Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery: the Benefits of Veganism

Veganism -- a diet rich in raw foods and completely free of animal products of any kind gives the body an opportunity to heal while promoting optimum health. While adopting a vegan diet requires a major lifestyle, it can be of great benefit to people in drug and alcohol treatment and rehab.

Veganism and Weight Gain during Recovery

The first few weeks and months in recovery are difficult times and emotional ups and downs are typical. It’s common for people to gain weight, possibly because of certain changes in metabolism. However, weight gain most often results when people turn to food as a way to deal with cravings for drugs and alcohol.

There’s little doubt that a vegan diet is of benefit for people who struggle with excess weight, including those who don’t have a problem with drugs or alcohol. One study at the University of California, for example, placed overweight participants on one of five specific eating plans – vegetarian (meat is excluded), semi-vegetarian (occasional meat and seafood), pesco-vegetarian (regular fish and seafoods), omnivorous (foods of both animal and plant origin), and vegan. The vegans lost the most weight when checked at two and six month intervals.

As an added benefit, a vegan diet also promotes clear, young-looking skin while decreasing risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes and some types of cancer.

Mood and Omega Fatty Acids

Nutritionists recommend that most people will benefit by increasing Omega-3 fatty acids while curbing their intake of Omega-6 fatty acids.

The typical American diet relies heavily on Omega-6 fatty acids, including foods such as vegetable oil, mayonnaise, salad dressing, candy, cookies and pasta, as well as French fries and other fast foods. Many nutritionists believe mood disorders during recovery from drugs and alcohol may be due, at least in part, to excess Omega-6 fatty acids

On the other hand, it appears that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids may actually have a positive impact on mood, with marked reduction in anxiety and depression. Such a diet would include leafy greens like kale and spinach, cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts, seeds like pumpkin, sunflower seeds and flax, and some oils, including olive oil and fish oil.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also good for the eyes, joints, heart and brain.

Switching to a Vegan Diet

Making a transition to a vegan diet usually isn’t done overnight, especially if your diet has been particularly unhealthy or if you have depended heavily on junky, nutrient-poor foods. Here are a few helpful tips to consider:

  • Enter the world of veganism gradually. Cut back on animal products as you add more raw fruits and vegetables. Be patient with yourself.
  • Learn all you can about veganism. Talk to people who have experience with a vegan lifestyle. Read books and articles on the subject.
  • Purchase a good vegan cookbook.
  • Read food labels and ingredient lists carefully. Watch for less-obvious animal-based products.
  • Take a vitamin B-12 supplement. If you’re concerned that you may be deficit in B-12, ask your doctor to take a simple blood test.
  • Take an iron supplement or include plenty of iron-rich foods such as dark, leafy greens, raisins, sunflower seeds and beans.
  • Include plenty of protein, which may be difficult if you’re accustomed to eating meat, cheese and eggs. Add protein-rich foods to your diet, such as quinoa, and beans or seitan (a product made from cooked wheat gluten.
  • Include foods naturally rich in calcium, such as almonds, figs, kale, bok choy, tofu and soy beans.
  • Avoid highly processed foods, which may leave you feeling hungry, tired and grumpy.

At Paracelsus, we very much take care of healthy nutrition and the link between diet, gut health and recovery. Many of our clients become experts in healthy eating and lifestyle and influence others within their friends and family circles.

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