The individual amino acids glutamine, GABA, tryptophan (or 5-HTP), DPA and tyrosine are powerful for eliminating sugar cravings, often within 5 minutes. It seems that this wonderful benefit – over and above the anxiety-reducing and mood-boosting benefits – is often overlooked or poorly understood.
UPDATE 4/17/20 for coronavirus pandemic:
Keep in mind that in times of added stress – like being in the midst of a pandemic such as the coronavirus – you may find your sugar and carbohydrate cravings have increased, and you may be over-indulging, emotional-eating, comfort-eating and/or stress-eating as a way to self-medicate in order to feel calm and good.
This paper, Nutritional recommendations for CoVID-19 quarantine, published just a few days ago, shares how continuously hearing or reading about the pandemic without a break can be stressful and may be
pushing people toward overeating, mostly looking for sugary “comfort foods”. This desire to consume a specific kind of food is defined as “food craving”, which is a multidimensional concept including emotional (intense desire to eat), behavioral (seeking food), cognitive (thoughts about food), and physiological (salivation) processes.
You may also find you are more drawn to alcohol as a way to calm down and relax. According to this Forbes article, Nielsen reports that online sales of alcohol have increased by 291% compared to the end of March 2019.
You may be surprised to learn that the amino acids also help with reducing alcohol cravings and the need to self-medicate with this “drug-of-choice.” If one glass of wine leads finishing to an entire bottle in one evening or if you’re drinking beer or spirits excessively, know that the words “sweets”, “sugar”, “carbs” can be substituted in the blog post below with “alcohol” and consider trials of the respective amino acids.
I recently posted this on Facebook: GABA for ending sugar cravings (and anxiety and insomnia) and I’m writing this blog today because it’s clear there is some confusion about this cravings aspect.
Let me first recap Melissa’s experience with Source Naturals GABA Calm during her family holiday trip (the link above has all the details):
I’m glad I bought it before traveling home for Christmas – I was cool as a cucumber at the airport and was much calmer when visiting family and friends compared to last year! I notice a general calmness and am sleeping well.
As well as the calming benefits of GABA, Melissa found this unexpected reduction in cravings for sweets, chocolates, truffles and ice cream after about a week of taking it:
I didn’t even realize this until I was grocery shopping and out of habit walked towards the ice cream – I stopped and realized I didn’t want ice cream. So I walked toward the chocolate – same reaction. For once in my life, I was not craving sweets. I made truffles for a NYE party and only ate two. But what is really shocking is that the leftovers are still in my refrigerator two days later and I haven’t touched them.
This is a very typical response that I see with my clients and when I shared the above blog, others on Facebook shared similar experiences and surprise about the connections. Kim found it fascinating and very timely saying:
I ran out of GABA a month ago. Not only has my anxiety been very difficult to manage but literally I haven’t been able to stop eating. Sugary, high carb, total junk has consumed my thoughts. I never realized the correlation.
April also seemed surprised to learn that GABA was also actually helping with her sugar cravings too:
I think my sugar cravings are down (not looking for something sweet every night after dinner, maybe I treat myself to once a week and not overindulge when I do) and when I think about it, I’ve lost a bit of weight as a result. Most of all it helps me sleep and reduces tension in my neck.
In the above examples, due to low GABA levels in these women, GABA was helped with both the anxiety and the stress-eating, leading to a calming effect and reduced sugar cravings. If you have low blood sugar cravings then glutamine is the amino acid to use; low serotonin cravings then tryptophan or 5-HTP will help; low endorphin cravings then DPA will do the trick; and low catecholamines then tyrosine is the amino acid to use.
The best way to figure it which neurotransmitter deficiency is affecting your sugar cravings is to do the amino acid mood questionnaire and also review this list for further clarification:
- If you have to eat sugar when you haven’t eaten in awhile it’s likely low blood sugar and glutamine on the tongue stops the sugar desire almost immediately and also helps with the low blood sugar symptoms of shakiness and irritability
- If you stress-eat your sugar cravings are likely due to low GABA, and GABA will stop the stress-eating and calm you down
- If you eat sugar or carbs to feel happy (and especially from late afternoon into the evening) then your sugar cravings are likely due to low serotonin, and tryptophan (or 5-HTP) stops the cravings and boosts mood and reduces anxiety
- If you are a comfort-eater then it’s likely due to low endorphins and DPA will stop that feeling of “I deserve-it” kind of reward-eating or comfort-eating and also give you a hug-like mood boost
- If you eat sugar for an energy boost or to give your focus then it’s likely due to low catecholamines and tyrosine will stop those cravings and give you a mood and energy boost, and help with mental clarity
It’s not uncommon for my anxious clients to have issues in all these areas and I have them address low blood sugar and each neurotransmitter deficiency one by one (for 2 through 5) and very methodically so they know exactly which areas are problematic for them.
When it comes to low blood sugar, addressing adrenal health is also key. And as always, we need to be making dietary changes, fixing gut health, addressing other deficiencies, removing toxins and more, using a complete functional medicine approach.
However, using the amino acids in a targeted way like this gets you results quickly while you’re figuring out everything else.
You may say “what exactly do you mean by quickly”? When opened onto the tongue and used with the trial method, based on your unique needs, if you have low levels, you can expect to notice effects in as quickly as 5 minutes and sometimes up to 15 minutes in some cases! This is why I like to refer to them as the amazing amino acids! They truly are amazing for eliminating cravings, reducing anxiety and improving mood and even sleep – provided they are needed.
Last year I wrote a series of blog posts on each of the above-mentioned amino acids. If you missed them you may find them helpful for getting a better understanding, even though they are not specific about sugar cravings:
- Glutamine for calming, intense sugar cravings, gut healing and low blood sugar
- GABA for low GABA symptoms (physical anxiety)
- Tryptophan for low serotonin (worry-in-the-head anxiety)
- DPA for weepiness, pain and comfort and reward eating
- Tyrosine for focus, motivation, energy, a good mood and possibly even anxiety
Keep in mind the amino acids are intended for relatively short-term use so the goal is to work on your diet, gut health, adrenals, nutritional deficiencies etc. so they are no longer needed or only needed in times of added stress. My book, The Antianxiety Food Solution – How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings (my Amazon link), covers in-depth how to implement much of what is mentioned in the above article: a real food Mediterranean diet, red meat, oily fish, the importance of zinc, vitamin D, antioxidants and so on, and the powerful role of nutrition in immunity, inflammation, sleep, stress, anxiety and food cravings.
The amino acids help you make those dietary changes with ease, end your cravings and stress-eating or excessive drinking, so no will power is needed and you don’t feel deprived.
Have you found any of the amino acids to help you eliminate your cravings for sweets, chocolate, ice-cream and other high-carb foods? Were you pleasantly surprised to experience this lovely benefit when you were initially looking for anxiety-relief?
Were you / are you drinking more and have you figured out which amino acids help you quit?
If you’re a practitioner, do you see similar cravings benefits with your anxious clients/patients?
Are you still struggling with comfort-eating, stress-eating of carb/sugar or drinking alcohol to “self-medicate” and feel better?
Feel free to ask your questions and share challenges and/or successes you’ve had too.