Why we crave the quick-fix
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
Everybody loves a quick-fix.
Who wouldn’t want their symptoms dissolved in an instant with a miracle pill or short-term protocol? Sign me up!
Or, even if we don’t think that easy solution is within our reach, what about finding the one root cause that, when addressed, will (finally) fix everything?
It’s a nice thought. In fact, it’s quite seductive. Even when we know better it’s easy to get mesmerized by the notion of rapid resolution. But (and unfortunately), the endless search for the quick-fix can be a trap. That’s because the quick-fix simply doesn’t exist for most chronic ailments.
If it did, you (or they) would have found it by now!
So why do so many people keep searching for something that doesn’t exist?
Biology Behind the Quick-Fix Trap
To understand the biology behind what I like to call the “Quick-Fix Trap”, and why we often continue with this futile pursuit (instead of putting in the effort that it takes for real resolution), let’s take a look at your brain on sugar…
When you eat sugar, your brain produces the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine triggers neurons in the body’s pleasure system, and…you guessed it, you feel great! That feeling lasts for a short time, until the stimulus wears off and you need another ‘hit.’
Dopamine is a “pleasure and reward” chemical produced in several areas of the brain. Dopamine production reinforces certain behaviors because it makes us feel so darn good! This sense of joy and gratification are part of how we now understand some of the mechanisms behind addiction.
The same reward happens when you get a text from someone you really want to hear from. Or you receive a ‘Like’ on Facebook or Instagram. Dopamine rushes into your bloodstream, and you feel good…for a minute.
The quick-fix runs on the same circuitry as sugar and social media validation—it promises a hit of dopamine.
But, as you now know, it’s an empty promise. (At least for long-term gratification.)
So how do we outsmart the Quick-Fix Trap and the endless craving for the dopamine hit?
Fill your dopamine tank in healthy, sustainable ways.
One of the best ways to make a lasting dietary change is to “crowd out”—to take the space in your diet where the cookie or the cupcake used to reside, and fill it with something healthy and yummy. (No, I’m not suggesting you replace a cupcake with a shot of wheatgrass.)
We can do the same when it comes to avoiding the Quick-Fix Trap.
Top Tips for Cultivating Dopamine and Embracing the Healing Journey (even when it’s a long haul)!
We can crowd out the desire to keep searching for the quick-fix by getting our dopamine in other ways. Here are a few of my favorite ways to cultivate dopamine production naturally…
- Fat Soluble Vitamins: More recent studies have shown that vitamin D is dopaminergic. That means it works as a dopamine precursor. It can help to address diet-induced obesity as well as addictive behaviors. I prefer to get my vitamin D and other fat soluble vitamins through fatty fishes, sunshine, and when necessary (and according to test results), from fermented cod liver oil or bio-available supplementation. (*)
- Vitamin B6: This nutrient is also key in helping to convert L-Dopa to dopamine in most individuals. Fish, beef liver and organ meats are great sources of B6, as are sweet potatoes, chickpeas and avocado. (*)
- Protein: If we back it up even further, good protein sources contain the amino acid tyrosine, which is the precursor to that L-Dopa. This is your starting place! Be sure (through careful Food/Mood/Poop Tracking or working with a dedicated Nutrition Counselor) that your diet contains ample protein for your unique needs. There’s no need to measure or count ounces or grams, or to overdo it with your protein consumption. Just be sure (for starters) that each meal or snack contains some protein. Salmon, eggs, avocados, turkey, chicken and even spirulina contain tyrosine!
- Mucuna Puriens: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the powerful velvet seed or cowhage seed, an ancient herbal nutrient known to activate dopamine production. I like to introduce a powdered form in smoothies or elixirs as opposed to supplementing with Macuna when I choose to make this clinical recommendation for the appropriate individuals.
(*) Please note that I pay heed to the principles of bioindividuality. No two people are alike. In many instances, it’s important to ‘test, not guess’ when bringing in supplementation, to be sure to consider what other supplements or medications you’re taking (there may be contraindications), and not to take a Quick-Fix approach, even when crowding out. Remember that it’s always best to stick with food first.
Your biggest take-away: If you need to climb out of the Quick-Fix Trap, try to remove or reduce sugar intake (dopamine depleting) and add more protein (dopamine supportive.)
The best part? When you fill your dopamine tank, you’ll have the ability to think long-term. You’ll be less likely to jump at the latest ‘miracle cure,’ or to be seduced by the promise of an “instant solution”. You’ll be able to think ahead and make plans (for your meals or otherwise) that will serve you in the long run.
And you won’t crave the entire batch of gluten-free thumbprint cookies!
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