Top Strategies to Tame Addictive Habits
In my last blog regarding mood and behaviors, we looked at obsession, anxiety, depression, and impulsivity. In this blog, we dive into addictive behaviors. Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. Drugs and alcohol typically come to mind first when we hear the word addiction, but we can be addicted to almost anything, especially if we have an addictive personality that comes from the genes we inherit. We can be addicted to food, gambling, shopping, sex, exercise, the list goes on and on. The question is, why can some of us eat just one cookie, drink one drink, try a cigarette or a recreational drug and be just fine with one or never doing it again, while others must fight those urges daily? The difference between these 2 people can be found in our genetic makeup. The good news is that by understanding which of your gene variations may be firing and causing these tendencies, we can look at various nutrition, lifestyle, and supplement strategies to get us through.
Let’s first look at a gene that has a strong role in our tendency for smoking addiction. CHRNA5 has a strong role in reward-seeking behavior, especially when
it comes to nicotine, drugs, and alcohol. A certain variation of this gene can lead to increased acetylcholine and dopamine levels that can increase anxiety and depression and have a 1-2-fold increased risk of developing a smoking habit because of that increased dopamine reaction from nicotine, the more you smoke, the more you seek more of it. One needs to support brain chemical balance with adequate B vitamins and protein, specifically Vitamin B3 (niacin) to help with nicotine addiction.
Next, we will look at the FAAH gene, which can increase cravings for highly palatable foods, such as fast foods, sugary foods, and processed foods,
leading those with this genetic marker to have a greater tendency for binging with a compulsion for food. Those with this gene variation will also have dramatically increased cravings after not eating for an extended period; therefore, eating at consistent intervals will help keep those strong over-riding compulsions under control. This gene variation will also cause an increase in reward-seeking behavior, especially with food, drugs, and alcohol. Because of this, people with this variation of the FAAH gene have an increased risk of obesity as well as alcohol and drug abuse. Increasing your awareness of your eating and compulsive behavior with CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) can be helpful.
Behavior and emotional impulse control are linked to a variation in the GABRA2 gene,
especially in adolescents. Suffering from a decrease in connectivity with the reward loop in the brain is common with this gene variation, which can lead to decreased inhibition leading to an increased risk of all types of addiction. Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) as well as balancing dopamine levels with stress management strategies along with trying adaptogens like bacopa and licorice root can help. Supplementing with GABA may assist with anxiety and sleep in this group as well.
Those with a variation in the AKT1 gene can have an acute psychosis response to cannabis. THC stimulates dopamine, dopamine is active for a longer period which can cause the acute psychosis response. This group must stay away from cannabis and ensure that any CBD oil they use is THC free.
The OPRMI gene plays a role with the opioid receptor and regulates pain, reward, and addictive behavior. Those with a genetic variation in this gene are at an increased risk of opioid addiction and suffer major depression after the vice is gone. Those with a combination of this gene with another gene variation that is involved in dopamine regulation, COMT, will have a decrease in their pain threshold leading them to feel pain easily which can lead to seeking pain relief any way they can. They will also have an increased stress response which can lead to an increased risk for depression after major life events. Brain chemical balancing strategies like adequate B vitamins and protein as well as trying adaptogenic herbs would benefit this group as well as focusing on stress-reducing activities to keep life balance in check.
If the propensity for additive behaviors sounds like you, there are some general strategies that you can try to help keep emotions and behaviors in check.
Following a Mediterranean nutrition plan for its anti-inflammatory benefits will help keep neurotransmitters and neurological connections firing appropriately. CLICK HERE for a handout on how to follow a Mediterranean nutrition plan.
Including foods high in B Vitamins, specifically B12, B6, B2, B3, and folate, including fatty fish, dark chocolate, nuts, avocados, bananas, eggs, blueberries, and chickpeas will help you get there.
Including adequate protein will also ensure chemical balance in the brain. Focusing on fatty fish, poultry, grass-fed beef, eggs, beans, tofu, edamame, soy, nuts, and seeds will help with getting a balance of proper amino acids for the brain.
Decrease foods that can cause mood swings by disrupting brain chemical balance. Avoiding or limiting sugary, processed foods along with possible inflammatory triggers like gluten and dairy for some people.
Meditation, mental affirmations, and grounding exercises like walking outside barefoot or swimming outside can help with hormone balance.
Stimulating the vagus nerve with things like cold showers, cold water immersion, rhythmic breathing, singing, and humming can help to decrease that fight or flight response and put the body into rest and recover mode.
Utilize things like gratitude journaling, laughing, hugging, petting an animal, exercise, dancing, and creative hobbies to naturally increase endorphins and oxytocin.
Methylated B Vitamins (B12, B6, B2, B3, and folate) and magnesium threonate can help balance brain chemicals
Adaptogens like ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Bacopa, and licorice root help modulate hormones and neurotransmitters, specific dopamine
GABA, L-theanine, and phosphatidyl serine to support calming
Working with a healthcare professional can help guide and support you in the best nutrition and lifestyle strategies to support mood and behavior. Learning about your unique genetic makeup can guide us as to which strategies to try first to get you feeling better. If you are interested in learning more about how your genetics affect your mood and behavior click here…
Contact us to book your FREE 15 exploratory call to learn more about genetic testing and how it can be used to reduce trial and error and to resolve issues efficiently.
· Müller, T. D., Brönner, G., Wandolski, M., Carrie, J., Nguyen, T. T., Greene, B. H., ... & Rief, W. (2010). Mutation screen and association studies for the fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) gene and early onset and adult obesity. BMC medical genetics, 11(1), 2.
· Bierut, L. J. (2010). Convergence of genetic findings for nicotine dependence and smoking-related diseases with chromosome 15q24-25. Trends in pharmacological sciences, 31(1), 46-51.
· Agrawal, A., Verweij, K. J. H., Gillespie, N. A., Heath, A. C., Lesson-Schlaggar, C. N., Martin, N. G., ... & Lynskey, M. T. (2012). The genetics of addiction—a translational perspective. Translational psychiatry, 2(7), e140-e140.
· Di Forti, M., Iyegbe, C., Sallis, H., Kolliakou, A., Falcone, M. A., Paparelli, A., ... & Murray, R. M. (2012). Confirmation that the AKT1 (rs2494732) genotype influences the risk of psychosis in cannabis users. Biological Psychiatry, 72(10), 811-816.
· Vieira, C. M. P., Fragoso, R. M., Pereira, D., & Medeiros, R. (2019). Pain polymorphisms and opioids: An evidence-based review. Molecular medicine reports, 19(3), 1423-1434.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog post is not to act as a personal healthcare professional to any reader and is not meant to directly or indirectly diagnose disease, dispense medical advice, or prescribe the use of any products or services as treatment for sickness or disease. This information is for educational purposes only. You should always cooperate with a licensed health professional of your choice to create optimal health. Please consult your physician before implementing any of the strategies mentioned in this or starting any diet, exercise, or health program—especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Any application or use of the information, resources, or recommendations contained here is at your own risk.