DO YOU OFTE FEEL:
- Anxious, panicky, overwhelmed and stressed?
- ever feel like you’ve had enough sleep?
- Can’t fall asleep easily or wake up too early?
- Have mood dips and feel like you’re running on empty?
- Struggle to concentrate and stay calm, focussed?
- ‘eed’ coffee, sugar, nicotine, alcohol, drugs (legal or prescribed) and digital connection?
- Feel like there’s something more that you need to buy or consume to feel good?
- Feel out of control – like you’ve lost your way?
If so, your brain has been hijacked and you don’t even know it. We are living in space-age times with stone age minds and multi-national companies, from Coca Cola to Costa, Apple to Facebook, have learnt how to get you hooked – literally neurochemically addicted to consuming their products by manipulating what’s called the brain’s ‘reward system’.
It’s also why prescriptions for anti-depressants, sleeping pills and tranquillisers have rocketed and Big Pharma clocks up $1 trillion a year in sales. It’s why, globally, more people commit suicide than all other causes of violent deaths including wars. The brain’s ‘reward’ system is based on dopamineDopamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) found within the brain. It has a variety of influences on brain function including playing a role in regulating… and adrenalin and clever marketing techniques have learnt how to get you hooked. One key is a trigger that you press and receive a variable reward that you want. It’s like slot machine addiction. You keep putting the money in, hoping for a jackpot.
Facebook, for example, have learnt how to do this with prompts, swipe downs, red icons that you press and don’t know what you receive. Is it a ‘like’? Do I have more ‘friends’? Or has another person ‘linked’ to me on Linked In etc. The average person now checks their phone 2,617 times a day.
Facebook even knows when you’re feeling ‘insecure’, ‘worthless’ and ‘need a confidence boost’ or bored, according to a leaked report this year, and can make sure you receive notification of a ‘like’ just when you ‘need’ it to keep you hooked in.
Insidiously and unknowingly your brain has been hijacked and the symptoms you feel are the direct consequences of an intended addiction. Gambling, gaming, overeating, sex, drug and digital addiction are all part of it.
Like all addictions you crave more and more, and get less and less pay off, until you have to ‘consume’ to just not feel s**t. You’re hooked. You’ve been sold ‘pleasure’ under the guise of happiness. (Think happy hour, happy meal etc.) They’ve ended up phenomenally rich and you’ve ended up psychologically broke. It’s their Brave ew World, not yours.
The hallmark of an addiction is when a ‘want’ turns into a ‘need’. Think about your addictions – that is things you couldn’t do without or, if deprived, would start saying ‘I need…’. Do they really make you happy and contented or do they stop you feeling bad/tired/stressed? How long before you need more? Could you go a week without caffeine, alcohol, sugar, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, cannabis, digital media, gambling? What’s your addiction?
But there is a way to loosen the grip of addictive substances and behaviours and break free from this ‘mind matrix’, the virtual consumer reality that has little to do with real and sustainable health and happiness.
The key is understanding how to ‘unaddict’ your brain, regain control, and claim your natural connection (which is based on serotoninSerotonin is a hormone found naturally in the brain and digestive tract. It is often referred to as the ‘happy hormone’ as it influences mood…. and melatonin) with consequent contentment, clarity of mind and purpose and ability to sleep like a baby and wake up fully charged and refreshed.
But also, our overused reward systems become depleted with our own feel good dopamine/noradrenalin/adrenalin diminished, and in need of a natural boost. And this over-activated pathway competes with and shuts down serotonin production which is what actually helps to make us feel happy and content.
A simple example is sunshine. It actually promotes serotonin and happiness. This time of year we lack that avenue. The amino acid tryptophan is the building block for serotonin. An experiment was carried out at Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry which proved this connection very clearly. Fifteen women were given a diet devoid of tryptophan. Within eight hours ten of the women started to feel more depressed. When tryptophan was added back into their diet, without them knowing, their mood improved.  That is how quickly what you eat affects how you feel.
Another amino acid, tyrosine, is required for healthy levels of dopamine and noradrenalin. Soldiers given tyrosine cope better with combat stress.  Tyrosine is also the precursor for thyroxine, the ‘energy’ hormone. Many alcohol dependent people have poor dopamine ‘resistance’ meaning their receptors aren’t working properly, which is why they crave alcohol. We all become dopamine resistant with too much stimulation. That’s why we ‘need’ more and more things, stuff, food, drink to feel good or, at least, normal. But this constant craving can be transformed with the right nutritional support. It takes about a month.
One month mind makeover
- Cut sugar and balance daily blood sugar with low GL eating
- Ensure omegas and B vitamins
- Boost B vitamins
- Morning aminos and adaptogensAdaptogens are herbs that have a normalising influence on the body. They help the body adapt to stress, support its normal functions and restore balance….
- Evening chill aminos and good sleep promoters
These are the five steps you need to take to ‘unaddict’ your brain and break free from the mind matrix that keeps us hooked into feeding our reward system with pleasure-seeking activity, as opposed to designing our life for happiness.
There is a sixth, which is to wind down on your current addictive habits and behaviours. I can prescribe exactly what you need to do here because it depends on your addiction. It might be no or less caffeine e.g. one caffeinated drink a day; or no alcohol, or only at weekends; nothing with sugar in it; check your Facebook/Instagram once a day. These are just examples. You have to work out your own strategy for regaining control, free from habitual addiction.
Meanwhile, these five ‘break free’ steps will help loosen the grip. Do all five for a month and you’ll notice the difference.
Cut sugar and balance daily blood sugar with low GL eating
The first step is to avoid any foods with ‘sugar/glucose/fructose’ or other sweetener in the ingredients. Just don’t buy it. The next is to avoid adding sweeteners including honey/coconut palm blossom/ date syrup/agave or other fancy names for sugar. The only one that you could add in small quantities is xylitolXylitol is a completely natural sweetener that looks and tastes like sugar. It is naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables…., derived from xylose, the natural sugar in berries, cherries and plums. Also, avoid all fruit juices except sugar-free cherry juice or blueberry juices (Cherry Active and Blueberry Active concentrate – one glass max a day).
The next is to follow my low GL Diet principles. If you don’t know these get my book Low GL Diet Cookbook as a good starting point. For example, you want to always have proteinProteins are large molecules consisting of chains of amino acids. Proteins are essential nutrients for the human body – they are a building block of… with a carbohydrateCarbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body as they can be broken down into glucose (sugar) more readily than either protein or…. Fruit with nuts. Fish with (brown) rice or even better would be Kamut Low GL bulghur. Oats and oatcakes, perhaps with hummus, are especially low GL source of carbohydrate.
Ensure omegas and phospholipids
Your brain cells are literally made out of essential omegas, mainly omega-3, which have to attach to phospholipids. These phospholipids are richest in eggs and fish. I also supplement them every day in my Brain Food Formula.
Omega-3 comes from oily fish (best source by far), chia, walnut, pumpkin, flax seeds and, of course, fish oil capsules. I eat all of these – oily fish three times a week, seeds and nuts every day, and I take an omega-3 fish oil supplement, Essential Omegas, twice a day.
Boost B vitamins
The ability to ‘attach’ omega-3 to phospholipids depends on B vitamins and especially vitamin B2, B3, B6, folate and B12. These are all required for healthy ‘methylation’ which is how we build brain cells and their receptors for all the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters that become depleted with 21st century consumerism.
I take all of these – B vitamins, omegas and phospholipids – every day in my 100% Health Pack. (They are also all in the Optimum utrition pack with Brain Food, which is slightly more supportive of brain recovery, with 2 x brain Food, while the 100% Health Pack has 1 x Brain Food, plus 1 x AGE AntioxidantAntioxidants are substances that protect cells within the body from damage caused by free radicals. They help to strengthen the body’s ability to fight infection….)
Morning aminos and adaptogens
But if you’ve become dopamine depleted the direct building block for dopamine, adrenalin and noradrenalin is the amino acid tyrosine. I recommend 750 to 1,500mg a day. Vitamin B5 – pantothenic acidWhat it does: Involved in energy production, controls fat metabolism. Essential for brain and nerves. Helps make anti-stress hormones. Maintains healthy skin and hair. Deficiency… – also helps support adrenal function at a daily amount of 75mg.
Adaptogenic herbs also help to support natural adaptive capacity and alertness. The best are the three ginsengs – Korean, American and Siberian (Siberian ginseng is actually a different plant) and also Reishi mushroom, a favourite of the Japanese. (Read my report for studies on these adaptogenic herbs.)
You can take all of these together in a single supplement, although you’ll need two capsules, in the morning before food. This is important as protein in food competes with the absorption of tyrosine. If you are really depleted take another 2 capsules mid-morning.
Evening chill aminos and good sleep promoters
In the evening you want to promote serotonin, from which we also make the vital sleep nutrient, melatonin. The direct building block is tryptophan in the form of 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP. Some people respond best to tryptophan, which the brain converts into 5-HTP, others to direct 5-HTP. I like a combination of both, but 5-HTP is ten times more potent so 100mg of 5-HTP equals 1,000mg of tryptophan. Supplementing 200mg of 5-HTP half an hour before bed improves sleep.
The amino acid GABA, and its precursors l-taurine and l-glutamine, also switch off activated adrenalin, which is what stops you winding down and falling to sleep in the evening.
Caffeine depresses melatonin for up to ten hours so it’s vital to avoid all caffeine after midday. L-theanine, the calming amino acid in tea, counteracts the negative effects of caffeine on sleep and a recent study has found 250mg of theanine to be an effective anti-depressant. Another gave theanine (400mg) to boys with ADHD and reported better quality and quantity of sleep.
Being highly stressed or eating a lot of sugar lowers magnesiumWhat it does: Strengthens bones and teeth, promotes healthy muscles by helping them to relax, also important for PMS, important for heart muscles and nervous… levels. Supplementing 500mg of magnesium has been shown to shorten the time it takes to fall asleep, lengthen sleep, improve quality of sleep, reduce insomnia rating and increase melatonin levels in a randomised placebo controlled trial. Magnesium is found in seeds, nuts, green vegetables and seafood.
The best is to take a combination supplement with tryptophan, 5-HTP, magnesium and l-theanine an hour before bed. You’ll need two capsules.
Cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin so a shot of Cherry Active is one of the simplest ways to promote sleep. A randomised controlled trial last year showed that ‘Cherry juice increased sleep time and sleep efficiency’.
Having a bath with lavender oil in it is another natural way to wind down. (Read the January Issue 104 of my 100% Health ewsletter – members only) for much more on how to get seven hours of good quality sleep.)
Do all this for one month and you’ll reclaim your brain and break free from the ‘mind matrix’ that keeps us hooked into addictive ‘pleasure’ seeking behaviours that have less and less pay-off. Instead, you’ll find a natural contentment and happiness is present and available to you. If you’d like to explore this rich field in more depth read The Chemistry of Connection.
- KA Smith et al, Lancet, 1997
- TC Birdsall, Alternative Medical Review, 1998
- H Jang et al, Pharmacol Biochem Behav, 2012
- S Hidese et al, Acta europsychiatr, 2017
- M Lyon et al, Altern Med Rev, 2011
- B Abbassi et al, J Res Med Sci, 2012
- J Losso et al, Am J Ther, 2017 Mar 27
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