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

how to identify subconscious “undercurrent” stressors to improve your health

In my work with women over the years, I’ve noticed a few trends. Even though clients come to me for nutritional needs, they inevitably start talking about the stressors in their lives — which is why I now offer a separate 3-Month Thyroid Mind-Body Program. I can’t tell you how many women have sat in my office, and upon me merely asking how they’re doing that day (and REALLY listening to their answer), they start crying, start divulging their stresses, fears, insecurities, and after a few minutes of being truly heard, take a big breath, a deep sigh of relief and apologize for crying or “talking too much”. I always make sure to tell them “it’s okay. Crying is good” because usually when someone cries, they get shushed and “comforted” by people telling them, “it’s okay, don’t cry!”. In truth, they get told to stop crying so the observers aren’t uncomfortable or have to process emotions. Crying is a better medicine than learning to not cry.

What I see in my clients is similar to what I have also noticed and experienced through out my life — very often, women have been taught to trivialize their thoughts, feelings, and emotions, because it makes other people uncomfortable when they express their true thoughts. Other people may not know how to process their own emotions so they feel very uncomfortable being asked to experience someone else’s. We are expected to be stoic or appear to have it all together because it makes people uncomfortable at the thought that we could be “dependent” or “needy” or “hysterical”. So we learn to suppress. And suppress and suppress and suppress because we definitely don’t want our mental health to be in question — ever.

Think of stress like a body of water. The sand, shore and blue-green water are a beautiful scene but take a closer look and you’ll notice that every now and then the surface current picks up. We’re suddenly aware of the passing temperament of the water. We often judge our stress level by the “surface current” in our lives — those major stresses like finances, relationships, work, children, an uncleaned house, making sure to get to important meetings on time, unexpected circumstances like a broke down car or water heater, or the unexpected environmental events we can’t control like fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. And addressing those fears and anxieties is important. But the work I prefer to do with my clients is the work of beginning to recognize and address the UNDERCURRENT. 

The “undercurrent” in our lives is the subconscious behaviors and thoughts we have been taught and that cause us intense stress by trying to live up to certain standards, or meet certain expectations, or be a certain way to keep towing the line and being what others demand. The undercurrent is the power play in our relationships that we are scared to upset. It is the way we get subconsciously punished when we don’t stay inside another person’s expectations. It is the pressure we put on ourselves to look and act a certain way in order to get the affirmation we desire. It is the way we walk, hold ourselves, speak, and dress to get positive feedback. Most of the time, we do not even think about doing these things — it is all subconscious choices that we have become accustomed to. It is an inauthentic way to live. And the undercurrent is ultimately what hurts people the most.

Here are “undercurrent” themes I have seen in my work with clients:

  • feeling pressure to look a certain way to keep their spouse’s attention (and getting hurt feelings when they don’t receive their husband’s full sexual attention visually)
  • fears that their spouse will leave (for various reasons — all because of false perceptions of ourselves — “If only I did this better”, “If only I looked more like that”, “He’s going to find someone better”, “I’ll never be good enough”)
  • letting others (often a father figure or other strong figure, like a stern mother or grandmother) take the lead on decisions and daily activities, suppressing your natural desire to lead (it can be something as simple as always letting them drive because you are retaining their rightful place as the leader and you as the follower)
  • diluting your opinions so you don’t rock the boat (minimizing and sugarcoating how you really feel so you don’t face consequences, or straight-up lying so you don’t get “in trouble”)
  • agonizing over your wardrobe choices so you don’t upset anyone or receive unsolicited comments (whether sexual attention from strangers or disapproval from friends/family)
  • feeling ashamed of certain body parts (ex: my eyebrows aren’t thick enough, my skin tone looks horrible without makeup, my feet are disgusting, my hands are manly, my neck is too saggy, my stomach will never be good enough. We can have hundreds of these “subconscious” thoughts every day!)
  • feeling ashamed of eating in front of people, no matter what you are eating or how much
  • trying to hyper-feminize your voice to appear less aggressive or assertive
  • speaking in passive sentences or writing in passive sentences to appear less assertive (ex: “Is there any way you could please help me take out the trash?” versus, “Please help me take out the trash”)
  • apologizing and saying sorry for normal requests so you are not perceived as aggressive or rude (“I’m sorry to ask but could you please cook this burger a little more? I asked for well-done and it’s rare. I apologize — it’s not your fault!”)
  • over-thinking your choice of specific clothing or make-up colors so you will be taken seriously in business encounters
  • feminizing ourselves so we don’t emasculate fathers, spouses, and friends (fear of emasculating because it brings forth anger from others)
  • and so many more!

 

Now here’s how those undercurrent themes stress you out physically:

  • shallow breathing (can lead to dizziness and panic attacks)
  • resentment that causes adrenaline rushes and high cortisol (notice next time you get secretly resentful how jittery you feel)
  • tensed stomach (causes improper digestion, gas, bloating, heavy full feeling, ulcers, stomach acid problems. Inhibitory responses also cause low thyroid function)
  • painful lump in throat when suppressing tears or words
  • strained vocal cords and muscles
  • tense neck, shoulder, and back muscles
  • tense jaw muscles and TMJ (you would be amazed how much tension we can hold there!)
  • racing thoughts, fear, anger, resentment, and shame
  • inability to fall asleep (due to racing anxious thoughts and unexpressed desires)
  • low thyroid function (a lifetime of inhibitory responses can cause this. When we inhibit normal breathing, muscle function, and digestive function, it slows thyroid hormone release)
  • adrenal fatigue (low or high cortisol problems)
  • and more!

Have you ever thought about your “undercurrent” stressors? Consider which subconscious thoughts and behaviors are stressing you daily and why (or for whom) you are still choosing them. After you recognize them, you can begin to live more authentically and therefore be less stressed and healthier. 

how generational wounds keep you sick and stressed

I’ve said it before — nutrition may be my number one passion, but the mind-body connection comes in a close second. I’ve written before about how stress will affect you physically — not only because of stress hormone release but also how we learn patterns of tension in the body (trouble breathing, which can lead to anxiety, which can cause the brain to not receive enough oxygen, which can prevent muscles and glands from receiving adequate blood flow, over-production of stomach acid, muscle pain and more.)

Sometimes stress comes in the form of our daily life experiences — difficult relationships, difficult decisions to be made, feeling sick from a diagnosed illness, financial troubles, and more. But I want to challenge you to also recognize that GENERATIONAL WOUNDS can keep us sick. 

What is a generational wound? Well it’s the patterns of thoughts and behavior that we inherit from our family members. We learn how to think about the world and how to behave from our parents (or caregivers). And they learned how to think about the world and how to behave from their parents, and their parents learned from their parents, and so on and on and on. 

The problems is that most often, generational patterns are never broken and we inadvertently inherit them from our family. So the way that your grandmother always worried herself sick (literally), or the fact that your great-great grandfather was an alcoholic, or that your great grandmother was ashamed of her figure and was always putting herself on unreasonable crash diets, or that your father never learned positive communication and instead only knew how to yell, or that your great-great-great grandmother suffered in poverty, are likely all still reflected in your thoughts, actions, and how you feel about yourself even if you don’t know their stories.

Does it sound like a stretch? It’s not. The sum total of the lessons we have learned from our caregivers is a direct result of what they have learned over the course of their lifetime — and what their caregivers taught them. The anger, shame, frustration, poor communication, anxieties, fears get passed down. So although you are not living in poverty, you still feel shame that you are not in a better place financially. Even though you are not an unhealthy weight, you still impose strict calorie restrictions on yourself because no woman in your family has ever been happy with her appearance so what gives you the right? Or, although you don’t want to fight with people, you never learned how to communicate in a clear and healthy way so you aren’t sure why your conversations always end in anger. And, even though you aren’t in an abusive relationship, you still feel like you are always walking on eggshells because you learned that anyone can become angry at you at any moment and for anything.

Think of generational wounds as the memories we subconsciously pass down to others. And because life can be painful, pain is very often what we pass down and our brains and nervous systems choose to remember most. Remembering pain is a survival technique, after all. It’s the brain’s attempt at avoiding anything that can jeopardize our safety. Unfortunately, these wounds also keep us locked in figurative cages. We hold ourselves back, don’t allow ourselves happiness, choose pain and suffering over joy, recreate our own cycles of shame and anger, and live our lives to please people who are no longer even alive. 

To break this cycle, start by recognizing your own generational wounds. What is the behavior you recognize in your parents that isn’t/wasn’t healthy? Now think back to their parents and try to recognize the wounds and unhealthy patterns that were passed down to them and how it must have affected them as people. We want to have empathy for our ancestors, instead of blaming any one person for how they may have acted in this life. The idea isn’t to point blame, but to see the struggles and events that led up to the dysfunctional behavior. Then we can distance ourselves from the pain of the generational wounds, instead of being triggered by them. We can recognize problems in our own lives that we inherited and work to change them. We can stop the stress patterns and stress hormone release. We also need to identify where in the body we store tension from these generational wounds. Is it a tensed stomach? Tensed muscle or shoulders from fear and stress? Clenched jaw? Shallow breathing? Everyone will have different wounds and different patterns of tension in the body. Identifying them is the best way to start to heal.

Want to do more mind-body work? Check out my 3-Month Thyroid Mind-Body Program.