What Lifestyle Changes Can Combat Cravings For Bad Food and Substances

Orlando Vargas

What Lifestyle Changes Can Combat Cravings For Bad Food and Substances with Orlando Vargas

Dr. Daniel Amen and Director of Research Development at House of Freedom, Orlando Vargas, cover more steps in the new 12 step program and discuss how bad habits are contagious.


What Lifestyle Changes Can Combat Cravings For Bad Food and Substances with Orlando Vargas

Interviewer: Welcome back. I’m here with Orlando Vargas, director of research, development, and House of Freedom, a substance abuse treatment facility in Orlando, Florida. Orlando’s a brain health certified coach at Amen Clinics. We’re having a really good discussion about addiction. And we are talking about the 12-step program. And he first came to my work with my book unchained your brain breaking the addictions that steal your life that I wrote with David Smith, who many people think of is the father of Addiction Medicine in the United States and we talked about step one know your goals, step two know when your addictions took you hostage, three a radical new approach love, balance and repair your brain, four is forgiveness, five is no your addiction brain type and six is lock up the craving dragon. There’s actually neuroscience to managing cravings like sleep. You have better control over your cravings when you sleep when you eat a healthy diet when you don’t let your blood sugar go low when you know what you want. What else Orlando have you seen that helps people manage their cravings?

Interviewee: Well, obviously all the other items you just mentioned, you know, I think a lot of times you know people underestimate the power of supplements. Because you know, with your supplements, you know on the Brain MD line, you know, there’s such a high-quality supplement that they actually help with all those things that we just mentioned. Right. So, you know NAC you know, in random memory, power, chromium, you know, something that’s also in one of your vitamins. Vitamin D, you know, having those levels verified and checked and it’s funny, you know, whenever we checked vitamin D every single person, they’re low, you know, and we’re here in Florida, right the sunshine state. And like you mentioned in your book, you’re in South Southern California, where you might think that people are exposed to the sun. But the reality is that, you know, we’re deficient in vitamin D. And that’s such an important component, right? Because as we know, vitamin D is a precursor to a lot of hormones, and it has vitamin D receptors in our brain.
So, when we talk about cravings, it’s really, really crucial to implement a diet like the Omni diet, where we start balancing the insulin levels. Because if you start eating the sugary stuff, and then you know, processed foods, and you have your ensiling going up and down, like a roller coaster, and you know, I saw a study a few years ago that talked about 90% of people who have a relapse are hypoglycemic. So, when you think about that, and how when you have low sugar levels, you have less blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, the CEO decision-maker, well, you’re going to be more exposed to making bad decisions. So, when we talk about cravings, you know, a lot of times people think about weight control, right, which is obviously a part and obviously being sober. But it goes a little bit beyond that, because, you know, we’re really talking about life-or-death a lot of times, especially when it comes to substance use disorders. So, managing those cravings is just essential, and really, really important.

Interviewer: NAC is such an interesting nutrient. And their studies showing it decreases cravings, for alcohol, for marijuana, for cocaine, for compulsive gambling, it’s been shown to help mood, even in people with schizophrenia, as a brand-new study up just last week, or maybe it was This Week on vitamin D, and opiate cravings, that when vitamin D levels were low, opiate cravings were more intense. And then there’s another study on vitamin D, and the gray matter, you actually had more gray matter in your brain if you supplemented with vitamin D. So, all of these things, it’s it’s just really important for substance abuse treatment programs to teach people the science of willpower, the science of craving, control. The next concept I really like. I’ve been thinking about it a lot is drip, dopamine, don’t dump it. So, dopamine is an incredibly important neurotransmitter. It helps us feel happy and motivated and pleasure helps us focus it controls smooth motor movement. And too often our addicts dump dopamine. And so, they end up wearing out their pleasure centers, and they feel flat. They feel sad, they get bored easily. Is that something you’ve seen?

Interviewee: Definitely, you know, in addition to doing the brand spec damage at House of Freedom, we also do neurotransmitter testing, okay. And, you know, 9 times out of 10, they’re extremely low on dopamine levels, okay. Not just lower, extremely low. And, you know, one of the concepts that we teach is about something that you also have taught me, which is about the nucleus accumbens. If that little button right there, that pleasure center in your brain, that if you start playing with it too much, you’re going to get yourself in trouble. And you know, a lot of times, that’s what happens with people with substance use disorders. And there’s another book that you had recommended to me, which is called “Spark”. And within that book, they talk about, you know, the gene variation, V two R two, which shows that people who have that gene variation usually have about 70%, less dopamine, and usually tend to be more prone to addictions. So, we teach people here exactly how to start balancing and how to start doing things that are healthy for the brain, that can actually increase dopamine. So, we’re very big on exercise, here, we have an excellent gym. Not only that, we have a gym here, but also, we have a sauna. Okay. And, you know, we implement a lot of things that can have those small drops of dopamine, you know, having a moment where you’re actually doing a recreational activity you haven’t done it a long time. Watching a movie or reading a book. Doing little things that normal people do. Because a lot of times when you have an addict, they want to go from zero to 100, you know, in a second, and they want to go bungee jumping, want to run a motorcycle, they want to, you know, do so many things that are extreme, because they’re trying to stimulate themselves. You know, a lot of times they have that prefrontal cortex that it’s just low inactivity, and low in blood flow, and that gets them in trouble.
So, learning how to find pleasure in the normal things in life. It’s a great concept that you present in your books, which it’s key to having a successful recovery.

Interviewer: No question about that. Step eight is to eliminate food pushers and user dragons. It’s who you hang out with matters. And this is hard for so many people. So, many of the young stars, I see. They want to continue performing at festivals, they want to continue going to parties where they’re seen, and they see it as work, and essential for their work. And I’m always cautious. Like you become like the people you hang out with. That those things can be dangerous. How do you approach that?

Interviewee: You know, I use this example a lot, right. And it’s very simple, I tell them if two plus two is four, right, and you take this number two out of its environment, you clean it, you polish it, you make it nice and beautiful. But you put it back into that same equation? Well, it’s going to give you the same outcome. So, definitely just like a cold can be contagious if you are one, someone who has a cold. Well, if you have depression, if you have anxiety, if you have bad habits in general, well, that becomes contagious too. Because then you know, and there are multiple studies, and I’ve seen you quote them that, you know, you want to know how long you’re going to live, we’ll see how long the people around you are live in, you want to know, if you’re going to be overweight, you know, if you’re going to be healthy, well look at the health around the people that surround you. Because a lot of times those behaviors rub off. And if you think you’re going to change the world, a lot of times, that becomes a sort of like a challenge. And people try to do that, which is precisely what you just mentioned now, which is you know, going to those concerts and doing those things, you have to have a realistic expectation, I know that sometimes those changes are really necessary in order to put you in a position to succeed. Because that’s what we push a lot. How do we position you to succeed? Obviously, if you suffer from substance use disorders, we don’t want you to, you know, near anywhere where drugs are easily accessible, you know, we want you to be with someone who is a recovery coach, we want you to be with somebody who’s a personal trainer, or somebody you know who has goals in their lives and they’re clean and sober. You know, that’s, that’s what we want to position you with. So, that way you actually feed off your energy and actually achieve the same thing.

Interviewer: Amazing. All right, well, we come back we’re going to talk about these little lies people tell themselves to keep themselves addicted, overweight, and feeble-minded. Stay with us.

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