I have known nutritionist Patrick Holford for many years, and indeed worked on the Optimum Nutrition magazine with him for a while, so I have great interest in what he has to say.
He recently focused on something that is becoming increasingly common and when I saw he was offering a way to ‘reclaim your brain with a one month makeover’ I could not resist sharing it with you. It certainly applies to me, and I suspect you will recognise what he is describing too.
DO YOU OFTEN FEEL: Anxious, panicky, overwhelmed and stressed?
- Never feel like you’ve had enough sleep?
- Can’t fall asleep easily or wake up too early?
- Have mood dips and feel like you’re running on empty?
- Struggle to concentrate and stay calm, focused?
- ‘Need’ coffee, sugar, nicotine, alcohol, drugs (legal or prescribed) and digital connection?
- Feel like there’s something more that you need to buy or consume to feel good?
- Feel out of control – like you’ve lost your way?
If so, your brain has been hijacked and you don’t even know it.
We are living in space-age times with stone age minds and multi-national companies, from Coca Cola to Costa, Apple to Facebook, have learnt how to get you hooked – literally neurochemically addicted to consuming their products by manipulating what’s called the brain’s ‘reward system’.
It’s also why prescriptions for anti-depressants, sleeping pills and tranquillisers have rocketed and Big Pharma clocks up $1 trillion a year in sales. It’s why, globally, more people commit suicide than all other causes of violent deaths including wars.
The brain’s ‘reward’ system is based on dopamine and adrenalin and clever marketing techniques have learnt how to get you hooked. One key is a trigger that you press and receive a variable reward that you want. It’s like slot machine addiction. You keep putting the money in, hoping for a jackpot.
Facebook, for example, have learnt how to do this with prompts, swipe downs, red icons that you press and don’t know what you receive. Is it a ‘like’? Do I have more ‘friends’? Or has another person ‘linked’ to me on Linked In etc. The average person now checks their phone 2,617 times a day.
Facebook even knows when you’re feeling ‘insecure’, ‘worthless’ and ‘need a confidence boost’ or bored, according to a leaked report this year, and can make sure you receive notification of a ‘like’ just when you ‘need’ it to keep you hooked in.
Insidiously and unknowingly your brain has been hijacked and the symptoms you feel are the direct consequences of an intended addiction. Gambling, gaming, overeating, sex, drug and digital addiction are all part of it.
Like all addictions you crave more and more, and get less and less pay off, until you have to ‘consume’ to just not feel s**t. You’re hooked. You’ve been sold ‘pleasure’ under the guise of happiness. (Think happy hour, happy meal etc.) They’ve ended up phenomenally rich and you’ve ended up psychologically broke. It’s their Brave New World, not yours.
The hallmark of an addiction is when a ‘want’ turns into a ‘need’
Think about your addictions – that is things you couldn’t do without or, if deprived, would start saying ‘I need…’. Do they really make you happy and contented or do they stop you feeling bad/tired/stressed? How long before you need more? Could you go a week without caffeine, alcohol, sugar, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, cannabis, digital media, gambling? What’s your addiction?
How to break free
But there is a way to loosen the grip of addictive substances and behaviours and break free from this ‘mind matrix’, the virtual consumer reality that has little to do with real and sustainable health and happiness.
The key is understanding how to ‘unaddict’ your brain, regain control, and claim your natural connection (which is based on serotonin and melatonin) with consequent contentment, clarity of mind and purpose and ability to sleep like a baby and wake up fully charged and refreshed.
But also, our overused reward systems become depleted with our own feel good dopamine/noradrenalin/adrenalin diminished, and in need of a natural boost. And this over-activated pathway competes with and shuts down serotonin production which is what actually helps to make us feel happy and content.
A simple example is sunshine. It actually promotes serotonin and happiness. This time of year we lack that avenue. The amino acid tryptophan is the building block for serotonin. An experiment was carried out at Oxford University’s Department of Psychiatry which proved this connection very clearly.
Fifteen women were given a diet devoid of tryptophan. Within eight hours ten of the women started to feel more depressed. When tryptophan was added back into their diet, without them knowing, their mood improved. That is how quickly what you eat affects how you feel.
Another amino acid, tyrosine, is required for healthy levels of dopamine and noradrenalin. Soldiers given tyrosine cope better with combat stress. Tyrosine is also the precursor for thyroxine, the ‘energy’ hormone. Many alcohol dependent people have poor dopamine ‘resistance’ meaning their receptors aren’t working properly, which is why they crave alcohol.
We all become dopamine resistant with too much stimulation. That’s why we ‘need’ more and more things, stuff, food, drink to feel good or, at least, normal. But this constant craving can be transformed with the right nutritional support. It takes about a month.
There is no doubt that the hormonal fluctuations women experience throughout life do affect our nerves and consequently our brain too. An increase in anxiety and stress will have serious health impacts so these articles may be helpful: