November 26th, 2012
The liver is the master organ and the recycling centre of the body. Amongst its many jobs it is responsible for eliminating harmful toxins, breaking food down into energy, manufacturing and disposing of excess hormones, producing bile, fighting infections, balancing blood sugar and storing nutrients. If our liver is functioning less than optimally or is even a little sluggish then this will have a negative knock-on effect to many other areas of our overall health and well-being. Of course we all know that alcohol is a major liver toxin, disrupting its function and depleting essential B vitamins by the mouthful, but there are many other things that can also affect our liver in a negative way, such as smoking, stress, obesity and poor diet. Especially at this time of year when we are all in the midst of the festive overindulgence, it’s good to know that there are many little things we can do on a nutritional level to help our livers function more efficiently; simply by adding in little bits of super food goodness into to our diets and avoiding certain liver toxins. The liver works in 3 different phases known as ‘detoxification pathways’, each of which needs to be supported by basic good nutrition and can also be stimulated to work better by the nutrients provided by nature in certain foods, herbs and spices.
Whether you are an alcoholic just entering treatment or during early recovery, an overeater, drug abuser or just feeling a little sluggish, the following advice will help to aid and rejuvenate your liver to work at its ultimate capacity and therefore improve your overall health and vitality. In fact there’s no need to wait until you feel your liver may have been under particular strain to employ the following suggestions, as they can all be adapted into your long-term diet to ensure that you are always looking after the ‘master organ’ as best you can. The list below isn’t just a list of healthy foods! The foods, herbs and spices that I have specified all contain certain antioxidants, minerals and enzymes that specifically and directly work to improve liver health, by aiding and supporting its function and improving the efficiency of the ‘3 detoxification pathways’.
So here are my top easy tips for ‘Looking after your Liver Naturally’: Read the rest of this entry »
October 15th, 2012
‘Natural recovery’ is a term used to describe recovery from addiction without the help of professionals. It’s a term that rather implies there’s something unnatural about the professional or even AA route. However, other terms that have been used are also problematic, given that they all embody an explanation of the phenomenon that is open to question. For example, Tuchfield (1981) was one of the first to describe what he called “spontaneous recovery”, although the recovery his alcohol dependent respondents described were generally the product of a sense of shame that had grown over a long period of time, even if the ultimate decision was sudden. Winnick (1962) described a process of “maturing out” in a group of nearly 17,000 opiate addicts registered as such in the USA in 1954-55, two-thirds of whom failed to appear on the Register over a period of 5 to 6 years. “Self-change” is now frequently used to describe recovery without professional help, but surely all change is self-change, professionally assisted or not.
Whatever the term used to describe the process, recovery without recourse to professional help has repeatedly been shown to account for a greater degree of success than is achieved in clinical populations (Klingemann, 2001). This has encouraged those who question the efficacy of the recovery movement and the mutual help practices of AA; and the suggestion that promoting self-change in the community should take priority as a treatment strategy has put the treatment community somewhat on the defensive. However, the justification for a mutual stand-off is slender, because self-change on the one hand, and professional treatment on the other, are not strictly speaking, antagonistic methodologies. Rather, they are complementary. Those who come for treatment presumably view it as being of value in their personal quest for self-change, so no controlled comparison of self-change and professional treatment is feasible, even in principle.
It is, of course, likely that those who seek treatment, or are encouraged to undergo treatment, are at the serious end of the addiction dependence continuum. Whilst this has been generally acknowledged to be a plausible assumption, there are two questions arising that need to be addressed. The first concerns the ability of those with more serious conditions to recover by themselves. The second concerns the extent to which professional treatment actually improves the prospects of more seriously dependent persons.
The first question has recently been addressed in an important Dutch study (Boschloo 2012). The data reported come from the ‘Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety’ (NESDA), which aimed to follow up the long-term consequences of depressive and anxiety disorders in a total of 2981 people, about half of whom had experienced an anxiety and depressive disorder, or symptoms of anxiety and depression. 253 of the participants had a diagnosis of remitted Alcohol Dependence (AD) or current AD (assessed in terms of (DSM IV ) at baseline and were followed up over a period of two years. Read the rest of this entry »
September 26th, 2012
Can something so seemingly harmless and widely available really be so bad for us? The answer is yes. Sugar is not just bad for us; in reality eating too many refined sugars too often is one of the root causes of many of the chronic health conditions hitting new heights in western cultures including type II diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers. The physical implications of eating too many refined sugars too often are obvious and common knowledge to most people, however what is often overlooked is the extremely negative impact these ‘substances’ can play on one’s mental health. The truth is sugar and refined, processed carbohydrates can also be addictive and disruptive to one’s life due to the way they disrupt brain chemistry and fuel addictive patterns. Sugar influences the same ‘feel good’ brain chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine, in exactly the same way as most hardcore illicit drugs – creating a quick false sense of pleasure followed by a rapid crash and the need for another ‘fix’ of a stimulating substance. Dangerous ground for an addict of any nature!
Low blood sugar, or ‘hypoglycaemia’ is caused by either not eating frequently enough or by eating foods that release too much sugar too fast into the blood stream, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels quickly followed by a huge crash. Additionally, when levels of glucose in the blood are low, stress hormones are released into the system by our adrenal glands. This results in increased production of our natural ‘fight or flight’ hormones called adrenaline and cortisol, which induces feelings of anxiety, stress, irritability, nervousness and desperation. This mental state inevitably sends the brain in search of something else sugary for a quick ‘pick me up’, however for an alcoholic or drug abuser – this can often be the trigger causing them to pick up another substance to get their ‘fix’. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are so disruptive to the nervous system that in reality the feeling of having a panic attack may actually be the result of low blood sugar! As anxiety, stress and desperation are some of the most common drivers among most substance abusers, proper blood sugar control is beneficial and recommended for addicts during treatment and for the best chance of sustained, successful abstinence. Read the rest of this entry »
September 5th, 2012
A couple of weeks ago (16th August, on BBC3; “Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery”), Russell Brand launched a hard-hitting attack on conventional approaches to drug addiction: first, he lambasted the view of right wing tabloid commentators who favour the view that addicts recklessly and freely abuse drugs, and could as easily choose differently. And second he castigated, even more passionately, the medical establishment that accepts the apparent inability of addicts to desist voluntarily, and compounds the felony by prescribing medically sanctioned (but perhaps equally, if not more, addictive) substitute drugs.
Brand believes, and he is hardly alone in this, that individuals should not be blamed for their addiction, but that theirs is a lifestyle that can be transformed. The alternative – harm reduction via the use of medically authorised drugs – he regards as a dreary, unremitting failure of nerve that leaves addicts psychologically no better, and maybe worse off.
His version of the disease of addiction – echoing that of 12-step based treatments – suggests that choice is, indeed, important, in fact is fundamental, to recovery. However, his preferred alternative route is not offered to clients in routine medical practice. Providing a residential context in which an extended abstinent way of life is elicited that enables clients to explore potential for reformation, is expensive, and available only to those who can afford to pay for it. Ironically, as Russell Brand reminded us, those compulsorily detained in Her Majesty’s prisons may have this privilege offered to them cost free. And reconviction rates after discharge are significantly lowered in those taking advantage of the offer – indicating that the financial costs of this treatment may pay substantial economic dividends in the longer term.
We know that lives can frequently be transformed when the residential alternative is appropriately offered and taken up. But even so, individuals’ resistance to personal reform is frequently intense, even amongst those offered the best of circumstances in which to achieve change. And we know that of the many who may start attending meetings of the 12-step based Anonymous Fellowships only a minority succeed in achieving their goals. So why is it so difficult for addicts to face the imperative of making and maintaining the decision to recover? Read the rest of this entry »
August 2nd, 2012
I am writing this short piece by way of a heartfelt thanks to Promis and their way to a sustained recovery. As a former patient their programme has totally transformed my life from the blackest part of hell to a wonderful, purposeful and enjoyable place. I initially attended Promis with the idea that all I needed was to get sober and found it hard to accept that in fact my problems were much deeper and the abuse of mind altering substances were merely a symptom of the underlying cause of my distress etc. To cut a long saga short after my initial time at Promis, I began to realise what I was being told was true, however I never fully embraced the Promis programme and slipped back slowly but surely to my original mind set. This, as sure as night follows day led to relapses. However what saved my life was the fact that seeds of the Promis way had been sown. I went back to basics and fully embraced what I was being told I needed to do and change. Still with some fear that this would lead to a very regimented and boring way of life, I started to fully work the Programme as suggested and on a long term basis.
I began to realise that by using all the tools (slightly adapted to my personal situation) it was no real hardship to adapt my life to fit in with the Promis way.
I have to say there was no blinding flash, but before long I suddenly realised that (like a physical pain) my emotional turmoil had ceased and my ability to experience feelings had returned. At the same time I had learned how to react (normally) to those feelings. Life continues to get better and better as time progresses.
I could write so much on this subject but clearly it`s not appropriate here.
What I can say for certain is that my life is now all I could have realistically ever asked for. I have no idea what tomorrow may bring but that is no longer a worry to me as I firmly believe that provided I continue using what Promis instilled in me then I will be able to handle it and move on in life with hope and confidence. Read the rest of this entry »
July 24th, 2012
In 1992, Jeremiah McDonald, aged 12, made a video recording of himself having a conversation with an imaginary him in 20 years time. Well, that time has come and Jeramiah has replied to himself. Apart from being an utterly charming piece, it also resonates with some modern psychological ideas.
For a long time, when dealing with depression, psychotherapy has worked with the past and psychology has worked with the present to manage symptoms. Read the rest of this entry »
July 2nd, 2012
“Let’s Back our Boys and Bet NOW!”
“Bet in play NOW!”
The above exhortations, and others in the same vein, were made in raucous advertisements shown on live TV coverage just before kick-off and at half-time in England’s European Championship games this month. They were startling, attention-grabbing, and no doubt had people reaching for their credit cards. Given the high percentage of the population watching the matches and supporting “our boys”, I wager that the advertisements achieved their objective well enough. Does it matter? Is it just all good fun? Well, maybe. But this example of the continuing spread of gambling opportunities, and encouragement to gamble is in stark contrast to the more robust approach (albeit painfully and slowly developed) now taken towards other legal addictive behaviours, like smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol.
The influential journal Addiction has this month decided to launch a series on National Gambling Experiences. The first and only article to be published is a challenging read (2). It describes how 10 years or so ago the New Zealand government shocked the gambling industry, legislators and all those involved in services by proclaiming that community and health considerations would predominate in the formulation of new comprehensive legislation on gambling. Sadly, or not, depending on your perspective, the subsequent legislative controls and their implementation were seriously undermined by a multitude of vested interests: those of the gambling industry, community projects dependent on financial support from the industry, and indeed the government departments dependent on revenue from taxation, amongst others. It seems that the demand for ever more gambling opportunities will not be denied. Read the rest of this entry »