Therapeutic Nutrition Program
“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it is connection”- Stephanie Shershow, Director of Therapeutic Nutrition Program
What is the Therapeutic Nutrition Program?
Knoxville Recovery Center’s Therapeutic Nutrition Program combines nutrition with holistic exercise. The nutritional aspect of this program incorporates meal planning and nutrition classes while the holistic component introduces clients to yoga, mindful meditation, and breathwork among other exercises.
Nutrition impacts our entire body’s ability to function properly, and notably impacts our brain. In recent years, more and more integrative models of care have popped up, which are embracing treatment through the lens of that person’s entire life—from trauma, to lifestyle choices, to diet, exercise, chronic health conditions, and so on. By embracing the gut-brain connection, we are better able to assist each individual in healing their whole selves—not just treating the symptoms they are challenged with.
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All meals provided while in treatment are carefully curated to ensure sustenance, comfort, and balance. Since substance abuse frequently leads to malnourishment, all meals are designed to provide necessary vitamins and macronutrients.
Why Therapeutic Nutrition Matters
Our diets and the foods we eat can have a massive impact on our mental health, so it is crucial to fill our plates and stomachs with nutrient-rich foods. The standard American diet (SAD), which is also sometimes referred to as the Western diet, is characterized by a high intake of red meat, processed foods, sweets, and fried foods. It is high in sugar and fat, and is highly processed overall. Studies have shown that when comparing the standard American diet to more “traditional” diets, such as the Mediterranean Diet—which is higher in fruits and vegetables and does not contain processed foods—the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower.
We can develop nutritional deficiencies when we lack the vital nutrients our body needs to function properly, and these nutritional deficiencies can affect both our physical and mental wellbeing. For example, magnesium deficiency can lead to irritability, anxiety, and sleep disorders, among other symptoms. Iron deficiency, which is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, can lead to symptoms of depression, as well as extreme fatigue, apathy, and poor concentration. Data suggests individuals deficient in Vitamin D may experience symptoms of depression as well. Other vitamins and minerals that play important roles in cognitive function include B vitamins and Omega-3 fatty acids.
It is crucial to establish a baseline of health founded on a nutritionally dense diet through therapeutic nutrition. Supplements may be able to fill in nutritional gaps, but diets high in sugar and processed foods can cause inflammation and disruption throughout the mind and body that cannot be masked or treated by a handful of supplements. A balanced diet through therapeutic nutrition is a key component of recovery from addiction and to support sustained mental wellbeing.
As a certified yoga instructor, Stephanie will instruct group yoga, breathwork, and meditation sessions, all of which were highly beneficial during her own personal recovery journey.
Benefits of Holistic Exercise
Holistic exercise, particularly when coupled with therapeutic nutrition, can have profound effects on a person’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Holistic exercises such as breathwork, yoga, and meditation are anchored by the practice of mindfulness, which has been proven to have a multitude of positive effects on the mind and body.
Benefits of holistic exercise include:
- Reduces stress
- Improves cognition
- Reduces anxiety
- Boosts energy levels
- Reduces chronic pain
- Improves mood
- Improves sleep
Despite being ancient traditions, much clinical research has been done in recent years on the benefits and impact of mindfulness and holistic exercise to treat a myriad of conditions, including substance abuse and addiction. In a study on the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) on substance abuse disorders, researchers included 24 studies from 2011 to 2014, to review current evidence on the therapeutic efficacy of MBIs for substance use and misuse (SUM.)
Their findings state:
Current evidence suggests that MBIs can reduce the consumption of several substances including alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines, marijuana, cigarettes, and opiates to a significantly greater extent than waitlist controls, non-specific educational support groups, and some specific control groups.
Holistic exercise also complements therapeutic nutrition in its ability to improve digestion. Stress can greatly impact our body’s ability to digest food properly, and is even linked to some of the most common gastrointestinal issues that plague many people each day, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Through stress-reducing practices like yoga, meditation, and mindful eating, which is the practice of reducing distractions and being full attentive to your food while eating, our gut, along with the rest of us, can maintain a more relaxed state, which allows for more normal digestive processes and assimilation.
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