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Nutrition matters in substance abuse recovery

University of Minnesota Extension’s opioid project team works alongside substance use disorder (SUD) recovery programs and supports community-led efforts to provide effective, person-centered care.

Recovery programs describe how folks can often struggle with engagement in treatment groups, therapies and recovery goals. Many understand how underperformance is no doubt tied to being under or malnourished.

Does diet matter? 

A heart shaped bowl filled with healthy foods like berries, broccoli, grains, tomatoes and asparagus.

Have you noticed how you feel if you miss a meal before an important meeting? How do you feel eating meals during stressful or uneasy times, or while on vacation and off a typical schedule? It can be hard to engage as you normally would, let alone with the additional realities of living with a SUD: potentially being without a safe place to live, having children removed from the home, or loss of independent transportation just to name a few.

Due to physical damage caused by SUD, supportive and healing nutrition therapy is one of the unique needs when people are in treatment and recovery. There is more attention to this in a clinical setting where nutrition care teams can consult and support one-on-one. However, there is also an opportunity to explore ways to fold nutrition support for self-care in other settings such as: sobriety/treatment court programs, sober living homes and outpatient programs.

The key role of health and nutrition

How can community members in recovery and public health professionals alike better understand the key role health and nutrition play in a more sustainable recovery for ourselves and our loved ones? Engagement and successful outcomes can improve when people have built awareness for their self-care and are better nourished. Research supports self-care via nutrition (along with social support, connection and sleep) as key in preventing emotional, then mental, then physical relapse (the eventual recurrence of use).

Learn more about aspects for nutrition and recovery as well as practical ways to include key nutrients in one’s diet.

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