Ways to Boost Your Immunity in Addiction Recovery

Updated on 2/6/2023

Drugs and alcohol can have detrimental effects on many aspects of human health and wellness. Repeated use can cause the body and mind to become addicted, making it harder to remain abstinent while increasing the chances of inflicting serious harm.

Substances can do this by depleting the body of essential vitamins and minerals, resulting in a weakened immune system and a higher chance of becoming physically or mentally ill. Learn about which substances deplete which nutrients and how you can boost your immune system in addiction recovery.

Drugs and alcohol can deplete the body of nutrients.

A substance use disorder (SUD) is destructive for various reasons. You may experience serious financial hardships, lose friends, and run into family problems because of your addiction. Substances also deteriorate the health of the body. One problem that occurs due to drug and alcohol withdrawal is the depletion of various essential vitamins and minerals that support the body’s ability to stay strong, healthy and fight illness.

When the body has the nutrients it needs in the right amounts, it is relatively robust in fighting off pathogens and developing immunity. It is also less likely to develop common diseases found in society when your diet is balanced. However, drug and alcohol use interferes with this capability and weakens the body’s natural defenses. Your immune system is closely tied to the substances you put in your body and how they impact organ function.

What deficiencies can substances cause? 


Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances and is a leading cause of nutritional deficiencies in the United States. This substance can flush the body of nutrients due to its natural diuretic properties. Excessive and frequent alcohol use can result in the loss of vitamin D and B vitamins such as B1, B6 and folic acid. This is a serious problem that can trigger anemia and nervous system malfunction. For example, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a condition that develops due to a lack of vitamin B1, an ailment often found in individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Alcohol also damages the liver and pancreas, both of which are vital to metabolic processes and nutrition. By impairing the function of these organs, the body cannot effectively rid the body of toxins, regulate blood sugar and absorb fat. The result is an imbalance of fluids, electrolytes, protein and calories.

Stimulants, Opioids and Benzodiazepines

Prescription and illicit stimulants like ADHD medications and cocaine suppress hunger, putting you at risk of malnourishment and deficiencies of vitamin C and B vitamins. Since it is common to also have little desire to drink liquids, you may experience imbalances in electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and chloride, which are essential for neural signal transmissions.

Opioid addiction produces similar outcomes. Additionally, they cause constipation, but it is common to experience diarrhea and vomiting during withdrawal. This can cause an imbalance in electrolytes and a loss of nutrients. Benzodiazepines like Xanax can cause depletion of biotin, folate, calcium, melatonin, and vitamins D and K.  

In general, alcohol and drugs interfere with your metabolism and sleep patterns, which causes nutritional neglect. This is an important indication that using substances has become the main priority at the expense of everything else, including drinking and eating healthy foods.

You might have a weakened immune system after treatment. 

Studies indicate that poor nutritional health is the leading cause of immunodeficiency. If you are struggling with addiction, this puts you at risk for infection and serious complications like type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depression, and anxiety disorders. These conditions can further suppress immune health, making it harder to resist illness. Malnutrition can also make it harder to stick to recovery goals due to low mood, usually accompanied by sickness.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet that contains all of the key vitamins and minerals that you may be deficient in is key to maintaining your health and motivation in recovery. According to an article published in Nature titled Changes in the immune system are conditioned by nutrition, adding nutrients back into your diet following deficiency can help restore your immune function and ability to fight infection.

It’s time to build back your immune system.

Once sober and in recovery, the body has a chance to build up immunity to promote health and wellness. If you think your immune system is struggling, do not worry. There are a number of things you can do to boost your immune health while in recovery, such as:

  • Exercise regularly at your own pace.
  • Reduce caffeine intake and quit smoking.
  • Schedule regular mealtimes and stick to them.
  • Drink enough fluids during and between meals.
  • Establish a normal sleep schedule and set alarms.
  • Eat foods that contain healthy fats like omega-3,6, and 9.
  • Avoid sweets and high-calorie foods with low nutrition.
  • Eat foods high in protein, complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber.
  • Take nutrient supplements as recommended, which may include B-complex, zinc and vitamins A and C.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting a blood panel done to see which vitamins and minerals you may be deficient in.

Whichever substance use disorder you were treated for, there is a good chance that it impacted the health of your immune system. By following these tips, you can enhance your health, enabling you to be your best self throughout recovery.

Drugs and alcohol can cause serious harm to a person’s physical health and well-being. One primary concern is the ability of substances to deplete the body of vitamins and minerals that support immunity. Addiction also makes it difficult to provide attention and care to nutritional needs. Casa Palmera is a rehabilitation center located in West Los Angeles that specializes in treating addiction and co-occurring disorders. We understand how tough it can be to focus on what might seem like the finer details of recovery. However, addressing nutritional deficiencies and establishing a consistent, healthful eating plan is a major part of recovering from addiction and not relapsing. In our aftercare program, you will have access to a number of services that can help you stay clean and address any nutritional concerns you have. For more information on how we can help you avoid relapse and improve your health and immunity, contact us today.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.