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Cravings & Diet Crashes: Depleted Brain Chemistry & Amino Acid Deficiencies

Julia Ross is the author of two books we think everyone struggling with weight loss should consider buying: The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure. Why? Because she has studied the ways that the body is malfunctioning (root causes) when cravings surge and diets crash like waves on a beach over and over again (symptoms).

Ross uses the word “miracle,” but not in the way most marketers do. Ross focuses on core brain chemistry rather than rainforest botanicals or ancient potions revived. In The Diet Cure, she makes a forceful case that weight loss is not only about calorie restriction or Herculean willpower but also about restoring brain balance through the use of amino acids (itty bitty protein building blocks). She writes:

“I discovered this ‘miracle diet cure while I was out desperately looking for a cure for alcohol and drug addiction. At that time I was the director of a large outpatient treatment complex in the San Francisco Bay Area… I began hearing that certain nutritional supplements could stop addicts’ cravings for alcohol and even for cocaine… Much to my surprise, they also cured the insatiable cravings for sweets that our clients typically suffered… They stopped food cravings even more effectively than drug cravings, and had the delightful side effect of eliminating mood swings, too.”

Ross writes passionately about amino acids and how, for example, food cravings disappear almost instantly with just one amino acid: l-glutamine. Without l-glutamine for fuel, the brain craves sugar and carbohydrates and cannot focus on making the four essential “pleasure chemicals” that promote well-being and ease (critical to eating healthy foods rather than seeking out fatty/starchy comfort foods).

She counsels clients that “emotional eating” is not the most troublesome issue and points to deficiencies in four critical brain chemicals instead:

  • Serotonin — our “natural Prozac” (happiness/positive moods/sleep) is made from the amino acid L-tryptophan. Serotonin can easily be depleted as few foods provide significant l-tryptophan. Deficiencies are correlated with eating disorders (and negative obsessions of all kinds).
  • GABA — our “natural Valium” (sedative/calming) is made from the amino acid GABA. GABA can relax tense muscles as well as relieve anxiety and promote sleep.
  • Dopamine/Norepinephrine — our “natural caffeine” (energizer and focuser) is made from the amino acid L-tyrosine.
  • Endorphin — our “natural opiate” (pain reliever/pleasure promoter) is made from protein. L-phenylalanine is the amino acid used to reduce emotional pain and prevent comfort food binging.

Ross reports that moods lift and cravings can start to disappear within 24 hours of restocking the brain with these four natural mood enhancers. What’s particularly handy in The Diet Cure is the chapter called “Refueling Your Brain Chemistry with Amino Acids,” which has a chart that correlates symptoms with the amino acids that the brain is actually craving.

Ross offers specific recommendations on how to boost serotonin (250-1000mg of L-tryptophan mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and two hours after dinner or before bedtime), how to address low energy and poor concentration (500-2000mg of L-tyrosine three times per day, (before breakfast, midmorning, and midafternoon), cautions for special conditions, etc., etc.

If you’ve tried a lot of other approaches, you might want to study The Diet Cure, experiment with your own body’s response, and save buckets of money over the custom programs offered at Ross’s clinic in Mill Valley, California (which sounds pretty good but is more than a bit pricey for our crowd!).