Oct 21

Balancing biochemical’s in addiction and mental health


This is one of those times we can ask our self what came first the chicken or the egg? Furthermore, in the case of this article did the bio-chemical imbalance come before the probability of an addiction or mental health issue?

It’s not too often that we think about the impact nutrition can have on our emotional and addictive behaviors. I think this is one of those things that many of us take for granted. Living in a fast paced world no longer allows us to slow down and really analyze the long-term impact poor nutrition can have on our emotional and physical wellbeing. For instance, sugar is in almost everything we consume, even cigarettes. Sugar is an addictive substance – it has the same negative impact on the brain and body as alcohol and cocaine. I refer to sugar as “the other white stuff.” Sugar hits the same receptors as cocaine, both presenting a euphoric and more energetic feeling. Sugar and alcohol are carbohydrates; neither having any nutritional value. They both are absorbed directly into the blood stream; both can cause intense cravings as well as by-passing the digestive system allowing it to go to virtually every organ in the body creating havoc throughout the entire body

One may not typically connect addiction and emotional issues to nutrition deficiencies, but I encourage you if you or a loved one is dealing with these sorts of issues read on and discover a possible solution to your problem. Dr. Joan Matthew-Larson in her book Depression Free Naturally states, “Emotional symptoms develop as a direct result of the unavailability of brain and body chemicals. These important chemicals create our stable emotions, behaviors, thoughts, and sanity.”[1] Sadly this is a very real issue that too often goes un-discussed in a traditional treatment setting. It is my opinion and based on my research in this area, there are a number of reasons that may lead to addiction and emotional issues and biochemical imbalances can in fact play a significant role. The teen years seem to be the time when addiction and emotional issues arise. Stats have found that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14.[2] Some people being more highly sensitive to biochemical imbalances should not ignore their nutritional needs, because overtime this can produce an outrageously unbalanced person, often mistakably referred to as teenage rebellion and/or diagnosed as a behavioral disorder.

Ok, so let’s think about this for a moment; let’s take a younger child who may have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or some other related emotional issue. Sometimes there is a simple and much less invasive solution to aiding the symptoms of such diagnoses. Many times the changing of the child’s diet can off-set the emotional confusion and rage felt by the child. The child quite possibly acts out in frustration or as we often like to call it; mood disorder or behavioral issue,” because they too do not understand why they feel the way they do and I’m certain most of them can’t describe it either, therefore they are left to act out. They do so as a way to get attention to say, hey there is something not quite right here. In addition, the addicted or emotionally unstable teen/adult is seeking to re-gain balance in their biochemistry as well, therefore as we move out of puberty and into adult hood we still continue to search for that “thing” to make us feel “normal” not realizing it could be as simple as correcting a sugar imbalance, vitamin and mineral deficiency, a food sensitivity, thyroid disorder, histamine issue, yeast overgrowth problem, heavy metal toxicity, or a number of other underlying issues. Ignoring these issues can and will balloon into something much greater if not treated properly.

Over the past few years in dealing with the traditional protocol for my son I am angry at the fact that none of the above areas were considered in the traditional setting. It was all simply ignored! I honestly believe my sons’ journey through pure HELL could have been much different if these areas would have been addressed at the onset of the first treatment protocol. “The mind doctor,” never once administered a simple blood, urine, saliva, or hair testing to check the possibility of an imbalance. Nor did they chose the consider all of the biochemical testing I provided to them from a reputable laboratory.

A common co-occurring issue is alcoholism and depression; both contribute to the depletion of vital neurotransmitters needed to help stabilize the emotional behaviors and cravings. The results can be anxiety, confusion, distorted perception, basically an overall instability of the individual, and ultimately leading to disruption of the entire family unit..

“Many addictive drugs reduce the supply of a chemical called glutamine, a precursor to GABA. One of GABA’s roles is to promote relaxation. (The molecular receptors for GABA are the target of tranquillizers such as Valium.) But glutamine levels can be restored, and production of GABA boosted, by the consumption of an amino acid called N-acetylcysteine (NAC) which is found in nuts and seeds. This is not just my theory. A controlled study published last year in the American Journal of Psychiatry by Steven LaRowe, of the Medical University of South Carolina, and his colleagues, found that giving NAC to cocaine addicts reduced their desire to use the drug sufficiently for it to be recommended as a treatment. Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that is usually deficient in an addicted brain. This probably accounts for the depressive side of withdrawal symptoms (serotonin receptors in the brain are the target of antidepressant drugs such as Prozac). Serotonin is made from an amino acid called tryptophan, which is found in foods such as meat, brown rice, nuts, fish and milk. Philip Cowen, a psychiatrist at Oxford University, has found that reducing the amount of tryptophan in someone’s diet increases depressive symptoms and also increasing it can induce a more optimistic outlook. Another molecule that shows promise in treating addiction is DHA, a fatty acid belonging to the nutritionally fashionable class called omega-3. In this case it is believed to act not by affecting neurotransmitter levels but by changing the physical characteristics of nerve cells’ outer membranes, thus the way they conduct nerve impulses. A lack of DHA has been associated with all sorts of psychological problems–learning difficulties, excessive hostility and even suicide. It has also been associated with the relapse into addiction”.[3]

This type of research has been going on for a very long time, for instance Dr. Abram Hoffer back in the 1960s worked with Japanese POW’s. He discovered that by taking high dosages of niacin they were able to be free from many of their physical and psychiatric symptoms. There are many other medical doctors, psychiatrist, as well as other health care professionals that have spent their entire lives researching and practicing the affects of nutrition deficiencies and addictions and mental health issues. This is not just my theory as a desperate mom; this is not a new idea. There are an abundant amount of scientific medical journals that indicate the impact of nutritional deficiencies in addiction and emotional issues. I encourage you to seek out the work of; Dr Hoffer who was a biochemist and psychiatrist, Dr. Joan Mathews Larson, PhD, in Human nutrition and the founder of Health Recovery Center, an organization birthed after the death of her son. Dr. Linus Pauling began his work with mental disorders in the early 1960s, focusing on underlying biochemical dysfunctions. Another genius of his time is none other than Dr. C. Pfeiffer, Ph.D., M.D.  His discoveries in nutritional therapies were successful in overcoming psychological disorders from anxiety, depression, phobias, and schizophrenia.

For further information on how I may help you in your quest to wholeness please fell free to contact me.

Deborah R. Hutchinson, B.S., CNS

Founder of A.V.O.I.D.






Key words: Health, alternative, mental health, addiction, recovery, holistic, drug addiction, integrative, psychiatry




[1] Picture: http://www.awaremed.com/practice-areas/drug-addiction-natural-treatment/ Retrieved (October 21, 2014).

[1] Mathews-Larson, J., (1999). Depression Free Naturally: 7 weeks to eliminating anxiety,   despair, fatigue, and anger from your life. New York: New York. The Ballantine Publishing Group. (p.17).

[2] http://www.nimh.nih.gov/news/science-news/2005/mental-illness-exacts-heavy-toll-beginning-in-youth.shtml

[3] NA (2008). Treatment on a plate. Economist, 389(8602), 91-92. Retrieved from: Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (Jun 18, 2012).


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