Well Body

Tag: healthy habits

Sugar Undermines Sobriety

Sweet foods, and even just the taste of sweetness, contributes to relapse from substance abuse.  Dietary interventions play an important role in recovery from a decade of epidemic opioid abuse.

Long before I became a nutrition professional I worked in a residential drug recovery program.  Everyone in recovery drank lots of coffee with lots of sugar and smoked a log of cigarettes.  Thirty years ago, we had no idea how these behaviors undermined the recovery of our clients.

Today, multiple research studies demonstrate that sugar stimulates two brain factors that are also stimulated with drug use.  D-1, dopamine (the reward factor) and Mu-1 the opioid receptor in the brain are similarly stimulated by both sugar and addictive drugs.  At the same time, acetylcholine (the satiety response) is reduced, sometimes to elimination.

In addition, research studies have shown that the withdrawal symptoms from sugar  has the same physical response, teeth chattering, anxiety and imbalance, as withdrawal from addictive drugs.

This overlap between mechanisms mediating drug reward and palatable food reward have significant implications for maintaining painfully achieved sobriety.  In short, activating the reward mechanisms in the brain with sweet foods can result in addictive drug cravings.

A diet low in sugar and sugar-like tastes and high in nutrients often depleted during addiction ranks high among the factors that support sobriety. Among the self-care skills required for recovery is learning how the recovery client can nourish themselves for long-term success.

In this epidemic of opioid abuse, the nutrition professional has become an essential member of the recovery team.  To view research citations, visit the blog at www.wellbelly.net/blog  



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Run for Your Neurons

Another?  new study on the benefits of exercise? Yes!  A new study with mice finds that physical activity not only increases the quantity of new neurons in the brain, but are qualitatively different than other neurons.

We know that the brain is a dynamic, active organ in which new neurons and neural connections are created throughout life, especially in the areas of the brain related to memory and thinking.

In this study, the neurons created by cardiovascular activity looked unique.  They ware larger, displayed more and longer dendrites after only one week of exercise than brain cells from inactive mice.

Although this study was conducted with mice and not people, it’s a good bet that any physical activity that raises your heart rate for 20 minutes benefits the brain just as cardiovascular activity does for all the other organs.

Remember next time the sofa looks more appealing than putting on your running shoes think about all of those new, high-quality neurons that are going to interact on your behalf to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Magical Sleep

Tranquil scene of a young woman dreaming and sleeping on a cloud up in the sky

Oh, for a Good Nights Sleep!  Waking refreshed from deep, restful sleep really is magical to rejuvenate the body and mind. Add some magic to your nighttime habits with these six tips:

1. Warm Bath Warmth coaxes your body to relax.  Dissolve one cup of epsom salts in your bath water and you will benefit from magnesium, the relaxation mineral.  A few drops of essential oil of lavender in the water engages your sense of smell to enhance the relaxation experience.

2. Sleep Snacks Choosing small bites of the right snacks enhances sleep chemistry.  A warm glass of milk, cherries, walnuts and honey are high in  the amino acid tryptophan.  Tryptophan makes  melatonin… your natural sleep sedative hormone. Remember the turkey coma after Thanksgiving dinner?  It was the high levels of tryptophan in the turkey that did it.

Potassium and magnesium are minerals that promote relaxation.  Sweet potatoes, low sodium popcorn (oil popped), rice cakes and potato chips are high in both potassium and magnesium.

Pistachios are high in the vitamin B-6 required to make melatonin.  If you do not recall your dreams, you may be low in B-6.

Dark Chocolate, one ounce of 70%  or greater cocoa, is a superstar snack containing potassium and magnesium while promoting serotonin, which proceeds the production of melatonin.  Yum.

3. Lights Out Total darkness stimulates your brain to produce the sleep hormone, melatonin.  Yes, that translates into no reading, TV, computer, Kindle or Facebook on your smart phone thirty minutes before going to bed.

4. Soothing Sounds Your choice: nature sounds, soothing instrumentals or white noise intices the brain to surrender into a relaxed rhythm.

5. Sleep on Your Left Side  Sleeping on your left side aids digestion thus reducing heartburn. Left-side sleeping, also, works with gravity to move lymph fluid along it’s natural course toward the heart.  Circulation of lymph fluid boosts  immune activity and the elimination of toxins.

6. Count Sheep One by one, appreciate the positive things in your life.  Research has shown gratefulpeople sleep better.

Developing sleep habits creates body memory to expedite your transition into quality sleep.  As you practice your sleep ritual it will, soon, take less effort to fall asleep and enjoy better sleep.   Good night, sweet dreams.

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