During the holidays our interactions with friends, family, and coworkers – as well as the overwhelming array of tasks we need to accomplish from buying gifts to entertaining – often generates excessive amounts of stress. Unfortunately when stressed, most of us default to less than optimal dietary choices and start eating and drinking items that do not promote good health. And for many people recovering from food and alcohol dependency, just the anticipation of the holiday season can bring up anxiety as worries of “falling off the wagon” surmount.
One of the keys to managing our health (and our willpower) during this season lies in understanding that our craving for calorie dense, sugary foods is our brain’s primal response to stress – how we handle that stress has everything to do with our individual brain chemistry. Thanks to discoveries in neuroscience and nutrition, we don’t have to rely solely on willpower to find balance during the holidays. In fact, studies show that replacing depleted essential amino acids can curb craving for sugar, alcohol and high carbohydrate foods – in some cases almost instantly. For those who are recovering from food and alcohol abuse, these essential brain nutrients may be the missing link in their success.
According to Dr. Charles Gant, author of End Your Addiction Now – The Proven Nutritional Supplement Program That Can Set You Free, biochemical imbalances in key neurotransmitters are the driving force behind all addictions and cravings. Brain cells or neurons, produce chemical substances called neurotransmitters and they control virtually every aspect of your life by communication with other cells. When they are deficient, a person finds it extremely difficult to satisfy their cravings.
These are two of the key neurotransmitters that have the most significant affect on our holiday cravings:
- Serotonin: Is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that exerts a soothing influence on unpleasant emotions and prevents us from overreactions. Irritable depression, as well as craving for alcohol and high carbohydrate foods may indicate a deficiency. 5-HTP, L-glutamine and B-Complex supplements can help restore serotonin levels in the brain.
- GABA: Is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps alleviate anxiety and worry and influences intellectual activity. Alcohol, sugar cravings and a tendency toward anti-anxiety and sleeping medications indicate an imbalance in this neurotransmitter. L-Glutamine, GABA, L-Taurine and B-Complex supplements can help bring this back into balance.
Correcting neurotransmitter imbalances can go a long way in helping to manage holiday cravings as well as to support addiction recovery. While there are lab tests available to help a person determine exactly what imbalances they may have, experimenting with amino acid and B-Complex supplementation is a safe and non-toxic way to forget about willpower and instead balance the brain’s chemistry.
Before starting a new supplement program it’s always wise to consult your health care provider. Pregnant and lactating women should always consult their physician before beginning a supplement program.
Michelle is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, women’s health care advocate and health researcher who has helped hundreds of women overcome hormone imbalance, excessive weight gain, addictive patterns, environmental allergies and immune system disorders. She practices in Taos New Mexico.