Addiction to drugs and alcohol damages your immune system, making you more prone to illness and even cancer. Alcohol and other drugs suppress your white blood cells, dehydrate you, and cause you to be malnourished. The good news is that you can heal and get sick less often. If you are sober, but still not feeling great, here are some ways to get your immune system back up and running.
Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is when your body repairs itself and fights off infections. Healthy, deep sleep is absolutely essential to recovery. It may take a while to catch up so you actually feel rested. Also, many people experience insomnia early in recovery, so getting enough deep sleep can be difficult. There are many ways to improve your sleep, even if your brain chemistry isn’t quite rebalanced yet. Keeping a regular schedule, relaxing before bed, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, and maybe drinking some chamomile tea before bed can help you sleep better. If you still have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor or therapist for help and be sure to tell them about your history of addiction.
Reduce stress. Stress is a major trigger of cravings so it’s in your interest to make managing stress a priority. Stress also impairs your immune system. Getting it under control will have the added benefit of making you healthier. Stress causes your cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol is a hormone that prepares you for a dangerous situation. Unfortunately, it also slows down your metabolism and suppresses your immune system so chronic stress makes you fat and sick. Reduce stress by spending time with supportive people, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep.
Exercise. It’s clear that exercise improves immunity to illness. It’s less clear exactly how. It does appear to increase disease-fighting antibodies. It also reduces cortisol levels caused by stress. If you exercise outside, you have more exposure to fresh air and sunlight, which certainly help. Some people believe you ‘sweat out’ toxins, which sounds dubious, but raising your core temperature slightly makes your body less hospitable to bacteria, and waste products are released through sweat, so maybe there’s something to it.
Eat healthy food. This means eating less food that makes you sick and more food that makes you healthy. Start by cutting down on sugar, which appears to impair your immune function. Drinking tea or water instead of soda is a good start. Also make sure you are getting plenty of vitamins B and D, as well as zinc and magnesium. A well-rounded diet that includes plenty of green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and berries will cover most of it. Try to get some sun too, or ask your doctor about vitamin D supplementation. Typically, when you are admitted to treatment, you will get IV fluids with vitamins to help jumpstart your physical recovery.