All these neurotransmitters have a specific effects on behaviour and mood, Alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs, medications and nicotine can, not only imitate neurotransmitters and bind with the receptors in the brain that neurotransmitters are supposed to bind to, but also force expulsion or inhibit levels of the nutrients in the blood that are required to manufacture these neurotransmitters, and hence affect the levels and functioning of the brain’s natural neurotransmitters in the brain even further.
Neurotransmitters are released from a neuron (a presynaptic cell), travel across a small gap (the synapse) and then attach to specific receptors located on a nearby neuron (postsynaptic cell). This spurs the receiving neuron into action, triggering a set of events that allows the message to be passed along.
A receptor is essentially a lock designed to accept only the right key which is the neurotransmitter whose molecular shape and polarity are a precise fit. The typical receptor is a large molecule, consisting of hundreds of thousands of atoms. The exposed section, which resembles a lily pad or a cup, floats on the surface of the cell membrane, while the roots extend deep into the cell. The exposed end of the receptor is the mirror image (both in geometry and in magnetic properties) of the neurotransmitter molecule it is designed to receive.
A receptor is also spring-loaded and so when a neurotransmitter molecule settles into it, it suddenly and forcefully changes shape. Inside the cell, the roots move and this triggers a disturbance in another molecule, which in turn disturbs another and this, in turn, disturbs yet another. This reaction travels ‘domino-fashion’ until it reaches the cell body where it initiates some sort of specific activity.
There are as many kinds of receptors as there are neurotransmitters and, although each receptor is supposed to recognise and accept only a particular neurotransmitter molecule, certain drugs and plant compounds are also able to mate with some receptors. These substitute molecules can either imitate a neurotransmitter and create a similar response or they can simply occupy and block the receptor making it unavailable to that particular type of neurotransmitter. Addictive substances interact with the brain's receptors in this manner.
Several dozen different neurotransmitter varieties have been identified in the brain and more continue to be discovered all the time. Human knowledge of the specific functions of neurotransmitters is still in its infancy, but it seems that each one probably plays some role in most behaviours. A neurotransmitter imbalance is usually involved in attention-deficit disorder, brain disorders, including Parkinson's disease, obsessive-compulsive behaviour and food or drug-related addictions.ACETYLCHOLINE AND NICOTINE
Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that supports nerve function and controls bladder function, digestion and the heart rate. It is the primary chemical carrier of thought and memory and is essential for both the storage and recall of memory and partly responsible for concentration and focus. It also plays a significant role in muscular coordination and regulates sleep and wakefulness. A deficit in acetylcholine is directly related to memory decline and reduced cognitive capacity. The acetylcholine molecule also binds to nicotinic receptors at the autonomic ganglia to trigger the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
There are two types of acetylcholine receptors, muscarinic and nicotinic which are named after the alternative molecules that can bind to them, muscarine (from certain mushrooms) and nicotine (from tobacco).
Muscarinic receptors are involved in a large number of physiological functions including heart rate and force, contraction of smooth muscles and the release of other neurotransmitters. The activation of the muscarinic receptors in the heart is important for closing calcium channels in order to reduce the force and rate of contraction. This is why certain poisonous mushrooms, that contain muscarine, can cause convulsions and even be fatal.
Nicotinic receptors are involved in a wide range of physiological processes and can be either muscle-type or neuronal.
Muscle-type nicotinic receptors are located at neuromuscular junctions, where an electrical impulse from a neuron to a muscle cell signals contraction and is responsible for muscle tone. Drugs that relax the muscles are made to fit these receptors to block the activation of muscle contractions caused by the acetylcholine neurotransmitter.
Neuronal nicotinic receptors are located at synapses between neurons, where they are involved in analgesia, arousal, cognitive function, learning, memory, motor control and reward. These effects lead to a cascade of events that transmit the signal inside the cell, resulting in the continuation of a nerve impulse, the movement of muscle, or many other responses in a variety of different tissues. For example, the sight, smell and taste of food can cause the vagus nerve to release acetylcholine, which binds to receptors on parietal cells, causing a cascade of effects that lead to the formation of hydrochloric acid that is required for the digestion of food in the stomach. Because nicotine can bind to these receptors smoking tobacco can reduce the appetite and hunger. When a person stops smoking they can often experience digestive disorders due to the sudden increase in acetylcholine binding to these receptors instead of nicotine.
Because nicotine can bind to both muscle and neuronal receptors it can have a profound addictive effect and makes withdrawal symptoms so difficult to contend with and treat. The excessive and chronic activation of these receptors also causes a reduction of the number of active receptors and reduces the psychotropic effect of nicotine. (A psychotropic is a mood-altering drug that affects mental activity, behaviour and perception). Due to the phenomenon of tolerance, the smoker needs to smoke more and more cigarettes to keep up a constant effect.
Nicotine also activates the production of dopamine in the brain but prolonged exposure of the dopamine receptors to nicotine reduces the effects of dopamine by cutting down the number of available receptors. Consequently, more and more nicotine is needed to give the same pleasurable effect and the smoker becomes addicted.
After a brief period of abstinence (overnight for instance), the brain concentration of nicotine lowers and allows a part of the receptors to recover their sensibility. The return to an active state rises the neurotransmission to an abnormal rate. The smoker feels uncomfortable, which induces him to smoke again. The first cigarette of the day is the most pleasant because the sensibility of the dopamine receptors is maximal. Then, the receptors are soon desensitised and the pleasure wears off which is the vicious circle of smoking.
It is not just the tobacco smoke that contains carcinogenic substances and is harmful, the danger of nicotine is that a) it constricts blood vessels and hence slows down circulation and b) its amine function can react with nitrogen monoxide or with nitrous acid to form a nitrosonium-type molecule. If the body becomes acidic it can transform this molecule into an irreversible DNA damaging carcinogen which may lead to the development of cancer. However, the dopamine release and the relief of filling the hungry receptors with the nicotine they have become accustomed to is so powerful that it makes smoking tobacco one of the most difficult habits to break even when the smoker is made aware of the serious damage it is doing to their body.
See also Tobacco dangers.
Studies have found that beta-phenylethylamine promotes energy and elevates mood and also functions as a synaptic neuromodulator inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. Studies have discovered that patients with depression have decreased beta-phenylethylamine levels while increased levels have been found in patients with psychopathic tendencies.
Dopamine is one of the brains neurotransmitters that plays a major role in cognition, movement, pleasure and reward-motivated behaviour and is responsible for controlling the exchange of information from one brain area to another. In certain areas of the brain dopamine gives the individual a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction which then become desired. To satisfy that desire the person will repeat behaviours that cause the release of dopamine. This is because, just like the body’s immune system that remembers every type of virus that has entered the body so that it can eliminate it quickly should it try to enter the body again, the brain subconsciously remembers any activity that releases dopamine. The more dopamine this activity releases and the more often this activity is performed, the stronger the memory and the more the subconscious brain tries to direct behaviour towards repeating it.
For example food and sex release dopamine which is why people want food even though their body does not need it and why people sometimes need sex. These two behaviours scientifically make sense since the body needs food to survive and humans need to have sex to allow the race to survive. However, other less natural behaviours have the same effect on one's dopamine levels and at times can even be more powerful. Often these behaviours can result in addiction and this can have negative effects on a person's well-being and those around them depending upon the type of behaviour.
Dopamine is easy to oxidise and nutrients with antioxidant properties can reduce free radical damage to the brain cells that produce dopamine. See antioxidant foods below. Without enough dopamine in the brain, an individual can feel depressed, sluggish and uninterested in life.
SYMPTOMS OF DOPAMINE DEFICIENCY
When dopamine levels are low it will have a profound effect on the brain and body. The most common signs of a dopamine deficiency are the same signs associated with clinical depression.
Extreme dopamine deficiency, as in the case of Parkinson’s disease, causes a permanent and degenerative diminishing of motor skills, including muscle rigidity and tremors. Using an excessive amount of cocaine for an extended period of time can lead to a severe loss of dopamine receptors and eventually Parkinson’s disease can develop.
Natural foods that can also increase dopamine levels in the brain
EPINEPHRINE AND NOREPINEPHRINE
Epinephrine and norepinephrine are two separate but related neurotransmitters similar to hormones and secreted by the medulla of the adrenal glands.
Norepinephrine activates alpha-receptors and epinephrine activates primarily beta-receptors, although it may also activate alpha receptors.
Like a hormone, these neurotransmitters travel in the bloodstream to arouse brain activity with their adrenalin-like effects and an ‘adrenal rush’, caused by the release of these neurotransmitters, can be manifested through any behaviour that causes excitement such as buying and selling goods, extreme sports, gaming addiction, gambling, sexual activities, thrill-seeking activities, work addiction or many other activities especially any involving a fast-reacting computer application.
Added to this is the release of dopamine, which takes place when the ‘adrenal-rush’ causing activity brings about the desired result which produces a sensation of euphoria, and this has a double impact which is why so many behavioural addictions are so hard to break.
RISK AND REWARD
The human race separates itself from other species on this planet by, not only its ability to reason, but its ability to create and innovate and in order to do this a person has to feel satisfaction when they accomplish an innovation. To try and do something that no-one else has tried means taking risks as the outcome is unknown. The reward, that nature has provided for humans, for achieving an innovation is the release of dopamine and the feeling of satisfaction. The problem with this process is that, not only can one be satisfied after a major risk and accomplishment, but one can also be satisfied through constant minor risks and accomplishments and gambling is a prime example of this.
The feelings of satisfaction that dopamine provides are so powerful that an individual can often loses the ability to reason in order to achieve satisfaction. It is then the unconscious that takes over and begins to make certain decisions. The brain develops neural circuits that unconsciously assess reward and because the dopamine plays an active role in these circuits, a person will act in what they think is in their best interest when, in fact, the only real interest it satisfies is the release of dopamine. This can be demonstrated by the fact that an individual persists in gambling even though they know that the odds are against them. This is the case in all casino games, where the games are structured for the house to win. Probability and reason no longer are the most important factors in decision making. The unconscious need for the release of dopamine becomes paramount and this shows that the unconscious mind wanting the release of dopamine plays a major role in decision-making and addiction.
COCAINE USE AND GAMBLING
Cocaine chemically inhibits the natural dopamine cycle. Normally, after dopamine is released, it is recycled back into a dopamine transmitting neuron. However, cocaine binds to the dopamine, and does not allow it to be recycled. Thus there is a build-up of dopamine and it floods certain neural areas. The flood ends after about 30 minutes and the person is then left yearning to feel it again. That is how the addiction begins.
A tolerance gradually builds-up due to the fact that the person is constantly trying to repeat the feeling that he or she had the first time. However, the person cannot, because dopamine is also released when something pleasurable but unexpected occurs. After the first time, the person expects the effect, thus less dopamine is released, and the experience is less satisfying. This principal is the foundation of why gambling also releases dopamine.
When an individual performs an action over and over again, and a reward is received randomly, dopamine levels rise. If the reward is received consistently, for instance every fourth time the action is performed, the dopamine levels remain constant and if no reward is received at all dopamine levels drop.
These same random rewards can be seen in gambling. Because the outcome of gambling is based on chance, the individual does not know prior if they will win and so, when they do win, dopamine levels increase. However, unlike cocaine, gambling causes addiction in only 4% of participants and this is due to the fact that cocaine's chemical input is much more influential on dopamine levels than gambling's behavioural input. Therefore, only people whose dopamine levels are low become addicted to gambling. Dopamine levels can be low due to genetics, nutrient deficiencies or to environmental factors.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active chemical in cannabis and when a person ingests or smokes cannabis, THC overwhelms the endocrine system, quickly attaching to cannabinoid receptors throughout the brain and body. This interferes with the ability of natural cannabinoids to do their job of fine-tuning communication between neurons, which can throw the entire system off balance.
Because cannabinoid receptors are in so many parts of the brain and body, the effects of THC are wide-ranging: It can slow down a person’s reaction time (which can impair driving or athletic skills), disrupt the ability to remember things that just happened, cause anxiety and affect judgment. THC also affects dopamine levels which gives the feeling of being ‘high’. But over time THC can change how the endocrine system works in these brain areas, which can lead to problems with addiction, memory and mental health which can may lead to paranoia, psychosis and schizophrenia.
See also Recreational drugs.
COMPUTER AND MOBILE PHONE ADDICTION
A new phenomenon is the addiction to computer games, social media websites and mobile phone apps which are becoming more sophisticated so that they now tap into the human psyche on a very basic level of reward for action and this also involves the release of dopamine. Children are at the most risk sitting for hours and hours in front of a screen which can make them ill and depressed as they gradually become introverts losing connections with friends and the 'real' world and lack of physical activity makes them gain weight and can lead to obesity and the complications of that such as depression, diabetes and loss of self-confidence. Posture is another consideration as the body is not going to benefit from having the constantly head bowed.
Adults are at risk but the real concern should be for the future of all the children currently spending far too much of their lives playing non-physical games and interacting only on social media. Gaming addiction is not yet recognised as a real health concern but it should be as Korea has experienced it first-hand, on a large scale, due to their super-fast broadband connections and huge internet advancements.
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER
People who repeatedly perform ritualistic-type movements may be suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A type of OCD known as "body dysmorphic disorder" is a characterised by a preoccupation with an imagined or slight defect in appearance. For example, no matter their actual body size, anorexics firmly believe they are too fat. Conversely, "bigorexics" think themselves too small. As a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite, and impulse control, serotonin is involved in eating disorders associated with these forms of OCD.
This exaggerated sense that something does not look right has a connection with serotonin, because one of this neurotransmitter's functions seems to be involved with turning off brain processes that signal when "something does not fit a person’s conceived notion. Even though nothing is wrong, a mental alarm continues to sound due to abnormally low levels of serotonin.
Another eating disorder associated with a distorted body image is bulimia nervosa, which is characterised by alternate binge eating and purging. In this case there is a reduction in serotonin's ability to bind to receptors in certain brain regions and this contributes to both over-eating and under-eating, two extremes of impulse control. Whether this alteration in serotonin makes some people more vulnerable to developing bulimia or is a consequence of having bulimia is not certain, but often bulimics have experienced symptoms of depressive moods in childhood.
FOOD AND DRUG ADDICTION
There are underlying metabolic malfunctions common to all substance addictions. Sugar and caffeine are the foremost addictive substances widely used today and, along with recreational drugs such as alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, ‘legal-highs’, MDMA and nicotine, they can influence the mood-inducing effect of the body's endorphins. However, one of the most serious addictions today is the widespread use of pharmaceutical drugs. There are some doctors and scientists who believe that this trend is the one of the most serious health problems in modern society.
Studies have shown that when rats eat large amounts of sugar dopamine is released in the brain which is the same effect as how some drugs work on the brain but should not happen with food intake. When a human being binges on sugary foods, it repeatedly releases dopamine in the nucleus accumbens of the brain and this delays the release of acetylcholine which tells a person they are full and thereby postpones satiety allowing them to continue unheeded. Low basal dopamine may be a common factor leading to eating for dopamine hits. Being bombarded by advertisements does not help the sugar addict nor does having sugary products next to tills and many supermarkets rely on this rather devious form of enticement to make higher profits. It can help to stock up on healthier sweet natural foods such as fresh or dried fruit and consume these when sugar cravings occur.
ADDICTION IS A CHEMICAL DISORDER
On a molecular level, the 'happy' dopamine chemical released by the brain whenever these activities are attempted can become a strong engraved path which the 'user' finds more and more difficult to ignore. The brain becomes disorientated and 'craves' this activity to take place again so strongly the addicted person will be forced to make rash and sometimes very dangerous decisions when trying to satisfy their craving especially when it comes to obtaining alcohol, drugs, money, sex or tobacco. It is then that it becomes detrimental to both the addict and others around them.
Because addiction involves chemical responses in the brain, which often the addict has no power to control, addiction should be classed as an illness and treated as such and not criminalised. If the addict has not been educated in the art of self-control they should not be punished by incarceration. Prison only serves to exacerbate the problem because the addict will simply learn alternative and more devious, and often dangerous, ways to gain that which is craved for from other addicts.
FOOD REMEDIES TO ASSIST IN RECOVERY FROM ADDICTIONS
NUTRIENTS TO AID IN RECOVERY FROM ADDICTION ADDICTION
The most important factor, when trying to overcome addictions, is to examine the diet as certain nutrients are often lacking which can have a profound influence upon the psychological state of a person and may be the key which can successfully break an addiction. A poor diet of cheap processed, ‘comfort-foods’ or fast-foods high in fat, sugar and salt is often preferred by those abusing alcohol or drugs and this will further reduce levels of the B vitamins that alcohol and drugs will have already caused.
Similarly, the majority of natural foods rich in the B vitamins and the essential amino acids, such as methionine, phenylalanine and tryptophan which are used to build the body’s neurotransmitters, have to be cooked and those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs are often in an unfit state and unable to cook food for themselves and therefore will be deficient in the very nutrients that can assist them to overcome addictions. Therefore it is imperative to consume natural and nutritious foods rich in all these nutrients whilst trying to overcome any addiction. This way the body will find it easier to return to a state of equilibrium both mentally and physically.
Supplements are not recommended as they often do not contain the correct co-factors required for the absorption and metabolism of nutrients and can cause harmful imbalances which can be detrimental to the recovering addict.
TRYPTOPHAN AND SEROTONIN
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that has two important functions. Firstly, around 3% gained from the diet is converted with the co-factor vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) into vitamin B3 (niacin) by the liver. Secondly, tryptophan serves as a precursor for, and raises levels of, serotonin which is the calming neurotransmitter that helps the body regulate appetite, sleep patterns and mood and promotes contentment and relaxation. Vitamin B6 is also necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
See natural sources of these nutrients:
In addition to the central nervous system, serotonin is also found in the walls of the intestine (the enteric nervous system) and in platelet cells that promote blood clotting. Serotonin plays an important role in regulating memory, learning and blood pressure as well as appetite and body temperature. Low serotonin levels produce aggressive behaviour, depression, increased sensitivity to pain, insomnia and is associated with obsessive-compulsive eating disorders.
Deficiency of this nutrient can, not only affect the mood and sleep patterns, it can also lead to liver damage or inflammatory gastrointestinal disorders which will limit the ability to absorb nutrients properly. Alpha-lactalbumin is a protein found in cow’s milk which contains a high level of tryptophan and is the main reason why a warm milky drink can aid sleep.
An average-build adult human between 19 and 50 years old requires approximately five milligrams of tryptophan per day per kilogram of body weight. Foods rich in tryptophan should be consumed on an empty stomach to allow this amino acid to easily get past the blood-brain barrier. The amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan must both cross the blood-brain barrier along the same pathway. If tryptophan crosses the barrier, it will have a calming effect. If tyrosine gets through then the body and mind will be energised and alert. Stress, infection, and drugs tend to diminish neurotransmitter levels, as does impaired digestion and circulation.
A high-carbohydrate meal can increase the brain's tryptophan levels and hence the serotonin that promotes contentment and normal sleep. Therefore, a carbohydrate-rich meal may be more appropriate for the evening. On the other hand, an individual can be energised for hours after a morning meal high in protein, because it raises tyrosine levels in the blood and brain, causing neurons to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine, the two neurotransmitters that promote alertness, activity and pleasure.
Highest sources of tryptophan in milligrams per 10 grams
An adult human between 19 and 50 years old requires approximately five milligrams of tryptophan per kilogram of body weight per day
THE VITAMIN B COMPLEX
Because the B complex of vitamins work so intricately together, in teams or individually, with many other organic nutrients and minerals in both the manufacture and function of many compounds, including the brain’s chemical neurotransmitters, they are probably the most vital nutrients that need to be in sufficient supply for the correct functioning of the brain.
Alcohol, caffeine, drug and tobacco addictions will cause the body to be deficient in the B complex of vitamins and, ironically, it is these are very nutrients that can have a highest influence on the state of mind and energy levels and this further undermines the recovering addicts ability to overcome their addiction.
It is not even uncommon for these individuals to have B complex deficiencies prior to establishing their addiction. As a result, it is believed by some, that part of the physiological draw to addictive substances has to do with B vitamin deficiencies. Withdrawal from drugs causes very similar symptoms to deficiencies of the B vitamins and may actually be directly due to a chronic deficiency of these vital vitamins which are only felt once the effects of the drugs have worn off.VITAMIN B1 (thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is required for the biosynthesis of a number of cell constituents, including the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is also used in the manufacture of hydrochloric acid and therefore plays a part in digestion.
For natural food sources see vitamin B1.VITAMIN B2 (riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is needed to activate vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B9 (folic acid), helps to create vitamin B3 (niacin) and assists the adrenal gland.
For natural food sources see
VITAMIN B3 (niacin)
Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide is a coenzyme derivative of vitamin B3 which is found in all living cells. It is a key agent in metabolism, as well as many other basic cellular processes. Because it is essential to the production of energy in the human body, it has become a valuable resource for helping drug addicts, especially for rapid detoxification. In many cases of substance abuse, the body’s reserves of the protein and vitamins, which are the precursors, to this coenzyme, are low, resulting generally low energy. Because vitamin B3 is also required for making some of the body’s important neurotransmitters, which are reduced through many types of drugs, it is vital that the daily diet includes foods rich in this nutrient when recovering from addictions.
Vitamin B3 has been used successfully to treat addictions to prescription drugs including opiates, benzodiazepines and stimulants as well as, alcohol, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methadone and suboxone. It is also used to treat schizophrenia and other mental illnesses and as a memory-enhancer.
It is also required for cell respiration and helps in the release of energy and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and proteins, proper circulation and healthy skin, functioning of the nervous system and normal secretion of bile and stomach fluids and is used in the synthesis of sex hormones.
People report more mental alertness when this vitamin is in sufficient supply because vitamin B3 also enhances gamma-aminobutyric acid activity inside the brain and both this, and the activities of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, can have the following beneficial effects:
All of these factors are important when an addict is trying to fight cravings either psychologically or physically. The body can acquire vitamin B3 from the diet and also manufactures it from tryptophan and vitamin B6, however, often those addicted to alcohol, drugs or medications are deficient in these particular nutrients.
For natural food sources see vitamin B3.
VITAMIN B5(pantothenic acid)
Vitamin B5 plays an important role in the secretion of hormones, such as cortisone because of the role it plays in supporting the adrenal gland. It is also used in the creation of lipids, neurotransmitters, steroid hormones and haemoglobin. Deficiency of vitamin B5 may cause symptoms such as
For natural food sources see vitamin B5.
VITAMIN B6 (pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 is used in the processing and metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, while assisting with controlling moods as well as behaviour for it is necessary for the conversion of tryptophan to both vitamin B3 (niacin) and serotonin.
For natural food sources see vitamin B5.
VITAMIN B8 (inositol)
Vitamin B8 is a ‘second messenger’, triggering the release of calcium in cells. It also is involved in the transmission of messages between neural cells and the transport of fats within cells. Its most important role seems to be in the central nervous system, where it serves to help transmit messages along neural pathways.
For natural food sources see vitamin B8.
VITAMIN B9 (folic acid)
Vitamin B9 is required for DNA synthesis and cell growth and is important for red blood cell formation, energy production as well as the forming of amino acids including those that are used to make neurotransmitters.
For natural food sources see vitamin B9.
Choline is a chemical very similar to the B vitamins and it works with vitamin B9 and the essential amino acid methionine. Although the human body can produce choline from lecithin, it is generally recognised that it is important to get dietary choline as well. It has various functions in the body including protecting the liver from accumulating fat, as the precursor molecule for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and in the structure of cell membranes.
For natural food sources see choline.
OTHER NUTRIENTS THAT CAN ASSIST WITH ADDICTION RECOVERY
During recovery from any addiction it is important the body feels well and energised. This can help to provide the ‘reward’ that the change in lifestyle is the correct move to make. Antioxidants, are important in this process as they can remove any toxins that can affect the correct functioning and thought processes of the brain. Carbohydrates, fats, fibre, minerals, protein and vitamins, in the right balance, are also important to provide the energy and nutrients responsible for creating a positive outlook on life.
When the body and feels comfortable and relaxed this can create a mental contentment that reduces the irritability caused by cravings for any kind of addictive substance or behaviour and a nutritious and balanced diet is the only way to achieve this. Water intake and physical activity are also important as they both assist the body with detoxification and help to produce and circulate nutrients and more endorphins which can lighten the mood and make recovery far easier.
An antioxidant is not actually a substance; it is a behaviour. Any compound that can donate electrons and counteract free radicals has antioxidant properties. Free radicals are a natural by-product of the body turning food into energy. The body has mechanisms to deal with these free radicals, because they are highly dangerous left to their own devices. Cleansing the body of toxins can help when recovering from food and drug addictions. Follow the blue links below to find natural sources of these nutrients.
Nutrients with antioxidant abilities
Vitamin C is considered to be one of the primary nutrients useful in the treatment of addiction and when combined with the B vitamins, vitamin E and protein it can allow heroin addicts to recover from their addiction with minimal withdrawal symptoms.
Highest sources of vitamin C in milligrams per 100 grams
Equal amounts of vitamin E and vitamin C need to be consumed at the same time to keep minerals such as iron, manganese and zinc at the correct balanced levels as they work against each other. Too much vitamin C and too little vitamin E will increase iron levels and reduce manganese and zinc levels in the body. This is why it is a good idea to consume fruit with nuts and seeds.
Highest sources of vitamin E in milligrams per 100 grams
Cephalin is a phosphorus-containing lipid, also known as phosphatidylethanolamine, which is made by the body using the amino acid serine and the amino alcohol ethanolamine. It is an important phospholipid that makes up cell membranes and organelle membranes. It is called cephalin because it is abundant in the brain’s white matter, spinal cord and other nervous tissues. It plays a main role in keeping the nervous system intact and healthy because of its multitude of functions and its significant contribution to neural tissues. Natural foods required for the body to make cephalin include protein-rich foods such as eggs, fish, organ meats, peanuts, pheasant, wild rabbit and soybeans and foods rich in the B vitamins.
Because this essential amino acid is required to make neurotransmitters it is an important nutrient to include in the diet.
Highest sources of methionine in milligrams per 100 grams
Omega-3 fatty acids are the is a primary structural component of the human brain and cerebral cortex and responsible for cognitive development as well as reducing age-related losses in memory and cognition. There are significantly lower amounts of the fatty acid, known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), in the cells of patients who attempted suicide, suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids may actually play a role in preventing suicidal thoughts.
Highest sources of omega-3 fatty acids in milligrams per 100 grams
DL-Phenylalanine (DLPA), is composed of two amino acids, D-Phenylalanine and L-Phenylalanine and is the raw material that the nervous system uses to make phenylethylamine which increases the body's ability to utilise endorphins. DL- Phenylalanine is most useful for cocaine addicts because it helps to restore norepinephrine levels, a neurotransmitter that is depleted by cocaine use. It is also effective in lessening cravings and reducing depression, pain, and irritability. Phenylalanine is also required to make other neurotranmitters.
Highest sources of phenylalanine in milligrams per 100 grams
MINERALS THAT CAN HELP WITH RECOVERY FROM ADDICTIONS
Minerals are often neglected and lacking in foods that are sourced from mineral-depleted soils of today's intense farming techniques. However, they are vitally important to include in the diet as they are associated with relaxing and strengthening the nervous system and are part of many processes involving the brain and messaging system. Minerals also help to stabilise and maintain levels of other compounds. Taking supplements is not recommended as the body cannot readily absorb minerals without the other co-factors often not included in commercial supplements. Consuming mineral-rich foods allows the body to gain that which it requires to remain healthy and active.
Boron is responsible for keeping the calcium levels in the body the balanced and also involved in the metabolism of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.
For natural food sources see boron.
Caesium, like potassium, enters cells and helps to maintain a balance of electrical charges between the inside and the outside of cells so that cells can perform tasks that depend on those electrical charges. Muscle and nerve cells require changing electrical charges in order to function properly and allow humans to think and move.
For natural food sources see caesium.
The human body needs calcium more than any other mineral and it is one of the most important nutrients for strengthening the nervous system. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar and other drugs often cause the body to eliminate calcium. Caffeine, for example, has been shown to double the urinary excretion of calcium and several studies have demonstrated low serum calcium levels in alcoholics. Depressed calcium and magnesium levels are often the root of irritability, muscular spasm and pain experienced by alcoholics and drug addicts. Because calcium is responsible for many processes that are essential to life, the body utilises complex regulatory systems to tightly control the amount of calcium in the blood, so that sufficient is always available. As a result, when dietary intake of calcium is too low to maintain adequate blood levels, calcium stores are drawn out of the bones to maintain normal blood concentrations.
Copper, together with zinc improves the absorption of vitamin D which aids in the absorption of calcium. Unfortunately, alcohol also forces the expulsion of zinc in the urine which results in lowering calcium levels even further.
For natural food sources see
Chromium is a trace mineral element necessary for the proper function of insulin, a hormone that regulates glucose metabolism in the cells.. The recovering addict may benefit from chromium, as it can suppress hunger and reduce the desire for sweet foods.
For natural food sources see chromium.
Cobalt is a trace mineral element and a component of vitamin B12. The cell receptors of nickel and cobalt are neurologically linked to the spinal segment T4, whereby both its alignment and various nutritional factors control the ratio of nickel and cobalt. Alignment problems of T4, or nutritional imbalances involving nickel, cobalt, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12 and vitamin B15, can either result in localised physical discomfort, or they can trigger cardiac, cerebral, emotional and/or anxiety-problems due to blood flow changes to the heart or brain through their respective vasoconstrictive or vasodilating changes.
For natural food sources see cobalt.
Copper helps in the synthesis of proteins and enzymes, supports the functioning of the nervous system, stimulates the growth of red blood cells and is necessary for the correct functioning of brain cells. It is also an integral part of certain digestive enzymes and makes the amino acid tyrosine usable which is important to the manufacture of dopamine.
For natural food sources see copper.
Iron is vital for the transportation of oxygen to all cells and this is especially important for the correct functioning of the brain. It also increases immunity, raises and holds energy levels stable and promotes a calm sleep. A deficiency of iron and vitamin B6 can be responsible for the anxiety, distress and hyperventilation which accompanies a panic attack. When consuming iron-rich foods, one should also consume foods rich in vitamin B9, vitamin B12 and vitamin C every day.
For natural food sources see iron.
Lithium is an essential trace element that has an effect on the potassium and sodium balance in the body. It has shown to be beneficial in many neurological disorders including alcoholism, bipolar syndrome, brain damage and manic depression but must never be taken as a supplement as an overdose can cause diarrhoea, frequent urination, goitre, hypothyroidism, Kidney or liver disease, lethargy, memory problems, mental confusion, nausea, oedema, slurred speech, staggering gait, tremors, vomiting, weight gain, brain damage and death. Magnesium can be used to treat lithium overdose.
For natural food sources see lithium.
Magnesium is a macro-element also known as the anti-stress mineral. It is an important nutrient for the brain and it raises the resistance against stress, depressions, tensions and helps against mental tiredness. It is essential for the transfer of nerve impulses, strengthens the memory and concentration and is active as an assistant cofactor of the B and C vitamins. Most abused substances contribute to diminished magnesium levels in the blood. Added to this, the intense farming techniques used today often leech minerals such as magnesium from the soil meaning foods grown in this medium are lacking in this essential mineral.
For natural food sources see magnesium.
Manganese is necessary for a healthy functioning nervous system, brain function, the formation of thyroxin (thyroid gland hormone), the synthesis of structural proteins in the body and the metabolism of glucose. It also helps eliminate fatigue and reduces nervous irritability which can be useful when recovering from addictions.
For natural food sources see manganese.
Molybdenum is an element that is present in very small amounts in the body and is involved in many important biological processes including the development of the nervous system, waste processing in the kidneys and energy production in cells. It also assists the body in making use of the iron ingested which sustains mental alertness.
For natural food sources see molybdenum.
Calcium cannot achieve its objectives unless phosphorous is also present in a proper balance as they combine together to create the calcium-phosphorus balance necessary for the formation of nerve cells. Phosphorous also stimulates the brain and nerves. Too much phosphorous, though, can cause diarrhoea and calcification (hardening) of organs and soft tissue and can interfere with the body's ability to use iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It is a matter of getting the balance right which is why supplementation is not advised.
For natural food sources see phosphorous.
Potassium is involved in the proper functioning of the nervous system and helps overcome fatigue. It also aids in clear thinking by sending oxygen to the brain and assists in reducing blood pressure. Potassium is most concentrated inside the cells of the body and is essential in the generation of the electrical impulses in the body that allow muscles, nerves and the brain to function. Excessive use of alcohol, caffeine, salt and sugar, as well as an unbalanced diet and certain drugs can all lower the level of potassium in the body.
For natural food sources see potassium.
Rhodium acts as a superconductor of light which substantially increases the speed of transfer of information between the left and right brain hemispheres which can help to improve cognitive thinking and improve the chances of being able to refrain from addictive substances and behaviours.
For natural food sources see rhodium.
The working of the pituitary gland, as well as the salivary and lachrymal glands, is encouraged with the presence of rubidium. It is also useful in the synthesis of serotonin and ensures presence of enough serotonin in the body which alleviates depression and mental imbalances and aids restful sleep.
For natural food sources see rubidium.
Sodium is the most abundant chemical in the extra-cellular fluid of the body. It acts with other electrolytes, especially potassium, in the intracellular fluid, to regulate the osmotic pressure and maintain a proper water balance within the body. It is a major factor in maintaining acid-base equilibrium, in transmitting nerve impulses and in relaxing muscles. Because sodium helps with electrical signals in the body, allowing muscles to fire and the brain to work it therefore promotes a clear brain, resulting in a better disposition and less mental fatigue which can be very beneficial to the recovering addict.
For natural food sources see sodium.
Tin is associated with iodine the same way as calcium is associated with magnesium. Tin supports the adrenal glands and iodine supports the thyroid gland, with both subsequently affecting cardiac output. Tin and the adrenals control the left side, while iodine and the thyroid control the right side. Positive health effects of tin are numerous and include improvements with fatigue, some forms of depression and a general increase in energy, well-being and mood which can help reduce the irritability suffered by those trying to eliminate an addiction from their life.
For natural food sources see tin.
Selenium is an important antioxidant that plays an important role in the body's utilisation of oxygen. It also has a role in detoxifying the body of poisonous toxins such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, hydrocarbons, phenols and others that can be found in drugs and tobacco. High levels of selenium can be toxic in itself though so supplements are not recommended.
For natural food sources see selenium.
Zinc is the healing mineral and part of the enzymes that helps the body to metabolise protein, carbohydrates and alcohol. Heavy drinkers lose a lot of zinc in their urine and if an individual ingests excessive amounts of caffeine, drugs or sugar, it is more than likely that a zinc deficiency will develop. Low zinc levels can cause liver deterioration and diminished functioning of the reproductive organs, immune system and skin.
For natural food sources see zinc.
One effective way, to become free of an addiction, is to completely change one's way of life and find something less damaging to become obsessed by. Circumstance has a lot to do with keeping the addiction going especially when boredom, escape or poverty are the root cause of the addiction in the first place. It must be realised that anything in life is possible to obtain but it will mean having the courage to move away from the place the addict currently resides in and often away from the people that were connected with the addiction. This can be very difficult especially if it is close friends and family. Loneliness can be a cause of addiction and must be overcome and learning to enjoy one’s own company can often help.
One way to regain control is for the addict to think back to something they really enjoyed doing as a child or something exciting or personally gratifying that they have always wanted to do and set their goals at achieving the ability and finances to do it. Quite often an addiction can be more easily overcome by forcing the mind to think hard and work towards achieving some goal not yet reached. This can block the mind-set by interfering with the constant cravings that cause the desperate want of that regular 'fix'.
It is a case of finding an alternative activity which can create a similar 'buzz' of the familiar dopamine hit but without the detrimental effect the addiction is causing to the addict or those surrounding them. This is why taking up an active pastime or sport or working with a charity, which means concentrating on something else that is demanding and time consuming, can release the addict from that continual cycle of desire, gain, hit, withdrawal and pain. The added plus is that they will meet new people, who are not involved in their current situation, and opportunities to explore new horizons will arise from this. Becoming absorbed in an activity, which supports others, will also help the addict to regain their self-confidence and lose the self-loathing endured during their addiction which may have lasted for decades.
Ultimately, the important factors that can help people recover from their addictions is to allow them the opportunity, finances, freedom and space to be able to experience and enjoy new horizons. Restriction of any of these aspects of life will only serve to undermine the brains ability to achieve a positive outlook and suppress the desire to change behaviour or habit because there must be a reward as nature has chemically instructed the human brain to expect it. Punishment can rarely compete with the powerful relief and pleasure caused by the release of dopamine, and other neurotransmitters in the brain and body, and therefore threatening, taxing, fining or incarcerating addicts will never achieve the desired result.
"Nature cures not the physician..." Hippocrates 460 BC
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