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Breaking Addictions with Nutritional Therapy

Posted Oct 16 2008 7:58pm

Only about 25 percent of people struggling with substance abuse stay on the wagon a full year after receiving conventional treatment from talk therapy, support groups and pharmaceutical drugs. The remaining 75 percent go back to feed their cravings.

However, research is finding a more promising means to end abuse -- and not just to alcohol, drugs and tobacco, but also to the seemingly benign addictions to starches, sweets, caffeine and chocolate.

Nourishing the brain with a healthy diet, nutritional supplements and herbs can help balance the brain's biochemicals and end the cravings. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Biosocial and Medical Research found that more than 70 percent of substance abusers were able to abstain with the help of nutritional support.

People who don't get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet are at a higher risk of depression, which is linked to addiction. This essential fat helps nerve cells communicate, which contributes to good mental health.

Cold-water fish -- such as salmon, tuna and mackerel -- as well as flaxseed, chia seed, certain eggs, walnuts and dairy products from grass-fed cows are great sources of this essential fat. Omega-3 fatty acids comes from three forms: alpha linoelic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The non-fish sources contain ALA, which your body can often convert into EPA and DHA. However, taking fish oil supplements daily is a sure way to get this healthy fat.

Addictive bodies are also usually deprived of amino acids -- the building blocks of neurotransmitters, which facilitate communication between brain cells. For example, cravings for alcohol and sugar are brought on by low levels of serotonin. However, supplementing with L-tryptophan or 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) can help restore the needed brain chemical, and therefore, reduce the craving.

For more information on specific amino acids and how they help with various addictions, visit The Addiction Recovery Guide's Web site. They have a comprehensive chart to help determine which amino acids help best with specific addictions.

Studies have also found that the Asian herb kudzu can considerably help heavy drinkers lower their intake. It's not clear why it has that effect. However, participants in one study went from drinking six beers a day to four in just one week.

Smokers can also find help for their addiction by taking lobelia, a relaxant. The herb acts to diminish the smoker's high, making smoking less desirable.

Of course, feeding your body a nourishing diet should be the basis for healing any addiction. A poor diet can be just as much to blame as genetics and stress for substance abuse. An unhealthy body and mind will lead to unhealthy cravings, but creating a healthy body and mind will produce healthy desires.

Alternative Medicine, September 2007

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