Holistic Nutrition

What to Eat During Addiction Treatment

Holistic Nutrition

What to Eat During Addiction Treatment

Table of Contents

What Is Holistic Nutrition?

Holistic nutrition is an approach to eating that views food as more than simply the fuel that keeps your body going. Instead, holistic nutrition professionals believe food has emotional, social, and cultural connections to society and how you feel. They believe through following a diet that makes both you and your body feel good that you will gain greater enjoyment of life and feel physically better.1

Nutrition plays a large role in holistic services during drug or alcohol rehab. If nutrition is important to you, find an addiction treatment center that incorporates nutrition into the recovery process.

"If you give the brain the nutrients it needs to get past biochemical and genetic deficiencies, inefficiencies, and blockages, people treated for addiction have a better chance of staying sober."
William Billica, MD

Defining Holistic Nutrition

Holistic nutrition practitioners believe there is a mind-body connection to the foods you put in your body. They believe in emphasizing fresh and natural foods whenever possible so that a person can feel as energetic and healthy as possible.

According to the National Association of Nutrition Professionals, holistic nutrition is “that one’s health is an expression of the complex interplay between the physical and chemical, mental, and emotional, as well as the spiritual and environmental aspects of one’s life and being.” 2

Sometimes, holistic nutrition professionals will follow or teach a particular philosophy about food. Examples could include Ayurveda or Traditional Chinese medicine. Before you select a holistic nutritionist, you may want to ask them about their nutritional philosophy or what types of diets they may suggest.

Why is Nutrition Important for Healing?

Holistic nutrition professionals believe that when a person eats the foods that are right for them, they will experience healing in their body and mind. They believe that food not only satisfies a person’s physical need and hunger, but that it also helps a person feel safe, enhances their sense of belonging and self-esteem, and can make a person feel good because they know they are doing something beneficial for themselves.1

What Type of Medical Professional Creates a Holistic Nutrition Plan?

Some people consider holistic nutrition a form of complementary and alternative medicine. According to an article in the Journal of Evidence-Based and Integrative Medicine, an estimated 42% of Americans use some sort of alternative medicine in their daily lives.1

A variety of holistic nutrition professionals practice in the Ohio area and beyond. Some of the job titles you may see for a person practicing holistic nutrition include:

Holistic Nutritionist

Registered holistic nutritionist

Registered dietitian with an emphasis on holistic nutrition

These are just some of the job descriptions you may see. If you aren’t sure about a person’s credentials, the best thing to do is ask them. They can tell you about their training.

Nutrition Professional vs. Nutritionist

There are a variety of certifications and education levels for a holistic nutrition professional. While each person has something to offer in terms of nutritional counseling, it’s essential to consider a person’s educational background when choosing a nutrition professional.

Holistic Nutrition Professionals' Distinguishing Features

Holistic nutrition professionals take a whole-body approach to advise their clients about eating. In addition to traditional scientific guidance about eating a variety of nutrients, they will emphasize elements of holistic nutrition such as balance, moderation, planning meals with intention and thoughtfulness, and how to enjoy the meals that you eat.3

Holistic Nutrition Certification

A person with a holistic nutrition certification has completed at least a high school level of education. They then take classes either in-person or online related to topics such as integrative health, wellness coaching, and topics in holistic nutrition.3 Once they complete these courses, they can earn their holistic nutrition certification.

It’s important to note that a nutritionist or the nutritionist field isn’t a regulated profession. A person doesn’t have to have a specific set of training, complete a standardized test, or apply for a license to practice their nutritionist skills. This does not mean their education and consultation isn’t valuable, just that they don’t have a specific board that regulates their profession.

Registered Holistic Nutritionist

Unlike a nutritionist, a registered holistic nutrition professional does have a state or national board which they obtain certification from.4 They must complete a standardized set of classes and hold at least a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a related field. They will usually then participate in a supervised practice program for half a year to a full year.4 Places where they may complete the program include a hospital or other healthcare facility, food service corporation, or a community agency. They may abbreviate their credential as RDN.

Finding a Holistic Nutritionist

If you are considering seeing a holistic nutrition specialist, there are many in Ohio. To find a professional that may best suit your needs and time, you can visit websites like the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP.org). This is a professional organization where you can search its list of members to find a holistic nutrition professional near you.

What Services Does a Holistic Nutrition Practitioner Offer?

Holistic nutritional practitioners may offer a variety of services concerning nutritional counseling. Examples include the following:

Evaluating a person's current diet and lifestyle habits

Educating a person on healthy eating

Helping a person make grocery lists or engaging in meal planning

Helping a person identify ways they can manage stress

Creating meal plans directed at goals such as weight loss or maintaining energy levels

Teaching about the benefits of holistic nutrition

Advising on possible supplements or nutrients

Nutrition practitioners don’t do everything that a registered dietitian may when it comes to recommending nutrition plans. This may include diagnosing and treating diseases or recommend medical nutrition plans. Examples of medical nutrition would be when a person has a condition that relates to what they do or don’t eat. This could include when a person has anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

Standard Services

Holistic nutrition experts will typically offer education and counseling sessions. They will review your current diet and talk to you about how you feel about your eating habits, your body, and your goals for your health.

Sessions will often include different aspects of holistic nutrition. Examples may include talking to you about how to know when you want to eat and when your body feels full.1 Doing this is an alternative to closely counting calories.

A holistic nutrition professional will listen to the types of foods you like and don’t. They may make recommendations on new foods to try. They may help you identify meals you can eat or cook at home that can help you feel better. According to an article in the Journal of Evidence-Based and Integrative Medicine, holistic nutrition is about promoting a sense of “variety, pleasure, and balance” in your life.1

Therapeutic Services

If you choose to participate in holistic nutrition counseling or other services, you may notice that holistic practitioners take a different approach from traditional medicine when it comes to your care. According to an article in the Journal of Evidence-Based and Integrative Medicine, the following are some key differences in a traditional medical model compared to a holistic one:1

The medical model is:

Standardized treatment plans - if a person comes in with a certain disease, a doctor follows the same treatment plan for all

Focuses on curing the body using medicines and procedures

Doesn't usually focus on social, mental, or spiritual aspects

Focuses on suppressing or keeping symptoms at bay

Focuses on controlling behaviors to reduce the risks for disease and death

An integrative or holistic model is:

Individualized - a treatment plan should be centered around the specific person's information

Focused on promoting healing using substances and procedures

Considers that a person's social, mental, and spiritual aspects are critical to their health

Views symptoms as the results of underlying health issues that are to be addressed

Focuses on enhancing the quality of life

Both models have a place in helping a person live their healthiest life. They are just two examples of how different doctors and nutrition professionals may approach your care.

Holistic Nutrition Programs in Addiction Treatment

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association measured the effects of offering a clinical nutrition program to those who were in substance abuse treatment programs. At the study’s conclusion, the authors found that patients improved in their Addiction Severity Index score by 68%. They also experienced a 56% improvement in their medical domain scores, which a person may use to judge how they feel overall on a particular day or days.5

These findings led the study’s authors to conclude that nutritional counseling may help to promote sobriety and lessen the effects of addiction on a person’s overall sense of well-being. The authors recommended that more programs incorporate nutrition education into their substance abuse treatment programs.

What Does Holistic Nutrition Look Like in Drug and Alcohol Rehab?

When you are going through drug and alcohol rehab, your body is trying to adjust to a new normal. Sometimes, if you have abused alcohol, you may have nutritional deficiencies due to long-term substance abuse. Examples include deficiencies in B vitamins, protein, and zinc.1 A holistic nutrition professional can consider these for you.

Also, those who abuse stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamines, or Adderall may find these naturally suppress the appetite. The results can be nutrition deficiencies and unwanted weight loss.

Holistic nutritionists have linked nutritional deficiencies with symptoms that include depression, irritability, confusion, stomach upset, and apathy.1 These are all behaviors and symptoms that can affect a person’s recovery.

In rehab, holistic nutrition usually involves participating in individual counseling sessions or listening to presentations on holistic nutrition and how to rebuild your relationship with food. Working to make healthy choices for yourself through food can help you feel better overall.

Common Nutritional Recommendations During Rehab

Some of the program recommendations a holistic nutrition professional may have while a person is in rehabilitation or recovery include:

Eating natural, whole foods whenever possible to maximize nutrients in a person’s daily diet 

Choosing whole-grain foods that help keep a person from hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. Those who struggle with alcohol addiction are especially more likely to experience hypoglycemia7

Choosing fruits and vegetables, which are high in nutrients that can boost a person’s immune system and promote healing

Advising on how to limit foods that can put you at risk for mood swings and fatigue, such as sugary foods, processed foods, or those with less-healthy oils and high-fructose corn syrup

How Does Holistic Nutrition Assist Recovery?

Holistic nutritionists believe in a process called “biochemical repair.”6 Through eating a variety of healthy foods and, in some cases, using supplements, a holistic nutritionist believes food can be a component of healing a person’s brain and body.6

Research into food and recovery extends back to the 1940s and 1950s.7 One study from the University of Texas found that well-fed animals were less likely to choose alcohol than those who were deficient in nutrients.7 Another study in the 1980s found that 81% of people addicted to alcohol who were given nutrition education in their alcohol treatment program were sober six months after completing their treatment program compared with 38% who did not complete an education program and were sober after six months.

Interview with William Billica, MD

In an interview with Healthline.com, William Billica, MD, a physician at a drug and alcohol addiction center said: “If you give the brain the nutrients it needs to get past biochemical and genetic deficiencies, inefficiencies, and blockages, people treated for addiction have a better chance of staying sober.” 6

When a person suffers from addiction, they lose the ability to feel pleasure in everyday activities, including being with friends and family, and in eating something that tastes delicious. Instead, their brain and body become addicted to surges in neurotransmitters like dopamine that keep them coming back for more of a drug.

By emphasizing the enjoyment and thoughtfulness that comes with eating, holistic nutritionists can help those who struggle with addiction find new meaning in what they enjoy and how they take care of their bodies.

Final Thoughts

Holistic nutrition can help you address nutritional deficiencies in your body that you may experience due to substance abuse. Some people may participate in holistic nutrition programs as part of a rehabilitation program or choose individual counseling outside of a rehab program. Ideally, through the use of nutritional counseling, you can improve how you feel as well as your overall health.

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