I used to drink 2-3 glasses of wine every night. I always made sure I had wine in the house. I'd typically have a glass of wine while I was making dinner, then have another with dinner, and often another after that.
I also used to crave chocolate and sometimes carbs in the evenings. I have a stash of chocolate chips that I would eat after dinner — just a small bowl. Or sometimes I'd sneak some potato chips. While I craved chocolate (and sometimes carbs,) I didn't need those every single day. By far, the bigger vice was the wine.
I'm thrilled to report that I no longer crave wine or chocolate in the evening. Since I've been eating 3 square meals a day and taking amino acids 4 times a day, the cravings are kaput!
What's Wrong With Wine and Chocolate?
If you need wine and chocolate, it's a problem. (Psst: same goes for those of you who drink coffee every morning.) Maybe I wasn't drinking wine to get drunk, but needing a glass or two of wine every evening is an addiction.
I love wine and chocolate. I will continue to enjoy them. On occasion. Now I'm free to indulge when I want to — and not on a daily basis because I can't help myself.
Julia Ross & The Mood Cure
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I gave up coffee over a year ago. It was one of the best things I ever did for my health. Click here to read how I quit coffee with the help of real food and amino acids.
I figured if traditional food and amino acids could help me quit coffee, they could help me get rid of my nightly cravings for wine and chocolate.
So, for the past few weeks, I've been following Julia Ross's protocol in her book,
The Mood Cure. I took a weekend seminar with Julia last summer and I learned a ton. Click here to read about my weekend with Julia Ross.
Some of you have been asking me to write a post about exactly which amino acids I've been taking.
But first, a disclaimer: Please keep in mind this is not medical advice. I am not a doctor. These are not suggestions for you to take. This protocol really depends on the person.
If you are looking for help for yourself, I recommend that you read Julia Ross's book,
The Mood Cure. In fact, I highly recommend that you work with Julia Ross one-on-one if you can. Especially if you're an alcoholic, have an eating disorder, or are trying to get off of an antidepressant.
Neurotransmitters and Mental Health
I first need to go over a little brain chemistry. Don't worry, this won't hurt!
There are four major neurotransmitters in the brain:
When we have deficiencies in any of these neurotransmitters, we start having emotional and mental problems.
Neurotransmitters and Addictions
Being low in neurotransmitters can also cause addiction. When we are low in neurotransmitters, we tend to use substances — alcohol, tobacco, sugar, caffeine, chocolate, and drugs — to get a boost, or relax, take the edge off, or just make ourselves feel better.
Do you need your coffee in the morning? Do you become irritable and tense, or tired without it?
Do you need a glass of wine or two in the evening to help calm down and relieve stress?
Do you crave carbs or sweets on a daily basis? Do you keep a stash of special treats that nobody else knows about?
Do you need your daily dose of chocolate? Do you justify it, saying it's healthy because it's organic, dark chocolate? (I hear that one a lot.)
Do you smoke cigarettes?
All of these substances are ways we use foods, drinks and drugs to artificially feel better. The bad news is: if you need these things, you are already deficient. And many things, including caffeine, actually reduce your neurotransmitters. A vicious cycle!
Amino acids, found in protein, are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Many (most?) of us are deficient in neurotransmitters, partly because we don't eat properly (who eats 3 square meals with 20-30 grams of protein anymore?) and partly because we take drugs that actually deplete our neurotransmitters — for example: caffeine, nicotine and aspartame.
When we are deficient in neurotransmitters, it's usually not enough just to eat a good diet. Many of us need to supplement with amino acids for a short period of time in order to overcome addictions, banish depression or anxiety, sleep through the night (lack of serotonin causes insomnia,) stop obsessive-compulsive behaviors, etc.
Whether we overeat (or undereat,) drink too much wine, smoke, or are depressed or anxious, it's not a moral failing — it's brain chemistry.
How I Did It
According to the questionnaire, I was low in all the neurotransmitters. I have low blood sugar, too.
If you read The Mood Cure, you'll find that you have to eat 3 square meals a day with 20-30 grams of protein, lots of good fat (butter, lard, coconut oil, tallow, olive oil) as well as lots of vegetables and whole grains. (Essentially a WAPF diet, although Julia recommends more vegetables. I do my best.)
In addition to my 3 squares, I've been taking the following amino acids:
Glutamine – For low blood sugar; this helps keep me balanced between meals. If I miss a meal or am late making dinner, I literally get dizzy, get a blinding headache, and become irritable and tired. This was my old 5 o'clock pattern. I'd skip lunch or not eat enough for lunch, and by 5 o'clock, I was starving. And I'd reach for a glass of wine. Now I just make sure I take my glutamine and I don't skip meals. I take 1 pill three times a day (morning, mid-morning, afternoon, and bedtime) and more as needed.
DLPA – For low endoprhins. This is probably my biggest deficiency. DLPA is what helped me kick caffeine last year. Now I take it three times a day — morning, mid-morning, and afternoon.
GABA – For stress/anxiety/irritability. I've had a TON of stress lately (selling the house, moving, etc.) so for a while I was taking up to 750 mg 4 times per day. Now I'm taking 100 mg 4 times a day. If you're trying to get off of alcohol or carbs or other addictive substances, you may need more for a period of time. I take the chewable kind and let it absorb in my mouth (faster than swallowing and waiting for it to go through my digestive tract — in fact, I take all the amino acids this way; I just chew up the capsules.)
Tryptophan – For low serotonin (the happy brain chemical). Serotonin also converts to melatonin when it gets dark — which helps you get tired and helps you sleep. I'm taking this twice a day — in the afternoon and at bedtime. I used to have a hard time going to sleep and now I drop off almost instantly.
I'm also taking a B-complex supplement. Vitamin B6 helps us properly utilize amino acids, so if you suspect you might be low, Julia Ross recommends that we take it.
I need to order some NOW True Balance (recommended by Julia Ross) — a multivitamin that also contains chromium and other things that help balance blood sugar. Julia also recommended a the 2-stage release melatonin supplement to take at night since I've still been waking up at 2 or 3 am.
I did notice that since I've been using a sleep mask for the past couple nights to block out the light, I've been sleeping even better. I still woke up last night at 2 am, but I got up, went to the bathroom and went straight back to sleep within 5 minutes. I did not have to take any tryptophan or melatonin to help me fall asleep like I normally do. I love this sleep mask!
How Long Do You Have to Take the Amino Acids?
I know people are going to ask this, so I'll answer here. You take them as long as you need them. Most people only need to take them for a month or two. When I quit coffee, I only took the amino acids for a few weeks. If you're trying to quit something stronger, like heroin or Prozac, you might need to be on them longer (and I recommend that you work with your doctor, and with Julia Ross.)
Oh, and if you're pregnant or nursing, you don't want to take the single aminos. Julia Ross recommends an amino acid blend.
Take the Questionnaire
If you're curious about your own neurotransmitter deficiencies, go and take the mood questionnaire on Julia's site. If you'd like to share your results, please post a comment below.