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

Women, makeup, and chemicals

Ladies, something important has been on my mind this past week. Chemicals. Yes, chemicals. Not the unseen, invisible, boogeyman kind of chemicals in the air and dirt or in the flooring and dry wall in our homes. I’m talking about the chemicals we put on our bodies every.single.day. The pinks and rouges and floral scents we paint and spray ourselves with. Why are women diagnosed with chronic illness more often than men? Could this be why?

I grew up in the 90s so my first memories of these kinds of chemicals was shopping at Bath and Body Works (what could be so terrible about that?!) with girlfriends and deliberating over which scent was “ours” — fruity or flowery?; spicy or sweet?. I also grew up on grocery store cosmetics — the cheap kinds that made it seem reasonable to buy multiple brands in multiple shades.

Last week I “accidentally” got an inside glimpse into one of those make-up MLM companies — a very famous one, and one that has deep roots in Texas. An invitation to a “business seminar” from an acquaintance actually turned into a tried and true hard sell for this beauty company (whoops!?!). I saw women who were so motivated and successful at selling these makeup products. They were amazing women and I felt so inspired by their work ethic. The only question for me was if they had ever thought about the chemicals they used on their own faces and bodies and the chemicals they enthusiastically sold to other women. Did they know about the beauty product connection to words like “endocrine disruptor”, “carcinogen”, “immunosuppressant”, “immunostimulant”, or “neurotoxin”? No they didn’t.

These were women who were friendly, kind, and wanted good things for themselves and their families. I have been in their shoes as an entrepreneur myself and empathized with them. And they wanted other women to be part of the success. But I realized this is the veil that cosmetic chemicals afford us — we can pretend that these products are good for women, make us feel better, provide a sense of sisterhood, make us more confident, and aren’t really that big of a deal. When we start to break down the misconceptions, the veil gets thinner and thinner and we can see that study after study has linked the chemicals in makeup, perfume, and soap to disease. Not just disease but DAILY symptoms. Not just symptoms but a slippery slope into serious health problems for the next generation too.

Let’s stop pretending that makeup is only fun and always safe. Let’s make some difficult decisions to let go of lifelong brand loyalties and stop being afraid of looking too “serious” about something so “trivial”. Our health is dependent upon it. I watched my grandmother suffer with at least four autoimmune conditions before she eventually died of breast cancer. Her medicine cabinet and fridge were full of toxic chemicals. And she had common gene mutations that didn’t let her detoxify properly.

After I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease in 2007, I made a personal commitment to not using man-made chemicals in my home and life. Sometimes that means I clean things with hydrogen peroxide. Sometimes it means I wash my face with castile soap. If you’re looking to reduce the over-stimulation of your immune system due to autoimmunity, start getting rid of those chemicals. If you’re looking to boost your thyroid due to hypothyroidism, get rid of those chemicals. Don’t stress and don’t judge yourself — just do what you can with your budget and with which products are available to you. Your current health will benefit. Your future health will benefit. Make it a core value. <3

(As a note: sometimes tone online is tricky but there is no judgment here for anyone who uses, buys, or sells conventional beauty products. It’s all about being aware and doing what we can. 100% is not reasonable for everyone).

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.