Most people believe that vitamins and supplements can be very helpful in supporting our health. A survey by the Council for Responsible Nutrition found that 84% of Americans feel confident that dietary supplements are safe and effective. According to that same survey, as many as 68% of Americans actually consume supplements daily or occasionally as part of their health regimen. Although opponents believe we can and do get plenty of the nutrients our bodies need through the foods we eat, even they admit that there is really no harm in taking additional supplementary vitamins and minerals in liquid, pill, or powder form, as long as we adhere to suggested dosages. Based on our individual eating habits, it’s certainly possible that we may be lacking in certain areas, so why not take a multivitamin daily?
Some research suggests that individuals who are working on their recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol may even be able to benefit from dietary supplements more than others. Doctors nearly universally agree that nursing and pregnant others need more folic acid than they can get from food to meet their specific needs, and that adolescent girls can benefit from additional iron. Doctors may recommend Vitamin D for children and teens to help support their bone development, and vegans often take B12 supplements to make up for the B vitamins they are missing due to lack of meat in their diets. Since addicts and recovering addicts have done damage to their natural body systems, then it’s no surprise that they can benefit from dietary supplements then as well. Alcoholics likely lack Vitamin B1 and thiamine, and have difficulty absorbing Vitamins A, D, and E. Drug addicts and abusers will likely be deficient in several B vitamins as well as in Vitamins C and E, and may be short of magnesium, calcium, and niacin as well. Opiate addicts in particular often present with depleted levels of Vitamin C. All of these deficiencies can be detrimental to the individual’s overall health, and many doctors and treatment facilities will aggressively work towards getting these levels back to normal as quickly as possible.
General Benefits of Vitamins & Supplements
Keeping levels of vitamins and minerals at measurable and recommended concentrations in the body is important for proper organ function. Some of the most popular supplements that people take include fish oil, which promotes heart health, Vitamin B12, which helps keep nerve and blood cells health, and calcium, which supports bone health. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, which many people take to help prevent cell damage or to help maintain their overall health. In order to get the recommended dosage of all of the above, many people choose to take a daily multivitamin. Herbal supplements are also becoming more popular; although more research is needed to test the clinical effectiveness of these substances, anecdotal evidence suggests that glucosamine can help with joint pain, Echinacea can aid in keeping the immune system strong, and flaxseed can assist with digestion.
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulate supplements, but the FDA considers them foods, not drugs. Although the label may claim certain health benefits, they cannot claim to cure, treat, or prevent any diseases. People may use supplements to maintain or improve their health, hut it is important that they do not consider them a medicine. Supplements simply do not work that way. Furthermore, it is important that users do not try to take them in large quantities, nor look at them as a short-term solution to their problems. Dietary supplements are intended to be taken regularly over a long period of time to help raise the levels of these substances in one’s system, rather than to be used as an immediate cure for a particular ailment. If dietary supplements are taken in too high of a dose, they can be toxic, so it is important to follow the instructions on the label.
The symptoms of nutrient deficiencies are numerous and varied. Although there are a vast number of indicators that you may be lacking in vitamins and minerals, the only way you can truly know that you are deficient is through a blood test from a doctor. However, if you are experiencing several of the following indicators, you may want to visit a doctor to see if lack of vitamins or minerals is the cause of your problem.
- Tooth decay
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Bone loss
- Muscle loss
- Dry skin
- Memory Loss
- Digestive issues
- Breathing problems
- Liver problems
- Heart problems
As mentioned above, many individuals that are in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction experience nutrient deficiencies, and addiction doctors and medical support staff recognize this and act swiftly to help the recovering individual to return to normal and healthy levels. Alcoholics may lack Vitamin B1 or thiamine; both of these substances are needed for brain and nervous system function, as well as the flow of electrolytes within the body. Further, poor absorption of Vitamins A, D, and E in recovering alcoholics can lead to liver damage, and low levels of calcium in the bones. Recovering drug abusers may be low on Vitamins B1, B5, B6, C, and E, all of which, along with calcium, magnesium, and niacin, are needed for proper bodily function in general. Many recovery centers prescribe high doses of these vitamins and minerals to not only get the user back to normal levels, but to also aid in the repair of altered neurotransmitter function that is associated with substance abuse.
Great Supplements for Individuals in Recovery
If you are working on your recovery, and would like to begin a dietary supplement regimen, talk to your doctor first. However, he or she may suggest some of the following supplement to help get you back on track.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids– Omega 3 Fatty Acids are essential fats the body cannot produce itself. They are found primarily in fish and are necessary for the normal electrical functioning of your brain and nervous system. Many people take fish oil as a supplement but some doctors specifically recommend krill oil due to the high concentration of Omega 3 Fatty Acids in krill. This supplement also helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms.
- Vitamin D– This vitamin is mostly received through our exposure to the sun, but supplements may be necessary as well.Chronic Vitamin D deficiency is common in drug users and can be helpful to recovering methamphetamine addicts, opiate addicts, and alcoholics. Additional Vitamin D can be consumed orally or through use of a Vitamin D lamp.
- Vitamin C– Levels of Vitamin C are significantly lower in drug addicts, but conversely, high doses of Vitamin C have been shown to increase endorphin levels and decrease withdrawal symptoms. It also helps to reduce stress and anxiety and decrease the severity of depression. Foods that contain Vitamin C include green peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
- B Vitamins– In addition to through supplements, B Vitamins can be found in dark green vegetables, liver, beets, and lentils. Enough B Vitamins can help to reduce cravings during early recovery, and can help to improve health in your brain and your mental health, too.
- Magnesium– Magnesium is naturally found in dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, avocados, bananas, wild salmon, and tuna, but oftentimes recovering drug addicts have difficulty getting their magnesium levels back to normal through food alone. This mineral is vital and participates in over 300 biochemcal reactions in our body, and has a huge effect on our mood and brain function.
- Zinc– Alcohol can deplete zinc levels in the body, and that can lead to increased anxiety. Outside of supplements, it can be found in oysters, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, mushrooms, and spinach. Having recommended levels of zinc in the blood is important for optimal mental health.
It’s important to learn about various vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements and to discover the ways that they can help you. It’s important for all people to keep the levels of these substances at recommended amounts within our bodies for optimal functioning, but its especially important that people in recovery be hyper aware of the purposes and functions of each of these substances in order to stay healthy and on the right track onward and into the future.
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