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Nutrition Counseling and Addiction Treatment

Written by Renee Deveney

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Dash, PHD

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Last Updated - 01/04/2022

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Updated 01/04/2022

Key Takeaways

  • There is evidence that a good quality diet can help improve symptoms of depression, and may have the potential to help other mental health conditions
  • A healthy diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meat, nuts, and legumes can support the brain and mental health
  • Proper nutrition can reduce some of the risks and symptoms during detox or withdrawal
  • Nutrition counseling during rehab can provide education and skills for a long-term healthy diet

Nutrition is important to both the body and brain, and eating well can support your recovery from addiction. Learn how diet relates to mental health and addiction.

Food and nutrition play a big role in our health and how we feel on a daily basis. Eating well can help with energy levels and overall health and reduce the risk of future diseases. When it comes to recovering from an addiction, good nutrition can be an important part of a comprehensive treatment strategy.

Diet and nutrition counseling as part of mental health or drug rehab treatment can help to address existing deficiencies and encourage skills and habits that support long-term health. While many people recognize the connection between nutrition and mental health, diet is also important to brain health.

Diet can have an impact on how we feel. It’s an aspect of recovery that is within our control. Learning about nutrition (Also See: What Foods to Eat During a Drug or Alcohol Detox) and mental health can support recovery for mental disorders and addiction.

Nutrition Counseling & Mental Health

While the connection between diet and physical health is well known, the ways that nutrition can affect mental health are less commonly discussed. Recently, research has demonstrated that improving diet is an effective treatment strategy for depression. In general, following a healthy and balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet can support the health of the brain and also improve mood.

Foods to include in your diet to support mental health include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Moderate amounts of dairy or lean meats
  • Healthy fats like avocado, nuts and olive oil

While more research is required on diet and mental health conditions and addiction, eating well can help address some of the physical symptoms that can make rehab challenging. As part of mental health or addiction treatment, nutrition counseling can help promote both physical and mental recovery.

Nutrition Counseling & Substance Abuse

Nutrition advice and counseling are often included in recovery programs for substance abuse. This is because malnutrition is common in individuals who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse. Addiction can disrupt normal eating patterns, and can also prevent the body from absorbing the nutrients it needs.

Nutrition Counseling During Withdrawal & Detox

Detox and withdrawal are the processes of a drug or alcohol leaving the system. Some of the symptoms of detox and withdrawal can be worsened by poor nutrition or hydration. Eating healthy, whole foods and staying hydrated (and in some cases, ensuring electrolyte balance) can help support a safe and comfortable withdrawal process. Proper nutrition can provide energy and nutrients to support bodily functions during detox.

Nutrition Counseling During Treatment

After detox and withdrawal, drug and alcohol addiction patients may attend an inpatient or outpatient treatment program. Nutrition is an important part of rehab, as regular and balanced eating patterns are often disrupted during addiction.

Nutrition counseling can help address nutrient deficiencies and provide education and skills that encourage a healthy diet during recovery and beyond. Eating balanced and regular meals can help keep the body and mind well and can also help heal some of the damage related to substance abuse.

A healthy diet can also be viewed as self-care and can be a great way to prioritize taking care of yourself and maintaining health and balance in sobriety.

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View Sources

Jacka, Felice N; et al. “A randomised controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial).” BMC medicine,  2017. Accessed September 12, 2019.

Miller, Rebecca Place. “Nutrition in Addiction Recovery.” May 2019. Accessed September 12, 2019.

Kaiser, Susan K. et al. “Nutritional Links to Substance Abuse Recovery.” Journal of Addictions Nursing, 2008.  Accessed September 12, 2019.