The Link Between Substance Abuse and Malnutrition

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Nutrition: What’s the Big Deal?

On a very basic level, without proper nutrition the human body just doesn’t function well, if at all. People need to eat well and diversely, exercise regularly, and sleep peacefully every night in order for their bodies to work optimally, repair themselves, and fight off sickness.

If the body does not receive a wide array of nutrients on a regular basis, those very basic processes that most people don’t even think about (because of how automatic they have become: breathing, going to the bathroom, digesting food, basic movement, responding to stimuli) wouldn’t be possible.

So it’s quite simple: good nutrition and physical activity are essential in preventing premature death and an infinite number of diseases, while at the same time enhancing the quality of life that people experience.

So what happens when a person is malnourished?


Not getting enough nutrients–results in the opposite scenario: poor health and quality of life. The state of malnutrition can take any of the following forms:

  • Undernutrition
    This happens when someone is too thin for their height or bone density, when someone is too short for their age, or when someone is too light for their age.
  • Lack of vitamins
    Although anyone can lack any vitamin due to whatever reason, a lack of vitamin A seems to do the most damage to the human body.
  • Lack of minerals
    A lack of certain minerals in the diet is always a possibility and can be dangerous, but the gravest instances of low minerals usually result when someone is missing a lot of iron or iodine.
  • Being overweight or obese
    When someone exceeds the weight range generally assigned to their age-group, they are considered overweight. People who are excessively overweight are considered obese. Surpassing healthy weight ranges usually happens when a person consumes too much energy in the form of food and doesn’t burn enough of it away to maintain a steady weight. Eating calorie dense and/or highly fatty foods is conducive to obesity.
  • The presence of diet-linked disease
    Diet-linked diseases manifest in the form of cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes (often those people who don’t seem to show signs of obesity or undernutrition suffer from these ailments).

The Unfortunate Link Between Substance Abuse & Malnutrition

What does malnutrition have to do with substance use? Much of the time, a substance abuse disorder involving alcohol leads to two forms of malnutrition. One occurs when the calories in alcohol replace nearly all other calories that a person would consume otherwise. The second occurs when a person consumes non-alcohol calories but is unable to absorb the nutrients in those calories because of the presence of alcohol in the body.

Other addictive substances seem to have a similar effect on nutrition, either resulting in a depletion of minerals and vitamins in the body, excessive weight gain or weight loss, or abrupt hormonal shifts that affect bodily processes, reactions, and mood.

Simply put: substance abuse disorders really mess with a person’s health, nutrition, and personality.

So What’s the Take-Away?

Here at St. Gregory’s, we would love to help you approach balanced, rich nutrition practices in recovery and beyond. With different culinary techniques and ideas, as well as the help and guidance of our medical professionals, you’ll be able to replenish your body with the vitamins, minerals, and delicious nutrients it needs to thrive.

Considering an Iowa residential treatment center? To learn more about programs offered at St. Gregory Recovery Center, call and speak with someone today, at (888) 778-5833.

Our graduates tell their stories…

When first arriving at St. Gregory I had mixed feelings about the health and wellness workouts. I came in at 136 lbs and didn’t think it was possible to reach...
- Chris
The good life is not merely a life free from addictions, physical and/or psychological—addictions that usually are the outward manifestations of deeper problems—but a life lived in harmonious balance, free...
- Matt
I came to St. Gregory’s at my all-time worst—physically, emotionally, and mentally. Having gone through a bad rehab experience once before, I had been very reluctant in succumbing to that...
- CJ
No matter where I start my thought process when reflecting upon my time before, during and after St. Gregory’s, I always seem to end up in the same place in...
- Kaele


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