Food marketing is a part of our everyday lives, whether we actively think about it or not. When you’re at the grocery store, colorful packaging of chips and ice cream catch your eye. When you’re watching TV, fast food brand commercials show happy people eating their products. But food in friendly packaging and from welcoming brands can’t be that bad, right?
French fries, cookies and sugary drinks taste delicious, yes. But they aren’t the best foods for someone in addiction recovery to eat. They also aren’t going to do much for your immune health, which is needed to aid your recovery and protect you from diseases like the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In this post, we’ll explain how addiction has affected your immune system and introduce 9 immune boosting foods you should include in your pro-recovery diet.
How Addiction Affects Your Immune Health
Your immune system is like your body’s own personal bodyguard that works around the clock to protect you from viruses and bacteria, neutralize harmful substances in the body and fight off illnesses and diseases.
Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs can keep your immune system from carrying out these responsibilities. This is because substance abuse takes a significant toll on your body and brain. Alcoholism and other drug addictions leave you dehydrated and fatigued, and become the focus of your diet instead of healthy foods. These side effects of substance abuse ultimately weaken your immune system.
If we examine a few key substances, here’s how they affect your immune health:
Alcohol: Long-term alcoholism can disrupt the digestive system, which is responsible for breaking down the healthy foods you eat. Alcohol abuse can also harm the liver, the organ responsible for storing vitamins your immune system needs to stay strong and healthy.
Opioids: Painkillers like morphine weaken the immune system directly by suppressing three different types of white blood cells your immune system needs. Heroin damages the digestive system similarly to alcohol, triggering a lack of healthy nutrition needed for immune health.
Cocaine: This drug disrupts a protein within the immune system that’s needed to keep you healthy. When this protein doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to, you’re susceptible to more illnesses, diseases and infections.
Add These 9 Immune System Booster Foods to Your Recovery Diet
Fortunately, you can reverse the damage done to your immune system by eating a heathy and balanced diet. In addiction treatment and recovery, incorporate these 9 immune boosting foods to your diet to help your body and mind heal after substance abuse:
1. Almonds and Seeds: Almonds and seeds such as sunflower seeds contain vitamins C and E. These vitamins are crucial to your immune health as you recover from addiction. If you don’t like eating them plain, almonds and seeds are great to add to Greek yogurt and smoothies.
2. Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A. This vitamin helps the immune system develop white blood cells needed to fight off bacteria and viruses to keep you healthy and going strong day in and day out.
3. Kale or Spinach: Leafy greens like kale and spinach are high in anti-inflammatory antioxidants, vitamins A and C, and other elements that are beneficial for immune cells in the gut. These foods are great to include in smoothies or as additions to soups and sauces.
4. Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves aren’t just good for flavoring recipes. In fact, garlic can actually improve immune cell function and give your immune health a much-needed boost as you recover from substance abuse.
5. Baked Beans: Baked beans are a great source of zinc, another element that’s needed to keep your immune system up. If your body has low zinc levels, your immune system can’t function as well as it should. Baked beans are also a valuable source of protein if you don’t eat poultry.
6. Blueberries: Blueberries are both delicious and high in antioxidants that your body needs to protect itself from seasonal colds and other illnesses. Add blueberries to fruit salads, eat them separately or mix them into smoothies to keep your immune system strong.
7. Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is healthier than traditional yogurt because it contains less sugar and is higher in protein. This type of yogurt is rich in probiotics that immune cells in your gut need to protect you from germs and bacteria. If you don’t like plain yogurt, try mixing in berries, almonds or seeds for additional flavor.
8. Salmon: Wild salmon is another food that is high in zinc. This action-packed, immune boosting food can help ward off colds and ease the symptoms and duration of illnesses if you do get sick.
9. Whole Grain Bread: Similar to spinach and kale, whole grain bread contains anti-inflammatory antioxidants that are crucial for your gut’s immune cells. Whole grain bread increases the production of healthy bacteria that your gut needs to ward of germs and illnesses.
Get Your Immune Health Back on Track at The Raleigh House
At The Raleigh House, nutrition plays a major role in our approach to addiction treatment and recovery. Healthy foods can have incredible healing powers for the body and mind after substance abuse, so we make sure all our clients follow a pro-recovery diet during treatment and learn how to maintain it once they’re in recovery.