Joe Cannon is a nationally recognized expert in sports nutrition and supplement benefits/safety. He has an MS in exercise science and a BS in chemistry and biology. He’s the author of six books including Nutrition Essentials: A Guidebook for Fitness Professionals. He teaches Sports Nutrition and certifies personal trainers for the AAAI/ISMA and is a sought-after speaker on the role of nutrition and supplements and health. He’s so smart, he’s even been retained to lecture at NASA. Yes, NASA! Joe is among the foremost experts in supplement safety and regularly reviews scientific research and shares his opinions at www.supplementclarity.com.
I had the chance to interview Joe about the importance of nutrition to good health and a strong immune system. He also shared about what to avoid or be cautious about given so many scammers are making promises about supplements and the Corona Virus..
According to Forbes Magazine, just 8% of people who make a resolution keep it. Most, break their resolutions in the first two weeks of the New Year. Here is a list of the most popular resolutions for last year:
Spend less, save more
Enjoy life to the fullest
Stay fit and healthy
Learn something exciting
Help others achieve their dreams
Fall in love
Spend more time with family
Although these resolutions are based upon people in the general population, it is likely that many people in recovery share these goals.
So Why Do So Many People Fail?
The problem with these resolutions is they go to the end game without a strategy to get there. In other words you really need to have a plan, both short-term and long-term, to lose weight and keep it off, quit smoking or stay fit and healthy. Rather than have such broad and sweeping resolutions, what worked for me, and I think may work for you, is to have the long-term goal in mind, but break it down into manageable subgroups, and really focus on making progress, baby-step by baby-step. By focusing on the micro-level and succeeding, we are better able to gain the self-confidence necessary to ultimately achieve our desired end result. No coach goes into a game without a strategy and, given that your quality of life is at stake here, neither should you.
The list of last year’s top ten resolutions involve a lot of issues we address at Spiritual Adrenaline: lose weight; stay fit and healthy; quit smoking; etc. Rather than incredibly broad resolutions, I recommend breaking down your resolution into smaller, more realistic goals and doing everything possible to achieve this realistic resolution. Once you achieve it, you can set another and keep going.
For example, if you are looking to quit smoking you need to develop a plan to address “triggers” that lead you to smoke. For me, that was coming and going from buildings. When I was about to enter or leave a building, I would chew a nicotine lozenge to avoid lighting up. Once I broke the habit of smoking coming and going from buildings, then I addressed not smoking in my car, etc. It was the smaller victories along the way that ultimately enabled me to quit smoking. It all starts somewhere and the smaller victories along the way build the self-confidence needed to ultimately win the war.
In the movie “What About Bob,” Bill Murray repeated the mantra “baby steps” over and over. In early recovery, I adopted that mantra for most things. It was incredibly important for me to stop self-defeating and self-sabotage and instead focus on getting out of my own way and being my own best friend.
Here are some achievable resolutions that will enhance your recovery and can start you down the road toward major change. I picked one for each of the major areas we focus on here at Spiritual Adrenaline.
Replace processed sugar and sweeteners with a natural sweetener: Diabetes and hyperglycemia are a major issue for people in recovery. The percentage of people in recovery with these conditions is well above the general population; according to some studies, as high as 93%. These conditions often make it much more challenging to stay sober as fluctuation in blood sugar levels dramatically alters mood and energy levels. Moreover, many people in recovery, especially alcoholics, have compromised liver function. If this applies to you, your liver may not be able to break down high-fructose corn syrup and other processed sweeteners. High-fructose corn syrup is quite common, and often the main sweetener in candy, ice cream and many other products. Over time, high-fructose corn syrup builds up in the liver causing a whole set of other health-related problems. By replacing processed sweeteners with natural sweeteners, you take a major step forward in diet modification and a healthier you.
Walk At Least A Mile A Day: Move a muscle, change a thought. It is undisputed that cardiovascular exercise will help burn calories, help lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and enhance production of brain chemicals and hormones that lift your mood. A mile a day is not a long distance at all, and this resolution should be an easy lift for most folks. It can also be the first step towards incorporating exercise into your daily routine, which is a must if we seek to enhance our changes of long-term success in recovery. Once you get comfortable with the mile, you can always go a little further, and then a little further. However, we all must start somewhere.
You can measure your mile the old-fashioned way, by actually measuring the length to and from certain locations or by driving the route ahead of time. There are countless gadgets and apps that will do it for you. So there is no reason not to give it a try. For folks in recovery, this is a great time to meditate, go over a gratitude list in their head, call a loved one or just enjoy nature. If you tend to isolate yourself and have a history of doing so while you were using, invite someone to join you. Maybe you can walk to and from a meeting together.
For people trying to quit smoking, cardiovascular activity is of great importance. Most people who smoke tend to engage in limited activity. The longer you smoke, the less you tend to move, as even minimal movement can be challenging for a smoker, especially those with lung diseases or other smoking-related health issues. When you engage in cardio, you force your lungs to work. By doing this, you can feel the impact of smoking on your lungs and their ability to provide you with oxygen. I can tell you this first hand because this was true for me. After heavy cardio, I would have great difficulty breathing and my lungs hurt. It convinced me that it was a behavior that could not continue. By incorporating exercise and proper nutrition into your lifestyle along with like-minded people (i.e., non-smokers), smoking becomes less and less acceptable and appealing.
Inventory The Times You Smoke and Make At Least One Change To Your Routine: Sit down and figure out the times of day you smoke, and commit to erasing at least one. When I smoked, I was lighting up when I went in and out of buildings, hanging around the front of twelve-step meetings with the smoking crowd, in my car when I was driving, and in my apartment at night. When I committed to stop, I changed the ways I went to and from work to avoid places where smokers congregated and where I traditionally lit up a cigarette. I changed my meetings, went later and/or left early to avoid smokers, pulled over as opposed to permitting myself to smoke in my car, and left my cigarettes in the mailbox at night so I did not have them available to smoke in my apartment.
Breaking these types of habits and routines in the context of smoking is huge. The habits are what perpetuate the addiction. By changing them, you change the neurological associations and cravings in your brain, and take a huge leap towards kicking the habit. It all starts by inventorying your smoking and developing a battle plan. One victory and change in the routine will give you the confidence to keep going and not give up.
Recovery Vitamins, Minerals and Hormones:
Eat Something Green Every Day: It sounds so simple but you would be surprised how many people do not eat green vegetables on a daily basis. Green leafy veggies are our best friends for so many reasons. First, they are not carb-heavy vegetables, so if we are looking to lean down, they enhance that goal. Second, they do not contain substances that convert to sugar or glucose in the digestion process. This is incredibly important given the disproportionate number of people in recovery with diabetes and hyperglycemia. Third, leafy green vegetables pack the most nutrients per calorie than any other food group. Greens contain significant amounts of Vitamins A, C, E, K and several of the B vitamins. In addition, they are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron and potassium. As people in recovery, our bodies are often used to calorie-rich, nutrient-deficient foods, chief among them candy and alcohol. The benefits of eating something green everyday will pay off exponentially as you will be restoring the building blocks necessary to meet your body’s needs and proper brain chemistry.
If you eat some greens every day, you won’t have to worry about the recommended servings per week, as you’ll easily exceed them. In case you were wondering, the USDA recommends three servings of leafy greens each week.
This is a tough category because the issue of “spirituality” is so subjective. So in this category I will give you three suggestions:
Establish A Morning Self-Care Practice: How we start the day sets the tone for the rest of the day. A morning self-care practice establishes you and your recovery as the priority and the absolute first thing that gets your attention in the morning. This need not be a lengthy, highly formal practice. Set aside 5 minutes every morning to reflect on gratitude, your goals for the day, or whatever else you would like to focus on. Use this time to reflect inward, towards your soul, and be driven by your needs. Not the needs of others, clients, significant others, family or any other person, place or thing. Enjoy your 5 minutes of solitude and stay in gratitude. A person who stays in gratitude will not drink or use drugs.
Journal About Your Feelings: Feelings are not facts and putting them down in black and white is an incredibly powerful experience in many ways. Oftentimes, when I write down how I am feeling, it makes it unmistakably clear that what is happening in my head is absolutely ridiculous. By writing down my feelings or, as I sometimes refer to them – the “chaos in my head,” I gain perspective. Journaling also grounds me in reality, makes me think about how my brain processes people, places and things, and makes it easier to share with a sponsor or friend at a later time. A journal need not be War and Peace, but rather a few sentences, at the beginning, during or end of the day.
Reach Out to Someone and Just Say Thanks or Hello: Once a week, biweekly or monthly, chose someone who is important in your life, someone you have not connected with for a while, and say thanks or hello. Let them know how and why they impacted your life and that you care about them. These types of random acts of kindness will lift your spirit as well as that of the person to whom you are reaching out. We are all so busy these days that often the only time we communicate with people we care about is when some terrible event happens, such as an unexpected death. Have no regrets, seize the day and reach out and say thanks.
Pick up a copy of Spiritual Adrenaline for More Resolution Ideas!!!
If you are looking for lots of ideas on how you can supercharge your recovery in 2020, pick up a copy of my book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery. It’s full of helpful tools you can integrate into your lifestyle right away to achieve your dreams.
We wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy and sober 2020. We would love your feedback on this and other blog posts. We hope you’ll remain an active part of the Spiritual Adrenaline community in 2020!!!!!
A gentleman I used to know described the holidays as “hurricane season” for people in recovery. First it’s Thanksgiving, then Christmas or Hanukkah, then New Year’s Eve. Society often defines these celebrations by eating and drinking to excess, rather than true nature of the holiday, gratitude, and giving thanks for all of our blessings. All the reveling can be really challenging for someone new to recovery or even those with substantial time. When you add family to the mix, it can be overwhelming, exhausting, and put many at the risk of relapse. It’s important to stay close to the program during the holidays and find time for meetings, your sponsor, and positive relationships. It’s even more important to remain in a state of gratitude, which is after all what the holidays are all about.
What we eat during the stress of the holidays can have a major impact on our attitude, mood, and energy levels. Food is comprised of substances, some of which enhance our recovery while others undercut it. Foods high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or other cheap fillers and caffeine and fats (the bad kind); can make you feel awful and put your sobriety at risk. It is important for alcoholics, addicts and anyone who is looking to break free of dependence on any substance to understand that alcohol metabolizes in the body as glucose, and is very similar, on a chemical level, to carbs and sugar from candy, ice cream, and other high-carb foods. Drugs similarly have a negative impact on the body and both alcoholics and addicts tend to use caffeine and/or sugar for energy depleted by the cycle of abuse. This is a major concern as it can lead to cravings and increased risk of relapse.
That’s the problem, but what’s the solution. I am not telling you that you cannot eat sweets for the holiday; I am telling you that it’s important to be smart about what you and I eat. If you’re interested in learning ways to get the same sweetness and great taste but with far less refined sugar, check out my book Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery, http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com.
I teamed up with Melanie Albert, an Intuitive Cooking Expert, founder of Experience Nutrition and the Author of the new book A New View of Healthy Eating, to come up with healthy holiday treats that aren’t just delicious, but are also good for you. Melanie is amazing. She came up with five holiday treats made of all natural ingredients, high in healthy fats and low on the glycemic index so they will help you avoid sugar highs and then a crash. More importantly, they are delicious.
You can watch Melanie make the treats by clicking on the videos below.
Aromatic Apple Crisp with Freshly Ground Spices
For full recipe instructions check out Melanie’s website:
These treats are delicious and will enhance, rather than undercut, your recovery by providing you with energy through healthy fats rather than sugar or caffeine. They taste delicious and won’t spike your blood sugar. The best part is you can eat more of the healthy stuff than the fattening unhealthy stuff and it tastes just as good. For more helpful information on how your diet can impact your sobriety, visit our recovery nutrition section.
On December 1, 2019, a state of the art 27,000 square foot Foley’s Fitness opens right outside of Portland, in the State of Maine. Opening his own gym has been Mike’s life-long dream. He worked hard and it finally came true. To celebrate the grand opening, here’s a video I taped with Mike some years back. Mike has 28-years of experience in coaching people as a personal trainer and sports nutritionist. Mike discusses the how bringing structure into the lives of those in early recovery can be a much needed lifestyle change. He goes on to talk about how developing a relationship with exercise and fitness can be a ongoing positive reinforcement for those in recovery. If you are interested in learning more about Mike, check out his website http://www.foleysfitnesscenter.com. I write about Mike in my book, Spiritual Adrenaline: A Lifestyle Plan to Strengthen & Nourish Your Recovery. You can learn more about my book at http://www.spiritualadrenaline.com. Congratulations Mike!!! Dreams do come true!!!!
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?
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.
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 Tastein 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?
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.
Nutritional Psychiatry, Nutraceuticals, Gut Microitomesand 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.
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.
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. SeeSpiritual 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. SeeSpiritual 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
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.”
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. SeeSpiritual 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. SeeSpiritual 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, seeSpiritual 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.
Here is the Spiritual Adrenaline Cherokee Bean Bread Dessert recipe unveiled at our Day One Event in Bryson City, North Carolina on January 1, 2019. I include the recipe, the reason I chose each of the recipe ingredients including the nutritional benefits and the ingredients I removed from the traditional recipe including lard and refined sugar.
(Gluten Free, High Protein and Low Glycemic Load)
2 ½ cups gluten free bread mix
½ cup kidney bean, pre-cooked and drained
1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
4 tablespoons honey (or to preference)
2 tablespoon SWERVE, Truvia or Stevia sweetener
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 scoop whey protein (or soy)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup flax seeds
1/8 cup sesame seeds
1 cup raisins
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
In a mixing bowl, combine bread mix, salt and baking soda with a wire whisk. Mix well.
Make a well in the center of mixture and put yeast, honey and cinnamon into the well. Pour a small amount of lukewarm water to help dissolve the yeast.
Place the beans, olive oil, protein powder and ½ cup of lukewarm water. Using mixer, blend until smooth and creamy.
Put beans, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds and raisins into the mix and continue to blend until fully mixed.
Knead the mixture for ten minutes (If needed, you can continue to mix with blender).
Cover with foil and a towel and let rise for one-hour.
Punch the dough down and let rise for another thirty-minutes (by now it should have doubled in size).
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake the bread for about 30 to 40 minutes. Do not cover while baking.
After 30 minutes, test to see if a toothpick inserted into the middle of the bread comes out clean.
Remove bread from pan immediately when done and let cool on a wire rack.
This recipe is gluten free and can be a good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans. This is important for active alcoholics, alcoholics in recovery and people with Type 2 diabetes or hypoglycemia, for the reasons fully explained in my book. SeeSA, pages 21-36, *29.
Swerve or Truvia as sweeteners satisfy your sweet-tooth with de minimuscalories and no impact on blood sugar. SeeSApages 89-92. In addition, all sweeteners used are low on the glycemic index and won’t spike blood sugar and then crash. SeeSA, pages 89-92, 115-117.
Kidney beans are an excellent source of fiber, which is important for a number of critical body functions including stabilizing blood sugar levels and absorption. Kidney beans are a “slow digesting” carbohydrate, which is the final reasons they are a smart choice for people in recovery or with blood sugar related disease. For additional healthy bean and nut choices, SeeSA, pages 115-117.
Raisins are high in fiber, iron, calcium and anti-oxidants. Although raisins contain glucose and fructose, the sugars are balanced by the other healthy substances. The sugars in raisins also break down very slowly, and are therefore a benefit for diabetes and others with blood sugar issues.
Cinnamon is one of my favorite “Recovery Super Spices” and helps to slow down the breakdown of carbs (sugars) among other benefits for people with diabetes or other blood sugar issues. SeeSA,pages 93-95.
Beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil all contain healthy fats that provide sustainable energy throughout the day without spiking and then dropping blood sugar. SeeSA, pages 85-137.
Olive oil, honey and kidney beans contain healthy anti-oxidants that help neutralize cancer causing free radicals. SeeSA,pages 115-120.
People who follow the Spiritual Adrenaline lifestyle don’t need to count macro’s. Rather they follow our “Eat F.A.B.” recommendations on nutrient timing. SeeSA, pages 85-89. This recipe should be consumed during the “F” or “A” nutrient times as described in the book.
Modifications from Traditional Cherokee Bean Bread Recipe:
– Replaced traditional dried corn (masa hernia) with organic gluten free bread mix.
– Replaced lard with extra virgin olive oil.
– Replaced refined sugar with honey and Stevia/Truvia.
This year, I put together a new set of sustainable resolutions for people in recovery for 2019. This year I am proud to be collaborating with Central Recovery Press. Happy holidays and a safe, happy and healthy 2019!!!