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!

 

 

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 stop hair loss (or re-grow!)

We know that thyroid disease runs in families and mine is no different. My grandmother dealt with Graves’ disease for many years, along with other autoimmune conditions like Addison’s, arthritis, and alopecia. I watched her try different wigs, different diets, and different doctors over the years. I never made the connection between her health and mine until I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease in 2007. 

While I never lost my hair with Hashimoto’s, this is one of the most common symptoms I see in my nutrition practice with female clients. I was too young to understand my grandmother’s health complications at the time they were happening, but losing hair is a major blow to women because it represents to much of our beauty and identity. It is a visible symptom that something is wrong with our health and it can range from embarrassing to devastating and that makes us vulnerable. 
The most important first step when dealing with hair loss is to identify the cause. Yes, thyroid disease gets blamed as a catch-all for hair loss, but there are almost always underlying nutritional factors that need to be addressed to stop it. 
Nutrients that are commonly low:
  • minerals like magnesium, potassium, zinc, silica. Note that zinc deficiency is SUPER common, and it is very hard to get enough potassium from your daily diet even if you are eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables. I like using nutritional yeast to get extra potassium in the diet — it is naturally high potassium and tastes deliciously cheesy. Using a multi-mineral liquid drop in your water is a simple way to add minerals daily. 
  • fatty acids. Start eating quality organic/grass-fed/wild-caught animal proteins WITH the fat!, or supplement with a marine oil if necessary. Start making bone broth for the minerals and amino acids.
  • iron. Okay this one we all know but anemia can actually be caused by deficiencies in OTHER nutrients aside from iron! Don’t ever just start supplementing iron if you do not know you are in fact deficient. Iron poisoning is real, and if nothing else, excess iron causes oxidative stress and damage. Bone broth is also helpful for raising iron levels because it stimulates bone marrow formation which builds blood. Liver supplements are another way to get iron without supplementing with isolated iron which can cause people stomach problems like nausea and constipation. 
  • B vitamins. Another kind of anemia is called megaloblastic anemia which caused by B vitamin deficiency. Get your B vitamin levels checked and if they are low, use a B vitamin form that is appropriate for your gene mutations (get tested for this at Ancestry.com or 23andme.com). Generally it’s best to avoid synthetic B vitamins and take “methylated” (aka: active) forms. But keep in mind that some B vitamins, like B12 require huge amounts of potassium to be processed. So if you’re not getting enough potassium daily as it is or you are already potassium deficient, adding in B vitamins may not be a good idea until you can address the mineral deficiencies. In that case, B vitamins could actually cause more hair loss. 
Ways to stimulate new hair growth:
  • horsetail supplements. This is an herb that is used to grow back hair. Works great but will take a few months. 
  • biotin. This is a B vitamin that stimulates hair growth.
  • liver (see above regarding iron)
  • marine oil like cod liver oil, fish oil, salmon oil, krill oil, etc. (see above about fatty acids)
  • multi-mineral supplement 
  • digestive enzyme that contains Betaine plus lipase, protease, amylase. These will help you absorb more nutrients from the foods you’re eating.
  • an anti-septic herb like olive leaf extract, black walnut, Humaworm, etc. because bad gut bugs are a common cause of low iron. 
  • stop stressing and find ways to relax and stop thinking about the hair loss. Stress will only cause more hormonal changes that won’t benefit you. 
  • get your cortisol and thyroid checked and treat as necessary.
  • stop using chemical-based hygiene and beauty products.
  • stimulate liver function by adding in beets, beet kvass, bitter greens, dandelion or alfalfa tea.
  • eliminate food allergens! This is a major cause of underlying hair loss!

Remember not to just start taking all of these. You have to first identify the cause of the hair loss and then work with a practitioner to decide which options are best.