You don’t have to be an addict to have cravings. Even I—a nutrition book author and addiction program executive—devoured a pint of coffee ice cream recently while anxiously facing a deadline.
I forgot about the GABA capsules in my kitchen cabinet. GABA and six other supplements can help eliminate feelings that drive us to self-medicate with sugar, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, illegal substances, or prescription drugs.
The Essential Seven to Stop Cravings
- Fish oil
These seven are essential because they normalize levels of neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals likely deficient if we use a mind-altering substance (even sugar) to relieve discomfort. Depending on initial deficiency, six to twelve months of Essential Seven use can raise neurotransmitter levels high enough to stop symptoms without further supplementation.
The first five in the list are amino acids, the most elementary units that combine to form proteins. Taking specific amino acids between meals offers the quickest relief.
Tryptophan (widely available as 5-HTP or 5-hydroxytryptophan) improves sleep and relieves depression, panic, and obsessiveness by increasing the neurotransmitter serotonin. Tyrosine energizes and focuses the mind by increasing catecholamines. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation. DL-phenylalanine eases emotional and physical pain by maintaining endorphins. Glutamine stabilizes blood sugar, a common cause of cravings for alcohol or carbohydrates.
Multivitamins/minerals assist amino acids to produce neurotransmitters. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil may reduce depression and increase dopamine.
The Essential Seven are nontoxic with a few caveats: Avoid tyrosine or DL-phenylalanine if you have chronic headaches, high blood pressure, or Graves’ disease, or have had melanoma; avoid GABA if you have very low blood pressure; and avoid glutamine if you are diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Check with your doctor if you’re pregnant, nursing, or are already taking prescribed mood-altering drugs.
“People don’t understand the power of nutrients,” says Stan Stokes, MS, LPC, CCDC, founder-director of Bridging the Gaps, a 30- to 90-day addiction treatment program in Winchester, Virginia, offering intravenous and oral nutrients. “It’s as close as we’ve got to the magic bullet everyone is searching for,” adds Peter Callahan, MSW, CAC-S, clinical director at Bridging the Gaps.