Many people recovering from addiction are unaware of their immune health. It can be a tough topic to address, especially when there are so many other things to work on. But your immune recovery is an essential part of your new life.
Substance abuse over an extended period of time has harmful effects on a person, including how it affects them on a biological level. In many cases, our bodies try to fight off the toxins in alcohol or drugs, which signal an immune response. As a result, a person’s immune system can suffer and be weakened since it’s constantly battling the harmful substances. This makes a person more susceptible to other diseases and health conditions in the long-run.
Depending on the severity of the addiction, some people need medical treatment to restore their immune systems. For others with less severe damage, there are easy and natural ways to boost your immune system during the addiction recovery process.
How Does Addiction Affect Your Immune System?
As mentioned above, when toxic substances like drugs and alcohol continuously enter your body, your immune system weakens since it can’t build up sufficient resistance. The side effects of drug or alcohol abuse—such as dehydration, decreased eating or sleeping, and mental or physical exhaustion—can also harm the body’s natural immune responses over time.
And as the immune system struggles, your other systems become more vulnerable, too. You start to become at high-risk for infections, organ malfunction, and acute and chronic diseases.
Moreover, a recent study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology explains how the body’s response to stress and alcohol have an effect on immune system regulation. Over longer periods of time, an immune system that signals too often can result in “sickness behavior…negative mood, decreased social interaction, and increased sleep.” And, as seen in addictive behavior, immune malfunction can also affect a person’s impulse control and proper neural regulation.
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Immune System?
In addition to causing problems with immuno-regulation, alcohol abuse can lead to a number of health concerns on its own. Some of these effects include:
- Digestive issues
- Damages to the enzymes needed for proper digestion
- Liver failure,
- Autoimmune disorders
- Decrease in the number and/or quality of white blood cells
Without the protection that white blood cells provide for the body, those struggling with alcoholism are at a much higher risk of developing life-threatening diseases.
How Do Drugs Affect Your Immune System?
Like alcohol, different drugs can have different effects on the body’s immune system. Some of the more common drug-related immune issues include:
- Opioids can cause a decrease in sleeping, nutrition, and/or mental or physical health, resulting in a weakened immune system overall.
- Cocaine causes a malfunction of specific protein systems. This results in a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections and related diseases.
- Prescription Drugs often cause a suppression of white blood cells, which leaves the body vulnerable to infection and unable to fight off minor and serious ailments.
How Can I Rebuild My Immune System During the Recovery Process?
There are a number of simple ways to start rebuilding a healthy immune system. In addition to what your treatment center or recovery program recommends, consider how you can implement these easy steps into your daily routine.
Develop Healthy Sleeping Habits
Sleep is one of the natural ways your body recovers from and fights off infections. These simple steps can help you get enough sleep in your recovery journey:
- Keep a regular sleep schedule
- Relax an hour before you go to bed
- Avoid electronics (blue light) an hour or so before sleep
- Meditate and calm your mind before you got to bed
Keep an Exercise Routine
It’s well-known that regular exercise reduces inflammation in the body, which then strengthens your immune system.
Moreover, exercise can help your body respond to harmful bacteria. Immune markers, which highlight germs and bacteria in our bodies, are strengthened by regular exercise. Physical activity not only makes those markers more efficient, but it also encourages your body’s proper response to them.
Reduce Stress Where You Can
During your recovery journey—and in everyone’s lives—stress is simply inevitable. But by finding effective ways to manage stress, you can reduce your risk for relapse and continue to rebuild your immune system.
When you’re overly stressed, your body produces a chemical called cortisol, which is a hormone that prepares us to face a dangerous or threatening situation. This is an important response, but it can become a problem if it becomes unbalanced or too common. As a result, your immune system suffers.
If you’re feeling stressed during your recovery, you can try:
- Talk with your support system of family and friends
- Reach out to your therapist or mentor
- Go to a support group meeting
- Try practicing meditation or deep breathing exercises
Rebuild Healthy Eating Habits
Nutrition greatly impacts your immune health. In fact, malnutrition—according to the Journal of Addictions Nursing—is extremely common among those who suffer from addiction. Therefore, it must be treated as a key element in the recovery process, both inside and outside of formal healthcare settings.
If you’re looking to improve your immune system during recovery, a good place to start is reducing sugar intake and processed foods. Too much sugar can slow the response time of your white blood cells, resulting in higher infection rates.
Eating more vegetables also helps strengthen your immune system. For example, vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and kale can improve liver function, which is needed for your body’s detoxification process.
Getting the Help You Need
By understanding exactly how drug and alcohol addiction affects the immune system, you can help to ensure that you or your loved one is taking the proper steps to improve health habits during recovery.
To start rebuilding your life while in addiction recovery, reach out to Pinnacle Recovery today to discuss available treatment options.