Kicking Addictions

Addictions in one form or other affect millions of people in this country. Scientists are just now beginning to understand why some people fall so easily into using addictive substances while others can literally take them or leave them. If you’ve ever had an addiction to a drug, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, sugar, or other food, you know how hard it can be to give it up.

The word “addiction” is usually used to describe a dependency on cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. But the term can also be used to describe certain forms of behavior. For example… gambling or sexual activity. People can also be addicted to foods.

Many people who don’t have a drug or alcohol problem or smoking addiction might not be so quick to accept the idea that they are hooked on caffeine, sugar, or carbohydrates. According to the book “Alternative Medicine” by the Burton Goldberg Group, addiction can be defined as any physical or psychological dependence which negatively impacts a person’s life. Obsessions for foods are not nearly as powerful as for drugs, alcohol or other addictive substances. But if we find that any food begins to govern our behavior (cravings), or if we experience a physical or an emotional discomfort if we don’t have a food, we’re probably hooked. The easiest way to Glucofort tell if you have an addiction to a food is to give it up, cold turkey for a week. If you’re addicted to it, the cravings for it will be very strong.

There is a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine that is the common thread in all kinds of addictive behavior. Dopamine, along with seratonin, is one of the neurotransmitters in the brain that effects our moods. Seratonin gives us a feeling of satisfaction and a sense that everything is okay (Prozac is an antidepressant that is a seratonin stimulator). Dopamine not only makes us feel more alert, but it also is involved in feelings of pleasure and elation. Some researchers believe that dopamine is in short supply in the brains of people who are easily addicted. Addictive substances such as caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other drugs increase the level of dopamine in the brain.

There is a theory that basically states that if there is a dopamine imbalance or deficiency, a person will be more at risk for addictive behavior. Several addictive substances (heroine, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana), all of which promote increased levels of dopamine in the brain, are used by a relatively small number of people and three others (alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine) are used by over 100 million people every month.

If there is a balance of neurotransmitters in the brain and enough seratonin and dopamine are being produced, a person isn’t as likely to become addicted. So anything that disturbs the balance of neurotransmitters can cause or perpetuate addictive behavior. Both sugar and caffeine can interfere with the proper metabolism of tryptophan (a precursor of seratonin) and can cause depression and nervousness by blocking the manufacture of neurotransmitters. Sugar and caffeine are two addictive substances that can aggravate or perpetuate an addiction to other substances. For this reason, many anti-addiction programs insist that clients give up sugar and caffeine.

We should clarify that we aren’t just talking about coffee. Black tea, colas, sodas, chocolate, cocoa and analgesics, like Excedrin, and stimulants, like Vivarine, are all high in caffeine. Excess caffeine can effect liver function, restrict arterial blood flow, cause high blood pressure, rob the body of minerals leading to bone loss, exhaust the adrenals, and cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to breast cancer and uterine fibroids. It has been implicated in PMS, bladder infections, hypoglycemia and diabetes.

Researchers believe that one cup of coffee a day (about 100 mg of caffeine) probably isn’t a problem for most people.

Here’s how to kick caffeine and stay off of it:

– If you drink more than one caffeinated drink a day – reduce to one. Researchers have found that one a day will satisfy the caffeine requirement and prevent withdrawal symptoms like headaches.

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