how to overcome stimulant addiction

Stimulants. I’m not talking about hard drugs here, just those “innocuous”, legal, everyday substances people are self-admittedly addicted to: coffee, tea, energy drinks, artificial sweeteners, sugar, MSG or other flavor enhancers, chocolate, diet pills, and more.

Do you feel like you can’t start your day without one of these? Do you make plans to find and consume these products before you start your day, at the expense of anything and everyone else? Do you commonly reach for these items in the afternoon as well? Do you feel jittery or irritable yet crave the boost from these products? You may need some help replacing stimulants with substances and nutrients that energize you more gradually or make up for deficiencies that are causing you to crave these things in the first place. Please work with your doctor, nutrition practitioner, or other health care provider before just adding in all of the following. In some cases, lab work is required. 

Ways to overcome stimulant addiction:

  • vitamin B12. First, get your level tested. If you are in fact deficient or on the low-end of the scale, you can add in a proper form of B12 which is called Methyl B12 or Adenosyl or Hydroxy B12. If you don’t know if you have COMT gene mutations, play it safe and use Adenosyl or Hydroxy B12 as Methyl B12 can worsen mood for those with COMT. Avoid synthetic B12. Take B12 in the morning. Your dose will vary according to your blood work. 
  • DLPA. This is a natural stimulant that raises catecholamine levels. However, it is very different from caffeine. DLPA is subtle and should not cause jitteriness. If you have autoimmune thyroid disease — Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease you should probably avoid, unless you are a rare person who can tolerate it (which sometimes happens in the case of thyroid disease that is more related to adrenal fatigue/adrenal axis issues than Leaky Gut). Work with your practitioner to determine if you need this — you can get your phenylalanine level tested before use. Avoid if you have kidney disease or inborn errors processing phenylalanine, or if you have melanoma. 
  • adrenal glandulars. This applies to people who have demonstrated via lab work that their cortisol is low at certain times of day. Get a 24-hour cortisol test to determine if and when your cortisol is low. Low cortisol/adrenal gland function is a major cause of fatigue and therefore, the desire to use stimulants. 
  • SAM-e. People who have been dependent upon stimulants for many years are often actually low in SAM-e, which causes the cravings. Supplementation with SAM-e may be very helpful. It is also a natural anti-depressant — win/win. 
  • determine if you have irregular blood sugar or insulin. This is an all too common cause of stimulant use — your blood sugar drops, or you have problems with insulin resistance, which makes you tired before or after meals. So you instinctively reach for a stimulant to give you an energy boost. Low carbohydrate, high fat, moderate protein diets work very well to eliminate low energy caused by food intake. 
  • determine what your food sensitivities are. If you feel horrible (cranky, sleepy, achy, disoriented, or brain fogged) after every meal, you must determine which foods you are in fact intolerant of. Common food intolerances include: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, grains, nuts and seeds, salicylates, oxalates, histamine, sulfur, gluatamate, and others. Remember that food sensitivities are not always immune-mediated and therefore difficult to prove via testing. You must work with a practitioner and do an elimination diet to figure out which foods you are reacting to. 
  • determine if you have underlying mood problems. Low mood can cause us to reach for uppers because they temporarily make us feel on top of the world. We can feel powerful, fun, invincible, and ready to take on the world. Caffeine perpetuates a vicious cycle of ups and downs. Address the cause of your low mood and why you instinctively are self-medicating to boost your mood with caffeine. 5-HTP, GABA, DLPA can be very helpful to boost a naturally low mood. Essential fatty acid deficiency, food allergies, and other nutrient deficiencies are a known cause of mood disorders too.
  • determine if you have low iron. This is a simple blood test you can order from your doctor and if it is low, it is a common cause of fatigue. Address the low iron and you can begin to cut back on stimulants for energy.
  • determine if you have low thyroid function. I assume most everyone following this site is familiar with thyroid labs or has a diagnosed thyroid disease. But if your doctor has never performed a “full thyroid panel” lab test on you either for your diagnosed thyroid disease or because of your symptoms of fatigue, demand one. Then ask your doctor to treat your thyroid disease according to which values you were low (or high) in.
  • get your electrolytes tested. Low potassium is a common cause of fatigue and in fact it is difficult to get enough potassium daily — unless you’re eating tons and tons of raw fruits and vegetables every day. You can find magnesium/potassium blend powders or drops to put in your water to make-up for any deficit. Do you ever have twitching muscles or muscle cramps? Those are easy-to-spot low potassium symptom. 
  • use B-vitamin and mineral-rich foods. If you can tolerate yeast, nutritional yeast is full of potassium and B vitamins which will keep you naturally energized. Choose one that is not synthetically fortified, like Foods Alive brand. Sprinkle on cooked vegetables, sweet potatoes and white potatoes, gluten-free pasta, mix into sauces and use as a cheese replacement (it has a cheddar cheese flavor).
  • determine if you have underlying digestive issues. Sometimes if a person is chronically constipated, they reach for caffeine subconsciously to stimulate a bowel movement. If you are chronically constipated, there are underlying gut issues that need to be addressed: food allergies, gut infections (yeast, bacteria, parasites), lack of healthy gut flora (the good bacteria), lack of digestive enzymes (you can supplement these with each meal), lack of bile production (you can use ox bile and salt your food liberally to taste, or drink lemon water before meals to stimulate bile), and more. 
  • exercise. No one wants to hear about exercise because we’re already bombarded with recommendations to get moving but here’s the thing: it actually works to energize you and we all need to be doing more of it. Don’t overwork yourself if you have thyroid or adrenal diseases. Just do moderate exercise that you enjoy and that gets you sweating, multiple times per week. 

 

 

 

 

definitive guide to low-carb snacking for weight loss (and who should eat low carb)

I never ever recommend the same diet to every client I work with. We are all way too genetically and “environmentally” different. That is, no two people have the same nutritionally-significant gene mutations and no two people were raised with … Continue reading

anti-candida diet menu ideas

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Systemic yeast infections are a hallmark of autoimmune and thyroid disease — the two often go hand in hand with yeast overgrowth or fungal infections. In order to improve your thyroid numbers and immune function, eliminating the yeast in your body — and the foods that feed yeast — is essential.

Anti-candida (ie: yeast) diets vary in severity, but the most important points to remember on any anti-yeast elimination diet are:

  1. avoid sugars — even natural ones (like honey or maple syrup), high-sugar fruits, and also artificial sweeteners
  2. avoid anything that is inherently moldy or a mushroom itself (ie: moldy food, mushrooms, truffles, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, old spices)
  3. avoid vinegar and condiments made with vinegar (mustard, mayo, ketchup)
  4. avoid food allergens — most commonly gluten and dairy, but also avoid any other allergens you react to
  5. avoid high starch foods — grains, beans, legumes
  6. avoid processed meats and low-quality proteins — choose organic, wild-caught, pastured, grass-fed proteins
  7. avoid refined fats and oils (ie: canola, soy, sunflower)
  8. add probiotic foods
  9. avoid chemicals in your food, water, and beauty/hygiene routine
  10. usually there is an underlying food sensitivity that needs to be addressed. “untreated” food intolerances can and will feed yeast in the body. common examples: gluten intolerance, egg or airy intolerance, oxalate sensitivity, phenol sensitivity, histamine intolerance, etc. so yes, elimination of known allergens is important, but consider which foods you may also be sensitive to and eliminate those. 

Keep in mind that going too low-carb can actually slow your thyroid, so a strictly ketogenic diet (no carbs, even in the form of low-sugar fruits and root vegetables) is not ideal or the goal. Candida takes time to eliminate and chances are, if it’s causing you trouble (ie: thyroid or autoimmune symptoms) it’s already pathogenic and will need months or years to get rid of. Be patient and don’t rush the process. Stress can and will give yeast a better opportunity to proliferate. Shorter “cleanses” — where the diet is followed for a month or two — can be useful as well if you don’t feel comfortable committing to a long-term diet upfront.

anti-candida meal ideas:

  • B: smoked salmon and fried egg with sauteed zucchini and bell peppers, or cucumber slices
  • B: bacon (high quality with no additives) and roasted sweet potato with toppings you like (coconut butter or ghee, caramelized onions and spinach)
  • B: sausage (high quality with no additives) and eggs with a low-glycemic fruit and coconut flour bread
  • B: chia seed pudding with unsweetened coconut milk, cinnamon, and berries of your choice (or also use coconut butter to make it more rich)
  • L: leftover salmon with plantain chips and salsa and guacamole
  • L: simple tuna salad (lemon, fresh herbs, water-packed olives, olive oil) over lettuce and veggies
  • L: homemade beef chili (meat, veggies, fat, broth, and spices) topped with green onion and zucchini “pasta” if you like
  • L: homemade baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant, garlic, onion, pureed with lemon, olive oil, sea salt, and tahini if you like) with veggie chips and roasted chicken
  • D: middle eastern meatballs (ground pork, onion, cilantro and basil, curry powder) with roasted beets, and raw vegetable sticks and garlic-hemp seed dipping sauce
  • D: grain-free salmon cakes with water-packed olives and roasted red peppers served over a salad, with roasted spaghetti squash
  • D: seared scallops  or shrimp with roasted carrots, parsnips and onions, served with sauerkraut
  • D: lettuce wraps of bacon, roasted chicken, tomato, onion, leftover baba ghanouj on romaine lettuce leaves with sweet potato chips

what i learned from Dr. Mark Hyman, Sally Fallon, and Dr. Joel Fuhrman this past weekend {and how it relates to your thyroid}

One of the most wonderful things about the nutrition school I attended is that they offer professional enrichment opportunities even after students graduate. And this school is very well-connected. That means amazing opportunities for me to continue learning directly from the famous doctors, physicians, activists, authors, and nutrition gurus and bring their cutting-edge information right back to you.

This past weekend, I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition fall conference in NYC and was so delighted to be lectured by Dr. Mark Hyman (who often specializes in thyroid and autoimmune disease), Deepak Chopra (formerly an endocrinologist, now a mind-body guru), Dr. Joel Fuhrman (a vegetable, anti-cancer advocate), Joe Cross (of the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead), Kathy Freston (author and vegan advocate), Dr. Dukan (of the famous Dukan Diet), and my personal favorite — food science heroine and founder of the Weston A Price Foundation, Sally Fallon.

All of this information will be healthy for you to incorporate into your life. But, I have specifically highlighted things that will be directly beneficial to your thyroid and autoimmunity, in green.

Here are the highlights from the weekend.


Dr. Hyman

This man is a Functional Medicine rock star. He helps his patients get to the root of why the illness is happening. He has helped many people heal their autoimmune disease, and has a penchant for nutritional approaches that easing thyroid disease.

Some of my favorite quotes of his:

  • We have a social disease: chronic disease and obesity
  • We need a social cure [for health problems]
  • You [holistic health counselors/coaches] are the community health workers of the future

Dr. Joel Fuhrman

The focus of his lecture was immunity and cancer. Specifically, those eating a “Standard American Diet” will have very low (scary low!) immunity and be extremely susceptible to cancer and infectious diseases.What does a Standard American Diet look like? Hot dogs, grocery store bread, non-organic fruits and vegetables, ketchup with high fructose corn syrup, Doritos, soda, ranch dressing, grilled cheese sandwiches, conventional yogurt and cheese, etc. etc.

His main points:

  • Greens are healing and inhibit cancer growth and the AIDS virus
  • We are dependent upon green vegetables for our well-being
  • Mycosinase and glucosinolates = anti-cancer compounds in greens. But these compounds must be liberated before being cooked: either by chewing the food with healthy oral flora/bacteria, or by blending in a blender before cooking. [“Chew”/agitate greens before you cook them]
  • The average person needs 500 mg of greens daily (several cups)
  • Lutein or Alpha carotene are both blood markers for greens intake
  • Mushrooms are an integral part of the immune system
  • Antigen-binding lectins in mushrooms = inhibit growth of blood cells in (fat or cancer) tissue; ie: help with weight regulation
  • Aromatase inhibitors in mushrooms = reduce estrogen levels in the body

Some of my favorite quotes of his:

  • The body is self-healing.
  • All S.A.D. [Standard American Diet] -eaters are immune depressed

Sally Fallon

This woman is a food science genius and a true role model. I probably also like her and her message (Weston A Price Foundation) because as she describes it, “It’s the most subversive nutrition literature out there.” Ohhh yeah.

Sally spoke on the USDA guidelines for eating and how they are psuedo-science, deficient in many essential nutrients, and how this leads to major health problems.

Her main points:

  • Choline, as found in eggs, protects against EMFs (Electro Magnetic Frequencies; the bad electronic pollution that pulls down the thyroid and harms the brain)
  • People feel guilty for eating fats because fats have been vilified. But fats are essential to health! This guilt can lead to obesity and eating disorders.
  • The Standard American Diet is heavy on bad fats (trans fats, vegetable oils) and otherwise very lean/low-fat
  • Liquid industrial oils (canola, soy, etc.) produce uncontrolled reactions within the body — including autoimmunity
  • Dietary cholesterol has little-to-no impact on blood cholesterol
  • Cholesterol is the mother of all hormones; we need to be eating lots of health sources of cholesterol for normal hormonal health. 
  • Protein depletes vitamin A in the body. So we need to eat vitamin A with our proteins to supplement.
  • Protein always comes with fats, so eat the fat.
  • The four food groups:
    • 1). Animal foods from pastured, wild-caught or grass-fed animals (including bone broths, cheese, meat, and fish)
    • 2). Grains, legumes, and nuts that have been prepared properly (soaked, sprouted, fermented, etc.)
    • 3). Fruit and vegetables that are either raw, cooked, or lacto-fermented (ie: probiotic)
    • 4). Animal fats and healthy vegetable fats, including but not limited to lard, tallow, cod liver oil, coconut oil, palm oil

Some of my favorite quotes of hers:

  • Aristocracy of the healthy = the idea that people who care for their bodies and diet will be more happy and  successful than those who do not
  •  There is a shortage of people in the jobs that require brain power. This is because due to poor diet, many people suffer concentration, emotional, and clear thinking issues
  • We cannot have a grocery store system and at the same time have a healthy diet. In other words, make it yourself if you want to be healthy!

So what did you learn here? What is most interesting to you? Which of these speakers resonate with you?