steward of The Nutrition Steward is a Holistic Nutritionist and Holistic Health Practitioner who helps people learn their body's unique needs by providing tailored, personalized lifestyle and nutrition recommendations so they can manage their symptoms and live a full life. Sarah has had a lifelong interest in health and pursued a career in this field after witnessing how much falls through the cracks in healthcare through her own health struggles, and those of her loved ones. You can often find her researching, cooking, playing video games, organizing, hiking, listening to 80’s new wave, watching Star Wars or Hallmark movies. Sarah lives with her husband in a quiet rural space of the Carolinas. She is 11 years sober and takes everything one moment at a time.

Here’s how to connect with Sarah:

Instagram: @thenutritionsteward

Facebook: @charlotteholisticnutrition



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