A woman asked for help on the blog, wanting desperately to quit her long-time Diet Coke addiction. This woman knows her addiction is detrimental to her health and she gets withdrawal symptoms when she tries to quit – fatigue, brain fog, anxiety and depression increase big time! And yet she can’t quit. This is not unusual. I share my feedback on the brain chemical imbalances that can drive addictions and how to figure out which amino acids (or more than one) may help her quit easily. This means she doesn’t have to go cold turkey and then fail yet again. Using the amino acids means there is no willpower required and no feelings of deprivation, and it’s addressing an underlying neurotransmitter imbalance i.e. a root cause.
Here is her question:
I need help with my Diet Coke addiction. I have been using it for 35 years and I am too appalled to tell you how much I drink.
I have tried to quit many times and ended up in utter failure. A friend mentioned that phenylalanine may be a booster for my dopamine.
When I stop, my fatigue, brain fog, anxiety/depression increase big time. I know this drink is literally killing my health and I am desperate for some answers, suggestions….or a miracle.
What supplements do you recommend for helping me quit this devil of a habit? Thank you for ALL you do!”
Here is my response …. when it comes to using amino acids to help break the addiction, pretty much everything I write about in relation to sugar addiction or cravings would likely also apply to quitting Diet Coke.
What emotions are driving the addiction?
She needs to figure out what emotions are driving her addiction and use the respective amino acid supplement/s (one or more of them) to help break the addiction and improve the mood symptoms at the same time.
These are the questions I review with my clients who have a Diet Coke addiction (or other diet soda or regular soda addiction):
- If you have to drink it when you haven’t eaten in awhile it’s likely low blood sugar. Glutamine on the tongue stops the desire almost immediately and also helps with the low blood sugar symptoms of shakiness and irritability
- If you stress-drink, your cravings are likely due to low GABA, and GABA will stop the stress-drinking and calm you down too
- If you drink it to feel happy (and especially from late afternoon into the evening) then your cravings are likely due to low serotonin, and tryptophan (or 5-HTP) stops the cravings and boosts mood and reduces anxiety
- If you drink it for comfort or a reward comfort then it’s likely due to low endorphins and DPA (d-phenylalanine) will stop that feeling of “I deserve-it” and also give you a hug-like mood boost
- If you drink it for an energy boost or to give you focus then it’s likely due to low catecholamines and tyrosine will stop those cravings and give you a mood and energy boost, and also help with mental clarity
Based on her question above, she mentions that “my fatigue, brain fog, anxiety/depression increase big time” when she stops. The fatigue, brain fog and depression is a big clue that #5 above will likely apply. She asks about using phenylalanine for dopamine support (dopamine is one of the catecholamines). I prefer tyrosine to l-phenylalanine for boosting levels.
The fact that anxiety also increases when she stops is a clue that #2 or #3 may apply too, and possibly #1. It’s not unusual for someone to have imbalances in multiple areas.
If this is the case, I always recommend doing a trial of one at a time, so it’s easy to see the benefits.
It’s not the same neurotransmitter imbalance that shows up in each person
It’s also not the same neurotransmitter imbalance that shows up in each person with a Diet Coke (or other soda addiction). When I shared this on Facebook and asked what was the driving emotion behind their “self-medication” with Diet Coke this is feedback I received from two women:
- “I had been drinking almost 6 per day for decades. I believe it was comforting.” In this instance, addressing low endorphins with DPA (#4) would have helped. Comfort or reward or treat is a common emotional driver for all addictions.
- “I noticed I would drink Diet Coke when I felt anxious (1 or 2 times a day).” In this instance #2 or #3 would have helped i.e. GABA support if it was physical anxiety and/or tryptophan or 5-HTP for low serotonin if it was worry-type anxiety.
The caffeine addiction and the artificial sweetener Aspartame
Keep in mind, with Diet Coke, there is the caffeine addiction and the artificial sweetener Aspartame that also make it challenging to quit. Tyrosine and addressing low catecholamines (#5 above) and vitamin C can help with the caffeine addiction and quitting so headaches are minimized.
The amino acids can help with the imbalances created by aspartame. This paper, Direct and indirect cellular effects of aspartame on the brain, proposes that “excessive aspartame ingestion might be involved in the pathogenesis of certain mental disorders and also in compromised learning and emotional functioning.” This excerpt from the abstract is relevant to this discussion:
Aspartame is composed of phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (10%). Phenylalanine plays an important role in neurotransmitter regulation, whereas aspartic acid is also thought to play a role as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. Glutamate, asparagines and glutamine are formed from their precursor, aspartic acid. Methanol, which forms 10% of the broken down product, is converted in the body to formate, which can either be excreted or can give rise to formaldehyde, diketopiperazine (a carcinogen) and a number of other highly toxic derivatives. Previously, it has been reported that consumption of aspartame could cause neurological and behavioural disturbances in sensitive individuals. Headaches, insomnia and seizures are also some of the neurological effects that have been encountered, and these may be accredited to changes in regional brain concentrations of catecholamines, which include norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine.
This further supports the need for catecholamine support with tyrsosine (#5 above) and GABA support with the amino acid GABA (#2 above).
Recognizing it’s an issue is a big first step
I acknowledge her for recognizing it’s an issue – that is a big first step! I did also ask her to share how much she was consuming each day because there is no judgement here and we acknowledge it’s an addiction. I’ll report back when I hear from her and will also share which amino acid/s helped her break the addiction.
As always, it’s not only about the amino acids and a comprehensive healing approach is always part of the picture. The amino acids make it easy to get started and then other underlying issues can be addressed: other nutritional deficiencies, dysbiosis, fatty liver, metabolic syndrome and so on. You can see some of the many studies below.
Of course, it’s important to be eating a real whole foods diet with quality animal protein, healthy fats, organic vegetables and fruit, no caffeine, no gluten, no sugar, fermented foods and herbs.
Reconsider your diet soda consumption if you’re on the fence
If you are on the fence about giving up your diet soda consumption here are a few additional papers that will hopefully make you reconsider:
- Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) – “Although these observational data cannot establish causality, consumption of diet soda at least daily was associated with significantly greater risks of select incident metabolic syndrome components and type 2 diabetes.”
- Altered processing of sweet taste in the brain of diet soda drinkers – “there are alterations in reward processing of sweet taste in individuals who regularly consume diet soda.” This has widespread ramifications for driving the need for sugar/carbs and all things sweet
- A comparative study of the effect of diet and soda carbonated drinks on the histology of the cerebellum of adult female albino Wistar rats – “These results suggest that diet soda has adverse effect on the cerebellum of adult female albino Wistar rats,” with “shrunken and degenerated Purkinje cells with hypertrophied dendrites.” Purkinje cells are involved in the release of GABA.
- Soft drinks consumption and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease – “the aspartame sweetener and caramel colorant which are rich in advanced glycation end products … potentially increase insulin resistance and inflammation”
Facts like this help you recognize it’s an issue but even when we have these facts, we often simply cannot quit. This is where the amino acids are so powerful because they work with no willpower required and no feelings of deprivation. And using them addresses the underlying neurotransmitter imbalance/root cause that led to the initial addiction or “self-medication”. They also help address the neurotransmitter deficiencies that are often made worse by diet soda consumption.
Resources if you are new to using the amino acids as supplements
If you are new to using the amino acids as supplements and want to know more, here is the Amino Acids Mood Questionnaire from The Antianxiety Food Solution and a brief overview here, Anxiety and targeted individual amino acid supplements: a summary.
If you suspect low neurotransmitters and do not yet have my book, The Antianxiety Food Solution – How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings, I highly recommend getting it and reading it before jumping in and using amino acids so you are knowledgeable.
What advice do you have if you have been through this yourself and what has helped you?
What do you drink now instead of your diet soda?
If you are a practitioner, how do you help your patients/clients with this kind of addiction?
Feel free to post your questions too.