Life in recovery offers many benefits, including stronger relationships with your loved ones and a newfound sense of purpose and passion. However, one often overlooked benefit of getting treatment for a substance use disorder is a stronger immune system.
Healing the Damage
Drug and alcohol addiction weakens the body’s natural defenses, which makes a person more vulnerable to a wide range of infections. This includes COVID-19.
Every day you’re sober will help to heal the damage done by addiction. Until we have a vaccine that will keep the coronavirus pandemic under control, doing everything in your power to strengthen your immune system is a smart move.
Leading a Wellness-Focused Lifestyle in Recovery
A lasting recovery involves more than simply abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Addiction is a chronic and progressive illness with complex environmental and genetic triggers. A wellness-focused lifestyle that heals the mind, body, and spirit is essential to a lasting recovery.
Healthy habits that promote recovery while strengthening your immune system include:
- Making sleep a priority. Healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This helps the body renew and repair itself, which makes it easier to fight off infection. Sleep problems are common in early recovery, but sticking to a consistent schedule, minimizing caffeine intake, and avoiding screen time in the hour before bed can help you get the rest you need.
- Minimizing your intake of processed food. Chips, cookies, and other processed foods will leave you feeling sluggish and make your body more susceptible to illness. It is best to stick to whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Foods with added sugar, salt, and fat should be occasional treats, and you should try to choose processed food items with as few ingredients as possible.
- Eating breakfast. Eating regular meals and healthy snacks helps keep your blood sugar stable, which keeps your mood in check and can reduce cravings. There’s also evidence to suggest that skipping breakfast can weaken your immune system by spiking cortisol levels.
- Increasing your protein intake. Protein is necessary to fight off infection, as well as to build and repair muscle, skin, and tissue. Sufficient protein intake can also alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression by providing tryptophan—an amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin.
- Drinking more water. Hydration is essential for optimal health because your body is about 60% water. Help flush toxins from your body by drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water (64 ounces) per day. Try herbal tea or flavored waters if you don’t like the taste of plain water.
- Staying active. The more physical activity you can work into your day, the stronger your immune system will be. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, such as a walk after dinner.
- Keeping stress levels in check. While some sources of stress are unavoidable, you should try to create a routine that minimizes stress. Too much stress triggers inflammation in the body, which can lead to chronic pain and make it harder to fight off infection. Stress is also a well-known relapse trigger for people in recovery.
Treating Co-Occurring Conditions
Often, people who have an addiction to drugs or alcohol suffer from other co-occurring disorders. This includes mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Treating co-occurring conditions can help you stick to your recommended recovery plan, but addressing these issues will also boost your immune system. For example, uncontrolled diabetes makes people susceptible to a number of different infections and has been shown to increase the risk of coronavirus complications.
Get the Help You Need at Mountain Laurel Recovery Center
Since we are classified as an essential business by the Pennsylvania government, Mountain Laurel Recovery Center’s residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment program will be open through the coronavirus pandemic. We are continuing to accept new clients, subject to enhanced screening and testing procedures designed to ensure everyone’s safety.
Our CARF Accredited Facility is following all CDC recommended procedures for infection control while continuing to provide detox and residential services to our residents 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s understandable to be worried about making major life changes during a global pandemic, but now is the time to enter recovery. If you’re ready to develop the life skills necessary to break free from the burden of addiction and to live a life of long-term sobriety, we can help.