RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN AND UNHOOK THOSE “LEGAL” CRAVINGS.
When talking addiction, drugs, poor choices and recklessness come to mind. However, in today’s world, addiction is more common and more accepted than many would like to admit, with a plethora of high-volume, readily available and socially accepted ‘guilty pleasures’ in plain sight – many of which are what, world-renowned nutrition expert Patrick Holford calls “feel good” stimulants.
Coffee, tea, cigarettes, sugar, energy drinks and alcohol are just some of today’s version of accepted drugs containing stimulants that provide the kick we need to manage in our busy worlds. Giving us an “edge” just as amphetamines do, these cravings are as real as experienced by cocaine addicts, according to studies in Physiology, Biophysics and Psychopharmacology at Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington DC and the University of Minnesota.
“Modern living constantly triggers stress. Even the average adrenalin rush of a commuter stuck in a traffic jam provides enough “fuel” or adrenalin to keep them running for a mile. That’s how much glucose (sugar) is released,” explains Holford.
Searching for energy, we turn to stimulants available at home, in the office, and at 24-hour fast food outlets to counter stress – albeit temporarily. Once the adrenalin rush of the stimulant of choice passes, the cycle repeats as we go in search of our next “fix”.
“Low energy levels, a lack of concentration, confusion, poor sleep patterns, irritability, headaches, tight muscles and sweatiness are all signs of low sugar, withdrawal and the body over-reacting to high-sugar foods, caffeine, nicotine and other stimulants,” says Holford.
Holford suggests that understanding the way the body reacts to these mental rewards are key to getting rid of the addiction for good.
“The key to the pleasant, even euphoric effects of mood-altering substances is how they mimic the action of chemicals in the brain and nervous system called neurotransmitters,” says Holford.
Neurotransmitters, our communication system and “information highway”, as well as mood, thought, motivation and memory mediators, are temporarily balanced by cravings and are created by both the body and the brain.
“When neurotransmitters are in optimum amounts, they reward us for functioning well and staying alive with the sense of feeling good and satisfied. Made up of essential amino acids, cravings begin when we are deficient in these specific building blocks,” explains Holford.
The problem with consuming these “vices” regularly is that it starts a pattern of reliance that could become an addiction before you even realise it.
“When stimulants are used to curb cravings, they alter the balance of the neurotransmitters by sensitising the brain to drug-related stimuli and shutting down receptor sites on neurons, resulting in more cravings to get neuron communication running again, causing a vicious cycle of addiction,” says Holford.
Fortunately, breaking free from this “hijacking of the mind” is possible. In addition to cutting down or giving up the cause, Holford recommends some simple changes that can help.
- Drink at least one litre of water every day.
- Include soya milk, eggs, fish, cottage cheese, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and legumes in your diet.
- Eat low-GL (a measure of sugar and starch) foods like lean meats and vegetable proteins, wholegrain carbohydrates and essential fats, and calculate your intake to 60 GLs per day.
- Repair the brain and detoxify the body with plenty of antioxidants found in green vegetables, garlic, apples, and something blue, red, orange or yellow.
- Supplement your Vitamin B, Folic Acid, Zinc, antioxidant and Magnesium intake with a good multivitamin.
- Avoid coffee and alcohol in the evenings.
- Don’t eat a big meal before bed.
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet (free from technological disturbance and artificial light).
- Try listening to alpha wave-inducing music and practise relaxation exercises in bed for a good night’s sleep.
- Exercise, laugh and play with your children regularly.
- Get involved in calming activities like meditation, yoga, tai chi, retreats and workshops.
- Get a homocysteine and IgG allergy test done, which are available at your nearest Ampath or Lancet Laboratories.
Not only do these tips assist with stimulant cravings and addiction, they also form part of Holford’s low-GL diet, which outlines a guide for overall health, well-being and weight loss. For more information about mood, addiction and the low-GL diet, visit www.holforddirect.co.za.