Every smoker and ex-smoker knows that nicotine is the major culprit of the smoking addiction. In addition, they may even know that cigarette manufacturers use ammonia to free-base nicotine in order to boost it's addictive hook up to 35 times. Yet, scarce is the man or woman who understands how nicotine functions like a dopamine imposter, raising levels of this "feel good" chemical in the body artificially.
Nicotine also acts as an enabler, widening capillaries, allowing for the rush of the 4,000 plus chemicals in a commercial cigarette to penetrate cells and foster anxiety, nervousness, and sickness. Dopamine can also raise levels of awareness and general pleasure, but the problem is that as dopamine levels increase from the use of cigarettes, natural chemical reactions in the body like dopamine and serotonin decrease their natural production. When a smoker tries to quit cold turkey, they experience days, weeks, and sometimes months of depression and anxiety, mainly because their dopamine production levels cannot recover quickly enough. Ever hear of people getting very "cranky" after they quit? The central nervous system is so accustomed to being nurtured with nicotine, it's almost like a border-line diabetic's body, which barely produces insulin because it's so accustomed to a high sugar diet.
Replenish with a natural supplement which boosts dopamine levels and ends the cravings
Put simply, nicotine damages dopamine production for smokers, so to supplement the production of dopamine is the ultimate way to help a smoker quit, and quit for good. Even though the smoking habit is also a behavior addiction, the "feel good" drug aspect is stronger and is the driving force for smokers to return to the habit when something stressful comes along, unless they know how to supplement.
The highly under-estimated issue for smokers is that commercial tobacco is "free-based" with ammonia and has been for about 50 years. Marlboro got busted in the 1990's and admitted to it, and then paid off Blue Cross and Blue Shield over 4 billion dollars to "let it rest," basically so they could keep doing it. Then all the other major brands learned the news of the "hook trick" and starting doing it as well. Ammonia cooked with tobacco makes the nicotine up to 35 times as strong. The function of ammonia in commercial cigarette manufacturing is to turn the nicotine into a vapor ready form by converting bound molecules into free molecules. If you are smoking commercial cigarettes, you're getting up to 100mg of potency in one cigarette. This alone wrecks the body's ability to properly regulate dopamine and serotonin levels, balancing the entire process on three fulcrums: the potency of the brand being smoked, how many cigarettes are smoked per day, and when the cigarettes are being smoked. This is why so many smokers grab a cigarette and light it up before or after something stressful, or a situation which requires energy and motivation.
Visualize the war that's going on inside a smoker's brain: Nicotine versus Dopamine. Natural fight or flight reactions are now becoming nervous disorders. Organic feelings and emotions about life in general become exaggerated problems which seem insurmountable at times. After long term use of high-potency cigarettes (about 15 to 20 years), a person can permanently cripple the dopamine system, and ruin the ability to feel pleasure at all without first smoking a cigarette.
Understanding and addressing the chemistry of it all is the cure. Dopamine functions in your brain to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and relaxation, and should occur naturally, instead of being chemically induced. This is what cigarette manufacturers realized 50 years ago and this is the hook which keeps smokers addicted and pulls them "back in" when they quit.
The brain neurotransmitter dopamine activates the metabolism helping the body establish a healthy weight. Additionally, dopamine helps the brain generate sufficient energy to run the body. It stimulates the heart, regulates the flow of information through our brains, controls movement, and allows humans to experience feelings of passion and pleasure, according to the Health News Standwebsite. Dopamine production is boosted by the consumption of certain foods, especially those containing the amino acid tyrosine. Eating these special foods adds to our ability to respond optimally to our lives both physically and emotionally. All foods eaten should ideally be organic to avoid the effects of pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
Protein are high in amino acids, which are necessary for dopamine production. Include foods such as fish, eggs, chicken, turkey and red meat to supply your body with adequate amino acids. Fermented soy products such as tempeh and miso and other legumes are considered incomplete proteins; however, form complete proteins when eaten in combination with grains, becoming excellent sources for dopamine-related amino acids.
Certain vegetables in particular are excellent sources of amino acids that stimulate dopamine production. For example, beets supply the amino acid called betaine, that aids in the regulation neurotransmitters like dopamine. Artichokes and avocados have also been found to increase dopamine levels.
Ripe bananas are a major source of tyrosine, explains MedHelp.com; and as they continue to ripen and become sweeter, their tyrosine component becomes more potent. Tyrosine helps regulate and stimulate dopamine levels, increasing memory and alertness. Apples are recommended for being high in quercetin, a potent antioxidant, according to MedHelp.com, and shown to aid in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases by triggering the production of dopamine in the brain. Remember to eat strawberries, blueberries and prunes to round out the best fruits supplying nutrients that trigger dopamine release.
Nuts and Seeds
Raw almonds, sesame and pumpkin seeds make a great snack and help regulate dopamine levels. Almond butter or tahini, a paste made from sesame seeds, are excellent sources for the amino acids needed for dopamine production.
Wheat germ supplies the essential amino acid phenylalanine, that's converted to tyrosine, which then stimulates additional dopamine release. Do not use wheat germ if you are gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat.
Several common herbs are known for helping to regulate dopamine levels. These include nettles fenugreek, ginseng, milk thistle, red clover, and peppermint. They are best consumed as herbal teas.
Adding supplements to your diet to increase dopamine levels may be helpful if you're unable to get those nutrients from foods. Tyrosine, plus several vitamins such as B, C and E as well as iron, folic acid and niacin all help to trigger dopamine release. Check with your health care practitioner before including additional iron in your diet.
Exercise increases blood calcium, which stimulates dopamine production and uptake in your brain. Try 30 to 60 minutes of walking, swimming or jogging to jump-start your dopamine levels.
It also ups your endorphins. A genuine laugh or a stretch gets your endorphins going, which is similar to a dopamine high. Except for if you were actually on an endorphin high it'd be seriously dangerous -- it's a pain inhibitor.
Mindfulness has been described as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally.” The objective is to help individuals learn, at times, to become aware of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations rather than trying to modify them or acting on them. This suggests that mindfulness might not only decrease relapse in depression and addiction but also prevent the onset of the first episode of depression in susceptible people.
Another reason mindfulness is helpful in terms of recovery is that it yields The Now Effect, that “aha” moment of clarity where we enter into a choice point, a moment where we access possibilities and opportunities we didn’t know were there before. This is crucial when it comes to our addictive behaviors to take a step back, “think through that just one smoke” and recognize the various options that lie before us. We can learn to step into the pause, notice the sensation of the urge that’s there and as the late Alan Marlatt, PhD says, “Surf the Urge” as it peaks, crests and falls back down like a wave in the ocean.
Just because our brains have been altered by addiction, doesn’t mean we’re destined to fall into the same habits. With the right skills, community and support we can learn how to break out of routine and into a life worth living.
Get plenty of sleep
One of the best ways to feel energized and ready to tackle the day is to get plenty of sleep. Dopamine has been tied to feelings of wakefulness, so in order to get that wakeful feeling, get 7 to 8 hour of sleep a night.
Or...don't get any. If you're actually looking to up your dopamine levels as opposed to feeling good, dopamine levels skyrocket with sleep deprivation. You'll feel fatigued, groggy, and irritable, but your dopamine levels will be through the roof.
Reach a new goal
Dopamine is all about pleasure; it's one hedonistic brain chemical, that's for sure. Luckily, all you have to do is train your brain. Whether it's important to you to get to work on time or finally get that PhD, reaching a new goal will put your pleasure centers into party mode.
It doesn't have to be big. Start thinking of your little daily activities as goals. Did you make it through the morning without checking Facebook?! FANTASTIC. Reward time, because that goal has been achieved! Keep in mind that celebrations of our little goals – per week, month, 50 day increments or simply FREEDOM Train and Bonfire Parties all serve a very important purpose! We all need to find natural ways to replace natural dopamine and serotonin in our systems when we quit smoking!