The Role of Functional Medicine in Addiction Recovery

Blog Illustration - The role of functional medicine in Addiction recovery

Functional medicine looks at how and why illness is present and restores health by addressing the root causes of disease for each individual. Practitioners work collaboratively with patients to help them achieve health goals, minimize medications and reduce the burden of disease. Its personalized health care approach focuses largely on nutrition and lifestyle management, including key aspects of health such as sleep, exercise, nutrition and stressareas that also play a crucial role in addiction recovery.

People struggling with addiction are five to ten times more likely to suffer from poor sleep, which can lead to emotional dysregulation such as exacerbating depression and anxiety, as well as poor impulse control. Poor sleep tends to be a vicious cycle during active addiction. Substances can alter brain chemistry in a way that affects our ability to get quality sleep; lack of quality sleep can make it harder to control the impulse to use. This is why it’s so important to make quality sleep a priority in recovery. Achieving quality sleep can be a marathon, not a sprintit takes time to develop sleep hygiene habits to improve our sleep, but it’s well worth it.

Regular exercise can improve immune system function, reduce stress, improve mood and sleep and increase energy. Given that stress, poor sleep and emotional dysregulation can all increase the chances for substance use, improving these areas through regular exercise can help prevent relapse. Even making daily goals to avoid being sedentary, such as going for a walk, can be helpful in relapse prevention and recovery.

Often, addiction can lead to poor eating decisions, such as eating too much fast food and sugar instead of providing our bodies with the nutrient-dense foods we need to function optimally. When using substances, an individual is more likely to struggle with lack of appetite, or even impaired nutrient processing when he or she does eat due to damage to key organs like the liver. Drug and alcohol use may also cause chronic issues in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to poor nutrient absorption. 

Most people experience stress on a daily basis, but poorly managed stress can be a significant risk factor for relapse. This is especially true for those also struggling with co-existing mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. There are many ways to help reduce stress; meditation, finding a support group or someone to talk to, journaling, finding a creative outlet or a hobby, exercise, optimal nutrition, quality sleep and volunteering can all provide ways to effectively manage stress.

At The Prairie Recovery Center, we work to understand each patient as a whole person—biologically, psychologically, socially, culturally and spiritually. To treat the disease of addiction, we develop an integrative treatment plan that includes an array of evidence-based styles. Further, our care team—composed of master’s and doctoral level clinicians, psychiatrists and medical doctors, nurses, and a functional medicine nurse practitioner—specialize in treating co-occurring disorders: one or more mental health disorders coupled with a substance use disorder.

If you or a loved one could use our support in managing your mental health and/or substance use recovery, please tap here to contact our care team confidentially.