Whether it is the start of the New Year, the start of yet another diet or you are trying to give up smoking or something more serious such as a drug, or alcohol problem you can blame your brain for your lack of willpower to overcome the desire to indulge.
Most serious problems center on a failure of self-control: compulsive spending, underachievement, alcohol, and diet abuse. Read on to find out about natural remedies available to help conquer addiction.
If you have an addiction you are not alone. It is estimated that there are around 2 million people in the UK with some sort of addiction.
Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something, to the point where it could be harmful to you.
Unfortunately will power can be an extremely limited mental resource and many of us feel embarrassed or even traumatised when we fail to resist.
Addiction can lead to overwhelming feelings of being ‘out of control’
We feel overwhelmed because there are more temptations than ever and a tired and preoccupied brain finds it hard to show the strength to resist temptation.
Mastering self -control helps you to relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve energy for the important challenges in life.
Tips on mastering will power:
Balance your blood sugar levels
Do not go for long periods without food as a shortage of glucose leads to dips in blood sugar levels, which can then lead to cravings and a lack of willpower.
Ensure you are having good quality protein (nuts & seeds, eggs, chicken, lentils) and fibre (fruit & veg) with each meal to balance your blood sugar levels and swap refined carbohydrates for whole-grains such as brown rice.
Try the supplement chromium, which has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce carbohydrate cravings. Chromium may also provide mood-stabilizing benefits for those with depression (Doherty JC, 2005).
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in addiction. Neurotransmitters send chemical messages to the brain. Dopamine affects brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. Low levels of Dopamine have been linked to addictions and food cravings.
Food sources that can increase levels of dopamine include almonds, avocados, bananas, dairy products, lima beans and pumpkin seeds.
Reducing stress and anxiety makes it easier to quit an addiction. Try relaxing techniques such as yoga or a regular massage.
Trying to quit smoking, lose weight and join a gym at the same time can be too much. It is important to concentrate on one small change at a time so that you do not feel overburdened which will make you feel more stressed.
Rhodiola is a herb that helps us to adapt to stress. Rhodiola also has the ability to regulate the release of dopamine, which may help to strengthen will power, and offer improvements in mental performance.
A vice delayed may turn out to be a vice denied. Studies show that people who show greater willpower are not necessarily any different to those who give in more easily but the key difference appears to be that they are better at finding distraction techniques, to push away tempting thoughts.
When you have an overwhelming craving try picking up the phone and talking things through with a friend or having a long hot bath until the desire subsides.
NAC – N-Acetylcysteine
NAC is a nutrient that may be helpful in various forms of addiction. This is because of NAC’s ability to increase levels of glutamate. There is observational evidence that low levels of glutamate in the brain will increase compulsive and addictive behaviors and intensify cravings.
Studies have shown that restoring levels of glutamate seems to block reinstitution of compulsive behaviours and decrease cravings (Grant 2007).
Glutamine is an amino acid that aids liver detoxification. Glutamine supplementation has been shown to reduce alcohol intake.
Glutamine has also been shown to increase mental function, alertness, and may exert a mild anti-depressant effect.