Detoxification occurs as the body withdraws from sustained consumption of an abused substance. As anyone who has ever gone through withdrawal will know, it can be a frightening, even agonizing experience. But the rewards of sobriety are worth the pain. During this difficult period, your body will begin to adjust to life beyond substance abuse. Vitamin and nutrient deficiencies are extremely common after any period of substance abuse. The negative effects of those deficiencies can vary, depending on the person and the deficiency in question, but it is certainly not a burden that you need to bear while detoxing. It’s critical to give your body what it needs to sustain itself and give you the energy you need to successfully make it through a detoxification program.
1) Water This may seem like it’s cheating, but however much water you’re drinking, it’s probably not enough. I know what you’re thinking: “wait…water’s not a food, it’s a beverage.” But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t matter because you’re probably not getting enough of it. Besides air (and I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you to detox somewhere with oxygen), water is the most important thing you’ll ever put into your body. Even people who aren’t detoxing typically aren’t getting enough of it. Water is the body’s natural catalyst to remove the toxins that people ingest and naturally excrete every single day. When detoxing from substance abuse, it is even more critical that you give your body all the tools it needs to cleanse itself. Between the uncontrolled sweating, diarrhea and vomiting that can accompany chemical withdrawal, your body may purge itself of fluids at a rate that may leave you struggling to keep up. Making it all the more important to try.
2) Fruits If you’re having trouble getting enough water into your system just by drinking it, fresh fruit can be an excellent source of healthy hydration. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and oranges are excellent sources of hydration. Vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, celery, and tomatoes. Many are excellent sources of dietary fiber and all are valuable sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Blend them into a smoothie or eat them as they come.
3) Spinach, Kale and other leafy greens Substance abuse often leaves each individual with chronic nutrient imbalances. Among other deficits, alcohol abuse often leads to vitamins A, B, C and calcium deficiencies all of which are found in leafy, green vegetables. Opioid abuse often leads to poor gut health which the natural fiber in green vegetables can help rebuild. Even more helpfully, the probiotic qualities of kelp and seaweed can improve the quantity and quality of your gut biome, helping you digest food more effectively at a time when you’ll appreciate it the most.
4) Whole grains The case for whole grains is straightforward. While simple carbohydrates found in processed foods should be avoided if possible, a diet rich in complex carbohydrates can help stabilize blood sugar and provide stable energy without the peaks and crashes that come from a diet built on consumption of simpler sugars. Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat, and oats are widely available and are flexible enough to be the headliner or supplement for any meal.
5) Avocado Besides being the headliner in your favorite guacamole, avocados are an important source of healthy fats that help reduce inflammation and help your body absorb the nutrients that you’ll need to enjoy the fruits of a stronger and healthier detoxed body. For those struggling with nausea, avocados also provide an important source of healthy calories to keep your body from starving while you detox. For vegetarians, it’s difficult (although not impossible) to find a single food with the global benefits of the humble avocado. For those with less restrictive diets, there are other options like…
6) Fatty fish Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, anchovies and sardines are all delicious, nutrient-dense sources of high-quality calories and the saturated fats that they share with avocados. But they are also an important source of essential nutrients like calcium, omega 3’s and, especially, vitamin D: an invaluable resource if you aren’t getting enough sunlight to sustain your body’s daily needs via the UV B rays in sunshine. Make sure to check the sodium content of your fish before you dig in. While chock-full of nutrients, packaged anchovies and sardines in particular can be salt traps, straining your kidneys and raising your blood pressure at a particularly vulnerable time for your body.
7) Seeds For vegetarians, vegans and those with issues digesting animal protein regularly, seeds are an excellent source of the Omega 3 acids that make fatty fish such a valuable nutrient resource. Walnuts, in particular, are packed with essential fatty acids. Almonds are rich in calcium and healthy fats. Along with the aforementioned seeds, sunflower, flax, hemp, chia and cashews are all dense sources of calories, perfect for those unable to consume large amounts of food due to indigestion and nausea.
8) Broth Particularly for those struggling with nausea. Bone, animal and vegetable broths can be an important source of micronutrients and stable calories. Especially for those in the initial stages of nutrition when most other foods may provoke gastric distress or some other negative reaction upon consumption, broths can often be your best friend: a simple, inoffensive food item perfect for soothing a stirred stomach. Broths can also provide supplementary sources of hydration, if necessary. Just like with packaged with, take care to avoid broths with excess sodium.
9) Eggs For vegetarians who may struggle with finding sources of protein, eggs are a great global source of your daily quota of amino acids. Eggs also provide a stable source of fats, vitamin D, B12, and selenium, an important nutrient for immune health. Above all, they’re a solid source of calories for those who are able to consume. Serve them scrambled, boiled or sunny-side up; it doesn’t matter, as long as you serve them with a smile.
10) Beans Particularly for vegetarians and vegans, beans can be vital sources of essential proteins and fats. Like all protein rich foods, beans help stabilize blood sugar levels, providing a crash free source of calories that can help balance you out during the daily highs and lows of detoxing.
Above all, treat your body well while detoxing. Getting sober is a gift that you give yourself. Eating well while detoxing is a gift that you give your body. Both of you need care. Both of you have been through a lot. Make sure that you get it.