As human beings, we are unfortunately predisposed to seeking out pleasure and developing addictive tendencies. Whether it be junk food, television, or drugs and alcohol, our mammalian brains are wired to seek out rewarding activities that can sometimes be less than beneficial to our overall health. Addiction can leave us overweight, underweight, in poor shape, and unhappy, but through swift intervention and the development of healthy alternatives we can withstand temptation. Here are some healthy and all natural ways you kick any type of addiction.
Cut the Processed Sugars
In a recent research report published by St. Luke’s cardiovascular scientists, results revealed an overwhelming amount of evidence of parallels and overlaps in the way that the brain responds to both cocaine and sugar. The scientists looked at rat studies compiled from around the globe and found that in most cases, rats responded in practically the same manner when it came to preferencing cocaine and sugar water over normal water.
What’s the takeaway? Well since sugar increases dopamine in the brain in a similar manner to cocaine, you need to carefully monitor your sugar intake at all times. While a little sugar occasionally is alright, it’s important to make sure that you are limiting to natural sugars found in organic fruits and milk. Refined sugars such as high fructose corn syrup are commonly added to processed foods that typically have little to no nutritional value, creating junk food that gives us a sugar or dopamine high well outside the range of what natural sugar would give us. Cutting down on processed sugar and sugar in general can go a long way towards restoring the brain’s natural balance of feel good chemicals.
Exercise with Routine & Regularity
There’s a significant amount of research showing that individuals who adhere to a regular exercise routine following rehab are less likely to abuse illicit substances in the long term. Exercise helps individuals overcome addiction by providing structure, keeping the mind preoccupied, increasing cardiovascular health, reducing stress, and raising self esteem. According to research out of Harvard, exercise can even improve the function and longevity of the brain. Some exercises with proven benefits for helping recovering addicts include:
- Hiking: Sorry baseball, enjoying the great outdoors is America’s actual favorite past time. Research has shown that simply being in nature for a long period of time carries a whole host of positive benefits such as: increased dopamine levels, increased Vitamin D, lower blood pressure … the list just continues on.
- Running: Running for as little as 20-30 minutes a day has positive health benefits such as lowered stress, lower weight, and better overall brain function. It taps into the tunnel vision impulse that many addicts struggle with but is a positive outlet for those types of feelings. Runners high is an endorphin surge that runners report getting.
- Swimming: Swimming is a highly therapeutic activity that is also a fun and low impact way to get cardiovascular exercise. Swimming has been linked to alleviating symptoms of depression, reducing pain, and improving overall quality of sleep.
Beating addiction takes more than just removing the substance from your life. Going cold turkey works for some people, but many addicts find that substance abuse was covering some kind of inner turmoil or distress. Stress can lead to binge eating. Chronic unhappiness can lead to drug abuse. Boredom can cause you to watch 5 hours of television shows online. No matter what the underlying cause of your addiction is, meditation is a helpful practice for helping you determine and deal with it in a positive manner.
Overcoming an addiction entails learning how to manage and cope with your feelings and emotions. Meditation is one way to learn how to do this in a healthy and natural manner. Even if you can’t picture yourself cross legged on the floor for an hour, you can always substitute for contemplative activities like gardening or yoga that allow you to focus on your thoughts. You can look up common meditation practices online and even use therapeutic background music to help you focus.
Vitamins and Supplements
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects for determining our overall health. Indulging in any type of substance abuse or addiction can literally make physical changes to the way our brain works, so it only makes sense that to break out of the chains of addiction we need to make physical changes to our diet and routines that positively impact our brain. Some natural vitamins that can help someone dealing with an addiction include Citicoline, Theanine, and Vitamin D.
Citicoline is a B-Vitamin essential to the human body that you could be deficient in. It has neuroplasticity benefits, meaning it helps the way your brain protects and repairs itself, as well as anti-inflammatory properties. It also enhances the synthesis of acetylcholine and dopamine in the brain. In one study conducted on cocaine addiction, patients who supplemented cocaine with Citicoline had greater success in maintaining sobriety than the control group. Citicoline is available in pill form, but is also found in beef liver and egg yolks.
Theanine is a common amino acid found in certain teas that can induce calming and sedative effects in the brain. Theanine can be useful during addiction recovery because it lowers your stress hormones and increases production of the brain’s growth hormone. Theanine has also been linked with reducing nicotine dependence.
There’s really no shortage to the list of benefits that Vitamin D provides you with. Every tissue in the human body has receptors for Vitamin D, and people at risk for Vitamin D deficiency are also at risk for substance abuse problems. Getting enough Vitamin D supports your overall health, immune system, brain, and nervous system.
What’s more natural and healthy than having a conversation with another human being? The first step in overcoming an addiction is getting past the misplaced shame and learning to ask for help from someone. Over the past few decades, research into addiction science and psychology has uncovered multiple strategies and methods for helping people struggling with addiction to overcome their difficulties and live a happy, healthy, and sober life.
- CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): CBT is a therapy model that teaches patients to recognize the underlying triggers that cause them to revert to substance abuse to cope. Through CBT, patients can identify and deconstruct false logic.
- Motivational Interviewing: This therapeutic model involves having structured conversations that serve to bolster the patient’s self-esteem and belief in themselves to conquer their addiction.
- Contingency Management: This method of therapy provides patients with incentives to refrain from engaging in their addiction. This type of therapy is not a long term solution, but when combined with other forms of therapy can help make small and meaningful steps towards recovery.
Treating any kind of addiction takes a holistic approach that should incorporate all aspects of a person’s wellbeing. Using healthy and natural methods for recovery reduces the chance of getting hooked on some type of tapering medication and goes a long way towards improving your overall physical and mental health.