Nutritional Considerations for Substance Use Disorders

Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies

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Since substance use disorders can alter the absorption of our food and food choice, they often leave the body lacking in vitamins and minerals. This is why it is so important to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and eat the rainbow (see Plate Planning and Portions). 

It is important to correct any imbalances in vitamins and minerals to prevent other health issues. Click here to see a list of common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in substance use disorders and foods high in these nutrients.

Stomach and Digestive Issues

As stated in the introduction, substance use disorders can cause stomach problems and change the way food is digested.

Normally we all have good bacteria in our stomach that help us digest our food and maintain our health. When drugs and alcohol are abused these substances can kill or alter these bacteria causing problems.

It is common for substance use disorders to cause severe stomach discomfort as well as constipation. Among those with alcohol use disorders lactose intolerance or issues digesting milk products are very common.

If you are having digestive issues it is recommended that you seek out a medical professional to get specialized care.

To treat constipation through diet it is recommended that we eat plenty of fiber. Which is found in our whole grains, fruits, and vegetables (see plate planning and portions), and drink plenty of water.

Here are some helpful tips on how to increase fiber and water in your diet:

Fabulous Fiber

Why Water?


Inflammation is the bodies natural response to start healing itself, and it occurs for many reasons. If inflammation is left untreated for a long time it can be very harmful to our bodies, increasing the risk for diseases. It can be present in those with substance use disorders for several reasons. One being that the excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol caused damage to the body prompting it to try to heal. The other being that alcohol or drugs were turned to in an effort to alleviate chronic pain, which is impacted by inflammation.

How to fight inflammation with food; an anti-inflammatory diet.

One of the easiest anti-inflammatory diets is the Mediterranean Diet, illustrated below.

Luckily, an anti-inflammatory diet is basically a balanced diet (see plate planning and portions); with an added emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats, beans, nuts, seeds, and seafood.

This lifestyle says that we should be active every day, which can reduce inflammation and can aid in weight loss. Exercise is also a very good outlet for stress and frustration. Exercise is highly recommended in substance use disorder recovery.

As far as what we should eat this diet recommends that we eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and healthy fats such as olive oil daily. This is because all of these foods contain parts that help decrease inflammation in the body.

Seafood is also encouraged a few times a week as it contains healthy fats that can decrease inflammation.

Mik, yogurts, cheeses, and poultry are recommended to only be eaten once a day or a few times a week, and meats and sweets are recommended a few times a month as these foods can promote inflammation in the body.

For tips on staying away from sweets and other pro-inflammatory foods, look back at sugar, salt, and fats.

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