A nutrition and exercise based lifestyle that is practiced along with the twelve steps of recovery.
Spiritual Adrenaline

Are You A Dick? Take the Dick Quiz….

Here’s my second interview with Dr. Mark Borg, the author of a provocative new book entitled “Don’t Be A Dick, Change Your Mind, Change Your World”. You can watch the interview below or on the blog at www.spiritualadrenaline.com. If you want to purchase his book, it’s available at Barnes & Noble, on Amazon or at the Central Recovery Press website: www.centralrecoverypress.com. Central Recovery PressMark B Borg Jr….


Fructose, Glucose & Your Liver…

Not all sugars break down in your liver similarly…..

Fructose, Glucose & Your Liver

            In Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, I focus on liver disease given the prevalence of this disease in the addiction recovery community.   I leave treatment to medical professionals and instead focus on nutrition and lifestyle.   In Spiritual Adrenaline, there’s an entire section for people with comprised liver function, liver disease or for those looking to engage in self-care to help their liver heal.   See Ch. 3, pgs. 30-34, Ch. 9, pgs. 88-98, 122.  An October 2019 study looked at how different types of sugars breakdown in the liver.  Here’s some updated information that you can use to empower yourself on the path to health, hope and healing.

Not All Sugars Are Equal


            Traditional nutritional recommendations did not distinguish between fructose and glucose, and how each impacts your liver.   It was generally accepted that both impacted the liver in the same way.  That turns out not to be true in people consuming a high-fat, Western style diet.   In a 2019 study at Harvard Medical School, researchers fed rats a high-fat, Western style diet.   They then divided the rats into two groups:  One was fed high amounts of glucose and the other high amounts of fructose (both ate the high-fat Western style diet).  The addition of sugars was intended to mimic sugary drinks like soda.  The researchers found that large amounts of fructose disrupted liver function in ways that are detrimental, while glucose can improve liver function.  The researchers found “fructose makes the liver accumulate fat” while “adding glucose promoted the liver’s ability to burn fat, and, therefore make for a healthier metabolism”.  How can you use this cutting-edge science to benefit your long-term health in recovery, help repair damage caused by years of substance abuse and enable you to make conscious contact with your body?

Cover of Spiritual Adrenaline

The Spiritual Adrenaline Solution

            Among the recommendations in Spiritual Adrenaline is to learn nutritional basics that can help you make educated choices in what you eat.  For example, the differences between fructose, glucose and sucrose and how each impacts your body.  This is critical for people in addiction recovery given the number of people in recovery with Type 2 Diabetes and Hypoglycemia.   In Spiritual Adrenaline, recommend: avoiding juicing and explain why; provide recommendations for alternative sweeteners to make it easier to avoid refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup; provide detailed lists of complex carbs which break down into sugars during digestion much more slowly; and, provide a 7-day detox to help wean you off refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and other junk carbs that increase inflammation and cause liver damage over time.    For more information on how the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle can benefit you, visit www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

Citation:  Softic, S., Meyer, J.G., Wang, GX, Schilling, B., Cohen, D.E., Dietary Sugars Alter Hepatic Fatty Acid Oxidation via Transcriptional and Post-translational Modifications of Mitchondrial Proteins, Cell Metabolism,  Vol.30, Issue 4, pgs 735-753, Oct. 1, 2019.

Why Meditation Can Eliminate The Destructive Forces of Stress

shutterstock_381784540Just like our computer has an operating system, and everything relies upon the functionality of that system, we also have an operating system in our brain. Sometimes, we have to reboot the computer due to a glitch, virus or some other problem. Other times you need to upgrade the operating system so the computer can continue to run smoothly.

Think of meditation as an upgrade to your brain’s operating system. Studies prove that by practicing meditation regularly, we rewire the way our brain processes information, and how we react to people, places and things in our everyday life. One of the slogans at twelve step meetings is “Think Differently,”with the “Think” upside down. Science has proven that we can in fact change the way our brain operates, and really think differently.

Meditation was originally an ancient Buddhist technique designed to quiet the “monkey mind.” Buddhist sutras teach that without the ability to quiet the mind, it is not possible to bring an end to actual or perceived suffering and move closer to enlightenment. Fast forward to the present where meditation has adapted these teachings for the modern world. The goal of meditation is to stay in the present, and simply notice feelings and thoughts, as they come and go.

Here is the undisputed evidence of the benefits of a regular meditation practice:

Less Fear: MRI scans prove that after an eight-week course of mindfulness, study participants’ fight or flight center (the amygdala), the primal region of the brain that handles our most basic instincts, appeared to shrink. This area of the brain is associated with fear and emotion, and is responsible for our response to stress. The degree of change was directly correlated to the number of hours of practice.

Less Pain: Researchers studied the reaction of experienced meditators to painful stimuli. The studies showed that the more experienced and committed meditators reported less pain in response to the stimuli. Even though participants reported feeling less pain, scans of their brains showed the same or more brain activity in the pain centers. So according to their brain function, they experienced the same degree of pain, but experienced less pain. Researchers attribute this to the meditators’ ability to exercise control, or become “uncoupled” in the anterior and cingulate cortex regions of the brain.

Feeling Zen: Even when not meditating, experienced meditators’ brains’ default, or baseline function, was substantially different than that of non-practitioners. Their brains functioned at the same level of non-practitioners when the non-practitioner’s were meditating. The researchers characterized this as the continuing state of “zen,” the result of years of experience and training in meditation.

My Experience

There is no dispute that meditation works. Science has confirmed the benefits that practitioners have enjoyed for thousands of years.

Cover of Spiritual Adrenaline

When I first started meditating four years ago, I could not sit still for ten minutes. My monkey mind was all over the place – thinking about the past, the future, and everywhere in the present other than where my physical body was located.

I was never really present. In early recovery I smoked which made meditation and being present all the more difficult. Nicotine was an enemy because I always wanted a cigarette. I would have constant thoughts about whether I could sneak out of wherever I was to have a smoke. I was also constantly “craving” the smoke, so I was unable to stay in the present and enjoy.

I struggled through meditation, but over time, was able to focus for 20 minutes, then 30, then 45, and then more. Currently, I can meditate for about an hour. When I am under stress, even ten minutes is difficult, but I force myself to stay planted and focus. This helps to calm my mind, and move me past the stress. For the most part, I am able to rein in my “monkey mind.” Quitting smoking really made this easier.

I am still a beginner, and I do not really like meditation. It makes me feel uncomfortable. That’s exactly why I force myself to do it.

The Spiritual Adrenaline Solution

In my book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plant to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, I include lots of variations for simple meditations you can do in the privacy of your own home.  I also include evidence-based research  confirming the short and long-term benefits of mediation.  Check out Chapter 11, pages 162–181 to learn how to integrate mediation into your daily life.  I’ve got mediations you can do while cooking, eating meals, attending twelve step meetings and exercise.  I’ve also included a full body mediation that refocuses you back on your own health and helps you make conscious contact with your own body.   For more information on my book, visit http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

Recommended Reading for Beginners: Meditation for Beginners, Jack Kornfeld, The Power of Now, A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Echart Tolle.

We would love your feedback on this and other blogs. Shoot us an email or short video to: blog@spiritualadrenaline.com.

Your Bliss Point….

How Processed Food Manufacturers Get You Hooked to Their Products….

I recently posted about how food portion sizes and calories are much higher in the United States compared to England.  The same exact products in the U.S. have substantially more calories!  Seems hard to believe but it’s true.  Why?   It’s due to something known as the bliss point. 

What’s the Bliss Point?

To maximize your enjoyment of processed foods, the food industry works hard to formulate their products to maximize the endorphins rush.  Scientists use focus groups to try out different recipes before a product is released.  These scientists tweak salt, sugar and fat content until the maximum enjoyment level is reached.  This means the greatest number of endorphins produced.   There’s a fine line between maximum enjoyment and too much.  Scientists call the point of maximum enjoyment the bliss point, beyond it, the yuck point.    

Sounds A Lot Like Drugs?

 If you think this sounds similar to drugs, you are right.  It’s a substance that gives the maximum pleasure possible and provides instantaneous gratification.  However, not long after, the crash and cravings start.   I cannot open a bag of potato chips or Doritos and have just a few.  I finish the entire bag.  You too????  To some extent, it’s because of my genetic pre-disposition to always want more.  However, it’s also due to how products are manufactured, making it almost impossible to have just one or a few.

Portion Size and Taste in the United States

The person credited with pioneering research into the bliss point and how it can be manipulated was carried out by Howard Moskowitz, a Harvard educated scientist who went to work for the soda industry in 2004.    After working for years in the soda industry, Moskowitz developed bliss point markers for other industries and products including spaghetti sauce, soups, salad dressings, pickles, and pizza.   Over time, as you consume more sugar, your bliss point continues to change.  It takes more sugar to achieve the same endorphin rush.  Hence, the palate of Americans has changed over time as sugar has been included in an increasing number of products.   More sugar, more calories.  Not just calories but empty calories without any nutritional value.    

What’s the Solution?

Cover of Spiritual Adrenaline..

The solution is eating more whole foods and staying away from processed foods.   It’s also possible to satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sweeteners, some of which contain antioxidants and other healthy substances, and which won’t spike your blood sugar.   If you’re interested in learning how to eat healthy to enhance your recovery and reduce the chances of relapse, check out my book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery.   In Spiritual Adrenaline, I discuss why it’s important to transition from processed foods to whole foods and provide a number of healthy sweeteners as an alternative to refined sugars (Pages 23-25, 89-92).  To empower yourself in recovery, check out Chapter Nine and my list of Recovery Superfoods.  For more information, visit www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

 References:  The Extraordinary Science of Addiction Junk Food, The New York Time Magazine, Michael Moss, Feb. 20, 2013; How The Food Industry Helps Engineer Our Cravings, National Public Radio, Dec. 16, 2015.

HOW ALCOHOL UNDERCUTS STRENGTH TRAINING AND FAT LOSS

drinkIf you are serious about having a kick ass body and tearing it up at the beach next summer, there is no better gift you can give yourself than cutting out the alcohol.   This is one of hundreds of important health related topics I cover in my book Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery and on my website http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com.

So why does being sober help make the body you always wanted attainable? Here is what science tells us.

Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.   Carbs contain 4, proteins contain 4, and fat contains 9. So only fat contains more calories than alcohol. Moreover, while rich in calories, alcohol is deficient in nutrients and contains almost none. So really, calories taken in by alcohol cannot help you achieve any goal in the fitness context. It can however, undercut your goals.

When alcohol metabolizes, it converts to acetate and acetyl coa. These substances signal the body to not burn any fat or sugar.

By drinking large amounts of alcohol and creating an imbalance of acetate and acetyl coa, your metabolism slows down, which interferes with fat burning and other body functions. As a result, you retain rather than burn fat.

Moreover, alcohol makes us crave food and even more alcohol. We all have gotten the munchies and sought out comfort foods while drinking. Often when I was drinking, I didn’t remember eating comfort foods until I found the wrappers or mess in my apartment the next day.   So even indirectly, alcohol increases overall calorie intake, and likely increases the intake of foods that are counter productive to strength training and fat loss.

So let’s make the most of our training now that alcohol is no longer undercutting our workouts and health.

There is one other benefit for people in the program. Early on, when people outside of recovery circles would ask me why I wasn’t drinking, I would tell them I was in “training.”   This was true, and gave me an out for having to lie to them about being on an antibiotic, or telling them that I was “sick,” or making up some other excuse to avoid telling them that I wasn’t drinking because I’m an alcoholic.

I much preferred having a healthy excuse, such as weight training, than pretending that I was “sick” and on antibiotic or some other medication. During my years of using, I had played the sick card as an excuse when I overslept, missed work, or was just barely functional. In recovery, I wanted everyone to know I was healthy and no longer wanted to use being “sick” as an excuse for anything.

In my book Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, I cover all the basics about how alcohol, illicit and prescription drugs impact your metabolism and health.   Chapter Five (Recovery Exercise) is dedicated to going through the science and Chapter Ten (Your Exercise Toolbox) is full of exercise tools you can fine tune to your health and goals.   Spiritual Adrenaline can help you not just white knuckle it in recovery, but thrive.  For more information, visit http://www.spirituaoadrenalinel.com.

We would love your feedback on this blog. Please send your comments to Tom@spiritualadrenaline.com.

Nutritional Psychiatry & Addiction

Nutritional Psychiatry, Nutraceuticals, Gut Microitomes and Staying Sober.G

Nutritional Psychiatry is an emerging science led by a small number of neuroscientists and researchers from all around the world.  Just this past week, the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research (“ISNPR”) convened in London.   The ISNPR was formed in 2013 and held its first conference in Washington D.C. in 2017.    It was founded by Dr. Felice Jacka, of Deakin University in Australia.  Dr. Jacka also founded the FoodMood Center at Deakin.  FoodMood is among the leading research institutions in the world studying the relationship between nutrient’s in food, the role of these nutrients to our overall physical and mental health and how nutrients can be utilized as a component of mental health treatment.  Dr. Jacka describes the field of nutritional psychiatry as in its “infancy”.   Many of the presenters noted that knowledge of nutrition itself generally still in its infancy. 

Tom with Dr. Jacka, founder of the FoodMood Center at Deakin University.

Given many of these terms may be new to you, I’ll define them, so we are all on the same page.

Nutritional Psychiatry:  A growing scientific discipline that focuses on the use of food and supplements as a component of traditional psychiatric treatment for mental health disorder.  NP is not intended to replace individual or group therapy or use of prescribed pharmaceutics but rather as a component of an overall treatment plan.   

Nutraceuticals: Nutraceuticals are a broad umbrella term that is used to describe any product derived from food sources, with extra health benefits in addition to the basic nutritional value found in foods. They can be considered non-specific biological therapies used to promote general well-being, control symptoms and prevent disease.

Gut Microbiota: The gut microbiota is comprised of all the bacteria residing in the gastric system including the large intestine. In the past decade the gut microbiota has been explored for potential effects on metabolism, immune, and neuroendocrine responses. The gut microbiota plays an important role in nutrient and mineral absorption, synthesis of enzymes, vitamins and amino acids, and production of short-chain fatty acids. The fermentation byproducts are important for gut health and provide energy, protect against pathogens and disease and strengthen the immune system. 

Physicians Are Often Not Trained in Nutrition

If you feel like you know very little about nutrition, you’re not alone.  Even doctors admit a lack of reliable data and knowledge about the role of diet in the health of their patients.  A 2017 survey of MD’s in the United States found that 75% of MD’s surveyed felt their training, in regard to nutrition, to be inadequate.  An even smaller percentage believe they understand the complex structure of the gut microbiota, fungi and other living organisms contained in your digestive system and how these organisms and brain function (I refer to these organisms collectively as gut microbiota in this article).  Lastly, 85% of the doctors who responded to the survey felt additional nutrition training should be provided as part of a medical school curriculum.  

Spiritual Adrenaline: A Self-Care Lifestyle

The underlying foundation of the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle is self-care, in the context of what you eat and your exercise regimen, can play an important role in achieving happiness in sobriety, while dramatically lowering relapse rates.  My book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, contains extensive chapter notes to support my recommendations.  This is important because there’s so much misinformation on social media and a tendency for well-meaning, but misguided advocates, to parrot back things they hear or read online, rather than conduct their own independent due diligence.  Writing Spiritual Adrenaline took five years because of the time it took to locate reliable, peer-reviewed studies, that addressed the science underlying nutrition and exercise, in the specific context of substance abuse treatment.

Valerie L. Darcey, National Institutes of Health

That’s what made attending the ISNPR 2019 conference so interesting!   Having so many of the leading researchers in the world in one place, at one time, was remarkable.  I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy store, trying to attend as many of the sessions as possible.   I have lots of “homework” to do in the weeks and months to come.   I’ll be reading many of the more than forty studies released at the conference!  Many were presented at the conference for the first time publicly and are yet to be published. I’ll also use the data for my Spiritual Adrenaline 2020 Update which will come out in January 2020!  I want to make sure Spiritual Adrenaline is an up-to-date resource you can count on for reliable information.  I’ve omitted study citations in this article but will include them in the January 2020 Spiritual Adrenaline 2020 Update. To learn more about the science behind the benefits of integrating exercise and nutrition into your recovery, visit our YouTube Channel, Facebook page, Instagram feed or website at www.spiritualadrenaline.com.  

Because your health is so important to me, here are some key scientific updates that I want to share with you now!!!

Diet, Addiction & Disease

            Medical knowledge regarding the role substances play in disease common in individuals with a history of substance abuse is changing. For example, it was long thought that the ethanol in alcohol was the direct cause of damage to the liver, resulting in disease of liver, including alcoholic fatty liver.  Research has now confirmed that rather than the alcohol (ethanol) causing the damage, it’s how the alcohol impacts gut microbiota, that is the actual cause of liver damage.  In other words, the conditions caused by excessive alcohol intake in relation to gut microbiota is what ultimately causes damage to the liver, not the ethanol itself.  Given this ground-breaking change in our understanding of how liver damage is actually caused, it’s possible that new treatments, including modification of diet to impact gut microbiota, can be developed. 

Fermented Fiber & Addiction Recovery

            In Spiritual Adrenaline, the import of fiber is explained at length, i.e., stabilization of blood glucose as well as colon health.   See Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 3, pages 21-36.  Recent research confirms fiber contained in fermented foods enables your body to create a wider range of healthy metabolites, which enhances the biodiversity of your gut microbiota.   Although science has recognized the import of fermented foods and fiber for years, the research is among the first to fermented foods to diversification of gut microbiota. 

Substance Abuse Treatment & Diet

To date, there is no clinical trial research that confirms the relationship between modification of gut microbiota and more favorable substance abuse treatment outcomes in humans.  1990 was the last time nutritional guidelines for treatment of substance abuse disorder were updated.  The consensus among researchers is that as a discipline, we are not “there yet” with the science to the extent of promulgating dietary guidelines.   Given the dearth of updated recommendations, presenters at the ISPNR conference focused on two separate areas of nutrition:  during early treatment and in long-term recovery.   Presenters also recognized that the line distinguishing “early” and “long-term” recovery will be different for each individual and a subjective, rather than objective, standard.  Also, that recommendations in whatever guidelines are ultimately adopted should distinguish between short and long-term recovery.

Drug Use and Microbiota

 Studies have already confirmed that cocaine, meth, Opioids and alcohol all have major impact on the composition of gut microbiota.  Moreover, Opioids dramatically impact the function of the gastric system by substantially delaying the digestive process.  For example, some Opioid addicts will not have a bowel movement for up to two weeks.  Combine this with the well-established fact that when Opioid addicts eat, they favor sugary foods and drinks.  The gut microbiota of Opioid addicts in active addiction and how this can impact their brain function, cravings and other associated behaviors, needs further study. A second major issue ripe for research is the impact of commonly prescribed medications in early and long-term recovery, on gut microbiota.  In Spiritual Adrenaline, I looked at how medications often prescribed in addiction recovery can impact nutrient retention.  See Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 7, page 76.  Science is now broadening that understanding to include how medications can impact gut microbiota and they in turn other biological function including brain function. This area will continue to develop in the years to come. 

Gut Health, Hormones and Cravings

When a person enters treatment, the cessation of the usage of their drug of choice can impact the production of hormones and other substances in the body relating to behavior.    An example is the hormone Ghrelin which can have a direct impact on impulsivity, anxiety and depression.  Alcohol cessation is known to increase Ghrelin production. This is thought to play a major role in cravings and anxiety experience by people in early recovery.  In the long-term, managing gut microbiota may empower treatment providers to better help those seeking treatment to have more direct control over Ghrelin levels.   For example, science has proven that unprocessed foods suppress Ghrelin levels.  The challenge will be to come up with dietary guidelines that promote the creation of positive gut microbiota while creating a diet acceptable to the palate of someone in early recovery.

Studies Nearing Publication

Publication of two studies of great interest to this community are expected in the near future.   One is a study of the impact, if any, of a ketogenic diet on cravings in the first six months of recovery.  A second study followed people in recovery who ate a plant-based diet for a period of one year to determine if their diet had any measurable impact on relapse rates. 

Impact of Diet on Depression

Given the prevalence of anxiety and depression in the addiction recovery community, I prioritized attending presentations relating to research studies on these topics.  What I learned was fascinating.   Ten years of extensive studies have shown a strong link of increased risk of depression in adults who consume a highly processed diet.  In fact, a yet unpublished study confirmed a 30% reduced risk of depression in people who eat a healthier diet, irrespective of bodyweight.  The study also found that diet quality has a direct correlation with increased rates of depression as people age.  Those who consumed a Mediterranean or Japanese diet, had substantially lower rates of depression, than those who consumed highly processed foods common in a western diet. 

Impact of Gut microbiota on Depression

Researchers fed laboratory rats a highly processed “western type” diet along with sugary water, to mimic soda consumption.   The rats were fed this diet for a period of six weeks.   Over those six weeks, the rats manifested behaviors consistent with depression, i.e., lack of activity and reduced socialization (rats are very social animals).  Researchers then removed gut microbiota from these rats and injected the microbiota into a second group.  The second group were not fed the highly processed and sugary diet and had not manifested depressive symptoms at the time of injection.   After being injected with gut microbiota taken from the depressed rats, this group also developed depressive behaviors.  The study confirmed the direct correlation between diet, gut microbiota and brain function. The study’s conclusion is consistent with findings of other studies that gut microbiota are able to penetrate the blood/brain barrier and impact brain function.   

Impact of Diet on the Brain

David Wiss presenting. David is an internationally recognized expert on diet and addiction.

Researchers sought to understand the Impact on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for a number of critical functions, including prompting production of hormones, of foods common in a western pro-inflammatory diet, over a short period of time.  In the study, one group of rats were placed on this diet for a period of eight weeks while another control group were fed a healthier diet (consistent with Mediterranean diet).   The heavy sugar intake resulted in hippocampal inflammation in the brain, in only five days.  Eight weeks on western pro-inflammatory diet resulted in the rats developing hypertension.    

Impact of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Depression

            Research confirms that an increase in daily intake of Omega-3 fatty acids relieves symptoms of major depressive disorder (“MDD”).  Researchers measured markers of inflammation, including C Reactive Protein (“CRP”), in overweight individuals who were also diagnosed with MDD.  One group of study participants was given 4 grams of Omega-3 each day while following a Mediterranean diet. The other followed a similar diet but did not receive supplemental Omega-3.  Dosages of 1 to 2 grams of Omega-3 per day were recommended as a supplement for this group.  However, those participants who received 4 grams a day, had the greatest reduction in CRP markers.  The correlation between a reduction in CRP changes and group that received 4 grams a day.   Researchers also noted substantial potential for use of Omega-3 as a preventative treatment for those with a higher risk of MDD.

Impact of Omega-3 for PTSD and Anxiety

Researches in Japan sought to ascertain the impact, if any, of Omega-3 intake on people diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and/or anxiety.   The study was comprised of residents of Japan who were diagnosed with PTSD and/or anxiety immediately after a major earthquake.  Researchers integrated daily Omega-3 supplementation into the treatment plan for one group while a second group were given a placebo over a period of several weeks.  The results of study found Omega-3 supplementation, even up to 4 grams per day, had no impact in relation to reducing symptoms of those suffering from PTSD.  However, the study confirmed that for those diagnosed with anxiety, symptoms were relieved in those taking between 2 to 4 grams of Omega-3 daily.   Therefore, the study recommended Omega-3 fatty acids in the range of 2-4 grams to alleviate anxiety.  Current treatment protocols recommend up to 2 grams.  

A final study of interest to the addiction recovery community involved non-nutrition interventions to address anxiety.  The researchers made the following statement at the ISPRN Conference: “Regulation of lifestyle is step zero.  Not step one, it’s step zero.   Lifestyle medicine for people with anxiety and depressive disorder includes…drug and alcohol cessation, diet and nutrition optimization, physical activity regulation and smoking cessation.”

LCDR Kelly Ratteree of the National Institutes of Health

Conclusions & Dietary Recommendations

Each of us is unique, as is our past health history, current health and long-term goals.  The uniqueness of each person is referred to as biodiversity.   In the context of gut microbiota, our biodiversity is magnified. Each of us has trillions, not billions but trillions, of organisms comprising our gut.   No two human beings have identical gut microbiota.   The science is mind-boggling. Although there is no one-size-fits-all approach, certain overall dietary recommendations are in fact supported by science.

Here are my recommendations to: enhance your overall health; thrive in your recovery; and, diminish your chances of relapse.   All of these recommendations are consistent with the recommendations in Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen and Nourish Your Recovery.  I cite to the relevant pages of Spiritual Adrenaline so you can utilize my book as a resource to learn more on these topics as well as integrate exercise and spirituality. 

Here are my recommendations:

*Recommended dietary fiber intake per person/per day is 30 grams.  If you’re not currently eating a high fiber diet, increase your intake slowly over time.  For example, 2 grams a week to build up your palate and the tolerance of your body to fiber.  For many, this will be a major dietary change.  See Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 9, pages 112-120.

*Not all dietary fibers are the same.   Get the full range but at least half of your daily dietary fiber intake from fermented fiber.  Fermented fiber permits your body to create a wider range of healthy metabolites, which enhanced the biodiversity of your gut microbiota.  Increase intake of fermented foods which have been established to enhance diversity of gut microbiota.  Sources of fermented foods include kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, Kombucha (non-alcoholic), Miso, Tempeh.

* Increase intake of Inulin, a type of fiber comprised of chains of fructose which has long been known to be beneficial for colon health, has been shown to assist in enriching gut microbiota, reducing inflammation and improvements in mental health.   Think of Inulin as a fertilizer for healthy gut microbiota. Inulin can be found in asparagus, garlic, artichoke, onions and beans.   See Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 9, pages 112-120.;

*Omega-3, Omega-6 are critical to the health of your body and brain.  As confirmed by study after study at the ISPNR 209 Conference, not only do these fats enhance your overall health, but they help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and can even be used for prevention of these conditions. Recent studies suggest the dosage to maximize benefits is 4 grams of Omega-3 and Omega 6 vitamins daily.   Good sources include olive oil, nuts, eggs, red meat, cold water fish, flax oils.  For food choices and information on Omega-3 and Omega-6 fats, see Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 3, pages 34-35, Chapter 9, pages 117-119. 

*Increase intake of Polyphenols:        Polyphenols can be found in dark chocolate, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranates, black beans, white beans, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, red onions, artichokes, spinach, chicory, soy, black tea and green tea.  See Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 9, pages 112-120.*

*Follow traditional dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean, Norwegian and Japanese diet.

*Increase fruits, vegetables, legumes, wholegrain cereals, nuts and seeds. See Spiritual Adrenaline, Chapter 9, pages. 112-120. 

*Limit the intake of ultra-processed foods.    Remember, eating whole foods, will suppress Ghrelin levels. 

If you or anyone you love will benefit from this information, make sure to purchase a copy of Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble.   For more information, visit www.spiritualadrenaline.com. Make sure to look for my Spiritual Adrenaline 2020 Update in January 2020 as well.  This guide and all the other free resources provided by Spiritual Adrenaline are funded through sales of my book.  I don’t take money from any corporate entities.  This keep the information I provide honest and unbiased.  By purchasing Spiritual Adrenaline, you enable me to continue to serve as a valuable resource to the addiction recovery community. 

My best,

Tom Shanahan, Author, Spiritual Adrenaline

Sober Hike to Machu Picchu, April 2020…

If you are looking to supercharge your recovery, join other sober adventures as we hike the four day Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu. This is a hike, not a technical climb, so no prior climbing experience is needed. So far, the age of those who have signed up goes from 30 to 70 years old. No one has any prior climbing or major hiking experience. What all of them have in common is the desire to do something new, challenge themselves to step out of their recovery comfort zone, and be with other people who are supportive and looking to do the same. For our day-to-day itinerary, visit http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com and check out the adventures page. You didn’t get sober to be bored. So join us on this bucket list adventure.

Gratitude Trip: Grand Canyon – Day Four, the Final Ascent…

Indian Garden to South Rim

Twilight at Indian Garden

We woke at 3:30 a.m. on the final day of our hike with the goal of getting started by 4:30 a.m., to beat the sun and allow some hikers who were having trouble more time to ascend.  I packed up my tent and camp for the final time and was excited to embrace the challenge this day would bring.   I said my final goodbye to Indian Garden and The Plateau and silently thanked this place for hosting me for the previous night. I recognized the privilege I had been given as I embarked on the last major portion of the hike.  I decided to break with my group for the day and challenge myself to ascend as fast as possible.   I still have a heavy load of about fifty-pounds in my backpack.  However, I want to see just how hard I could push my heart and lungs and what they are capable of.   

The final ascent was harder than I anticipated.  I had seen many-out-of-shape day hikers come down into Indian Garden and then head back up and thought to myself if they can do, it must be a piece of cake.  However, I hadn’t realized I saw them after they came down, not after they went back up. The ascent is a consistent incline and continues all the way up.  I pushed myself and continued to motor up.  As we started out so early, I did not pass any other hikers who were on their way up.  I also didn’t pass many hikers who were on their way down until I was almost all the way to the South Rim.   I felt amazing!  My body was still able to perform after four days to rigorous activity.  I could feel my heart pounding. I thought to myself how blessed I am to have a heart capable of such physical activity at the ripe old age of 51.   My lungs never failed me and I kept breathing deep, in an out, without any wheezing like eight years ago.  I kept thinking to myself how miraculous the body truly is and how it can heal itself with self-care and time.   

View down into Canyon from Bright Angel Trail near South Rim.

This got me going on a full-body mediation.  I started with my toes and made my way all the way to my head.  As I hiked up the switchbacks, I tried to pay close attention to how each body-part felt, the work each was doing to help me ascend and to identify the other parts of my body that were working together to make all of this possible. For example, I really focused on my how my calf, quadriceps and hamstring muscles all worked together to permit me to lift my feet.  The more attention I paid, the more I realized that each-and-every-step is a miracle.  How each and every breath is in-and-of-itself a miracle. I was sofocused on how my body was functioning one step at a time, one breath at a time, that when I looked up, I was almost at the South Rim.   Hours had seemingly turned into minutes and I was very close to my goal.  Just as I was about to reach the South Rim, a young man who I gotten to know over the last couple of days of passed me and said: “Ha, ha, I’m going to beat you up!”  I was so impressed by the fact that he beat me, I bought him breakfast.  Turns out, he is also in recovery.  His drug of choice was crystal meth and he has been sober for two years.   I then met his Dad, sister and nephew who were hiking with him.   His Dad had twenty-years in recovery from alcohol.  I thought to myself, what a small world.  I also thought to myself, miracles are all around us if we chose to recognize them.  I have seen so many miracles over the last eight-years and know that by continuing to live the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle, I will be blessed to see many, many more.  

My Final Gratitude List and Reflections

As we drove back to Flagstaff, my brain was overwhelmed by the sensory overload that is the Grand Canyon. It’s a lot to take in and I think it will take me a long-time to truly digest all of what I experienced over the last four days.  I am grateful for being in the natural splendor of the Canyon, which reaffirmed my belief in a higher power.   I am grateful for the people I met in the Canyon and shared the journey with.  I met a father and son who were hiking together and enjoying an experience that neither would ever forget.  I could sense their love for one another and that each recognized the opportunity to share this experience together as something incredibly special.  I’d have given anything to have the same experience with my Dad, who passed away fifteen-years ago.  In a way, watching the two of them allowed me to imagine what it would have been like for me to have been able to do this with my Dad. This was a very special and unexpected gift.

Tom at South Rim after four-day hike.

I watched members of my small group struggle to get through each of the days but never quit.  I watched as things got tougher and we all supported one another.  What became important was not that Imake it to the South Rim, but that we, collectively as a group, make it to the South Rim. The power is in the collective, rather than individual experience.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to have been of service on two days, and carried the backpack for another hiker who was struggling.  I am grateful to have met other members of the recovery community along the trail.  This reinforced my belief in the power of combining exercise and nutrition, a/k/aself-care, into an addiction recovery program. Also, the power of being in nature and way from the concrete and crowds of the big city.  Lastly, I am grateful to no longer have my life confined to a small and unhealthy comfort zone.  I’m grateful that I now recognize that life truly begins outside of my existing comfort zone.  

People, places and things matter. I am grateful for all of the people, places and things, I experienced over the last four days!  

Tom Shanahan is the author of Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, published by Central Recovery Press in January 2019. You can purchase Spiritual Adrenaline on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble. For more information, visit www.spiritualadrenaline.com.