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. 

 

 

 

 

allergen-free meal prep plan

In addition to being a Certified Holistic Health Coach, I am also a full-time mom. Well, when I’m not busy with work, that is. The only way my family is able to stick to eating allergen-free, nutrient-dense foods on a weekly basis is through some simple meal preparations that I do twice a week. Here are some of my tricks of the trade so you can be super prepared for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks — without reaching for junk food or empty carbs to fill you up!

Remember to invest at least one to two hours, twice per week on meal prep and you’ll have at least 7 days worth of food ready to grab and go. Spend one of your hours on a Saturday or Sunday making these items, then about 3-4 days later, spend another hour or two making these same items. The following week, you can rotate your meal ideas/recipes, but try to stick to the same meal ideas for both prep sessions each week for sake of convenience, ease in grocery shopping, and storage space in your fridge. The goal is to keep everything fairly neutral so it can be rolled over into another meal. If your family tends to eat more than this list, at least you will have done a ton of prep work in advance so you will significantly lighten your load, even if you do need to prepare more proteins after a few days.

Here’s a general meal prep for a family of 3-4. Keep in mind, this is for those people who really only want to eat out once, maybe twice per week max! So your every meal and snack needs to be accounted for here. It may look like a lot of food but it will get eaten if this is all you have to rely on — no quick microwaveable t.v. dinners. (Be sure to avoid your individual allergens — perhaps dairy, eggs, salicylates, legumes, or nightshades).

It’s best to have multiple protein sources (as this is the main dish and the most filling) for lunches and dinners. Here we have bacon for breakfast or salads, ground sauteed meat for salads, to put with a roasted veggie, to put on baked potatoes, or to turn into a sandwich or quesadilla. 

Then we have multiple kinds of vegetables — both raw and cooked. The raw veg can be kept raw and eaten as snacks or salads, or they can be sauteed quickly since they’re already prepped for you.

Cut up fruits that can be stored without oxidizing. Mangoes work well. Also be sure to have grab-and-go fruits like apples on hand since they can be added to meals that you already prepped and there is no additional work involved. 

And finally, choose which kinds of carbs you would like: from grains or starches, or from fruits and vegetables. This will depend on which unique diet you need to be eating. Gluten-free starches that can easily be added to this prep work include rice and roasted potatoes. 

Spent 1-2 hours prepping:

  1. 1/2 dozen flax muffins or coconut flour muffins
  2. coconut flour banana bread
  3. 1 dozen (hard boiled) eggs
  4. chopped up vegetables: 5 bell peppers, 4 cucumbers, 1 large jicama, shred 1 bag carrots, cut 1 bag celery
  5. sautee 3 pounds ground beef, turkey, or chicken meat with neutral spices like onion and garlic powder
  6. cut and roast 2 medium cauliflower
  7. halve and stuff 4 zucchini with loose breakfast sausage meat, then bake until cooked through
  8. bake 1 pound bacon (in oven on cookie sheet — super simple)
  9. chop 4 large mangoes (or other fruit you like that won’t brown)

 

Other things to have on hand to be able to put meals together with the foods you prepped:

  • a salad dressing you like — either homemade or store bought
  • large bag of lettuce of your choice
  • starches, if you are someone who needs to eat a higher carbohydrate diet (for example, swap out the roasted cauliflower for roasted carrots, parsnips, beets, celery root, potatoes, turnip or rutabagas) or gluten-free bread to make sandwiches
  • water-packed olives, water chestnuts, beets, capers to add to salads
  • raw fermented foods like pickles and sauerkraut (if you tolerate them)
  • crumbled and shredded cheeses (if you tolerate them) to put on salads
  • no work produce like avocados — just slice and eat! also, apples, peaches, plums, pears, bananas, and tangerines
  • condiments you like to spice things up: mustard, mayo, honey mustard, hot sauce, salsa

 

Here’s what those meals will look like:

Breakfast:

  • flax or coconut flour muffin
  • piece of banana bread
  • hard boiled eggs and mango
  • bacon and mango
  • a combination of the above
  • roasted cauliflower warmed up and served with bacon sprinkled on top
  • sauteed green bell peppers (that you already cut up) with scrambled eggs
  • sauteed green bell peppers with fresh-cooked breakfast sausage
  • stuffed zucchini
  • roasted cauliflower topped with a fresh fried egg

Lunches/dinners:

  • salad with ground meat, chopped raw vegetables, salad dressing of your choice (add hard boiled egg if you tolerate eggs)
  • roasted cauliflower (or other veg of your choice) with sauteed ground meat (and side salad of chopped raw veggies with dressing)
  • flax muffin sandwich with avocado, bacon, and lettuce 
  • stuffed zucchini with raw vegetable salad, coconut flour banana bread
  • stuffed zucchini with roasted cauliflower
  • “BLT” salad: lettuce, bacon, hard boiled egg, cucumber, avocado with dressing, flax muffin
  • gluten-free bread with ground meat and lettuce, side salad of raw veggies
  • quesadilla with ground meat (if you can have dairy), side salad of raw veggies
  • loaded baked potato (if you can have potatoes) with ground meat and side salad of raw veggies

Snacks:

  • mango
  • flax muffins or coconut flour muffins
  • coconut flour banana bread
  • hard boiled eggs
  • raw celery
  • raw jicama
  • raw cucumber

Then about 3 days later, pull from the same list and make the same items for the remainder of the week. If you’re really into variety, you’ll want to choose different dishes. But for sake of simplicity and ease of preparation (and less grocery shopping!), using the same meal ideas makes things easier on you. You don’t have to prepare gourmet meals — keep it simple and make what works. The goal is to get full and stick to your health journey. Even just one hour of prep work is worth it!

 

 

Gluten-free cheesy chicken biscuits (plus a bone broth recipe!)

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One of the most common concerns people have when changing their diet is cost. “How much money will a new diet cost me each week? I can’t spend a bunch more money.” It’s totally understandable. Generally speaking, I always recommend down-to-earth, real foods. I’m not a nutrition professional that’s going to have you on a juice cleanse, eating Goji berries and raw cacao nibs with a side of turmeric juice for dessert. That’s not my style. Kombucha and herbal tea are probably the most exotic I get. :)

So here’s one of my tips. A lot of my clients benefit from one simple diet addition: bone broth. Unless you have a histamine intolerance or are an endogenous oxalate producer, bone broth is probably for you. You get collagen/gelatin to heal a leaky gut (one cause of chronic illness) plus minerals and amino acids.

I like to use the organic free range chicken drumsticks from Trader Joe’s (but you can use any kind of animal bones, with or without the protein) because they will make a very potent broth. And they cost only about $1-something per pound — the cheap cut. To a large srock pot, add two packages chicken drumsticks, two sliced fennel bulbs, two broken bunches of scallions, splash of white vinegar and a dash of salt and cover with water. Let cook at least 8-12 hours or longer. The longer you cook, the more of a roasted chicken flavor you get. Yum.  

After you make your broth you’re left with a bunch of stewed shredded chicken you can use in other meals throughout the week. Here’s a picture of what I made with the leftover chicken from a batch of broth: cheesy chicken biscuits. They’re gluten-free and could easily be adapted to dairy-free by using Daiya cheese.

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Cheesy chicken biscuits
(Makes approximately 10 biscuits)
Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups potato or tapioca starch (arrowroot or other starch would probably also work)
1 cup (or more) cooked shredded chicken
2 teaspoons onion and/or garlic powder, or fresh diced scallions
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
Dash of salt
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or other melting cheese like Jack), or melt-able non-dairy cheese
1/4 cup melted oil of your choice (butter, ghee, lard, bacon grease, coconut oil, etc.)Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together starch, baking powder, salt and onion/garlic powder. Add leftover shredded chicken and stir to coat with starch. Add in wet ingredients and mix until well combined. Scoop 10 portions into the greased muffin tin. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until they are crusty and not soft in the center. Serve warm with a salad or carry on the go for a quick meal.
You’re getting two meals out of “discards” from your broth! 

sourdough “white flour” gluten-free tortillas

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Fermenting grains is intimidating at first. But once you learn simple methods (like this one) for souring your grains and flours — and once you become addicted to the delicious sourdough flavor — you’ll also probably want to ferment any grain or legume products you cook. These tortillas are meant to mimic a traditional white flour tortilla because sometimes you get sick of corn on a gluten-free diet, or maybe you can’t eat corn altogether. Hence the sourdough “white flour” gluten-free tortilla.They’re chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside and pleasantly sour.

There is a school of thought that “white flour” products don’t need to be soaked or soured because the phytic acid (that is naturally-occurring in grains and legumes, and is a cause of health problems) has in large part been reduced or removed from the flour. For these tortillas, I use a mixture of white rice flour and starch. So while the phytic acid is slim to nil, I still sour this dough to get rid of any residual phytic acid and also because it develops the flavor, and removes any bitterness from the white rice flour (sometimes a problem with gluten-free flours), as well as reducing the carbohydrate content.

Remember, this is a method. You could switch up the flours and other ingredients. If you didn’t want to use white rice flour, you could use chickpea, brown rice, sorghum, etc. It just won’t have the same “white flour” feel. Also the measurements can be approximated depending on which flours you have; feel free to experiment — soured flatbreads like this almost always turn out well (some people even omit the starch and just use a soured flour).

sourdough “white flour” gluten-free tortillas

ingredients

approx 2 cups fine white rice flour

approx 1/2 cup gluten-free starch of your choice (tapioca is what I use)

approx 1/4 cup unflavored whole fat yogurt of your choice (I use a local grass-fed non-pasteurized yogurt but you could also find a non-dairy that has no distinctive flavor or use raw fermented sauerkraut liquid. I’m not going to lie — using a non-dairy yogurt that, well, tastes non-dairy will probably ruin this recipe — make sure it is truly unflavored)

water or milk of your choice (will vary — enough to work the flours into a thick dough. I use raw milk because I feel better about letting it sit at room temperature than a pasteurized milk; raw milk still contains live probiotic cultures that will help to sour the dough, rather than run the risk of spoiling as in pasteurized which has been stripped of its probiotics)

pinch of sea salt

large mixing bowl that has a lid (or find something else to cover the bowl)

spoon

method

Place white rice flour and tapioca starch in large mixing bowl with salt and mix until blended together. Add yogurt and mix. The dough will still be dry at this point. Add water or milk until the dough pulls together and becomes very thick but no longer dry. It should be the consistency of masa (or, play-Doh, for those who don’t live in Texas). Place lid or cover over bowl and allow to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The dough will sour like a sourdough bread, thanks to the cultures in the yogurt. It will start to smell like sourdough/yogurt which is how you know it has had enough time at room temperature. Once it has soured to your liking, place in fridge for a few hours to harden up before cooking. (Note that you don’t want to let the dough sit at room temp for longer than the 12-24 hours because it will start to get way too sour and almost alcoholic or acetone, unpleasant tasting, as when bread has over-proofed).

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Once dough has had a chance to chill and firm up, preheat a cast-iron pan over medium with a few tablespoons of fat of your choice. (Of course I use pastured lard that I render from cheap, but good quality fat from the farmer’s market — because I’m lucky enough to be able to find that locally. Pastured animal fat is a — no, “the” — source of vitamins A, D, E, and K so don’t be scared and stop eating low-fat/low cholesterol).

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Roll a ball of dough of about 4 tablespoons in your hand or in a tortilla press until you form a very thin circular tortilla. Once pan has preheated, place tortilla in pan and fry until brown and crispy on one side, then flip and do the same for the other side. Then top with toppings of your choice and eat like an open-faced tostada, or gently fold into a taco, or use for a dairy or non-dairy quesadilla. Delicious! 20150617_181708. 20150617_181658