All of the nation’s nutritional experts agree: refined sweets and starches have little or no place in a healthy diet. Yet we continue to overeat these toxic carbohydrates and suffer the increasingly alarming consequences: epidemic rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression – to name only a few. The major hurdle that stands in the way of most attempts to avoid these foods is irresistible cravings. Most Americans just can’t say no to their favorite high-carb treats. This is not a willpower problem. It’s not typically a psychological problem, either. Carbohydrate addiction, like alcohol and drug addiction, is primarily a brain chemistry problem. Fortunately, it’s one with clear-cut nutritional solutions.


I first discovered the powerful addictive potential of refined carbohydrate foods in the 1980s when, as an alcohol and drug treatment program director, I found that most of our recovering clients were gaining 30 pounds in their first 30 days with us.Why? From overeating sweets and starches – in spite of their attempts to follow the wholesome diet we had recommended as part of their sobriety program. I did some research and found many studies at Harvard, MIT, and elsewhere confirming that eating refined carbohydrates could temporarily raise levels of the brain’s four ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters: serotonin, endorphin, dopamine and GABA. These foods could give a ‘high’ similar to that of alcohol and drugs and were at least as hard to give up. In 1988, after I encountered resistance to implementing nutrient supplement protocols in the conventional addiction treatment program I was directing, I left and founded The Recovery Systems Clinic in Mill Valley, California. There I put together a staff of nutritionists, psychotherapists, and holistic physicians. Together, we developed an integrative treatment model combining targeted nutrient therapy and biochemical rebalancing strategies that has since stopped the overwhelming carbohydrate cravings of thousands of our clients. Brain chemistry repair has always been our number-one job. The secret behind carbohydrate addiction is surprisingly straightforward: a carb-addicted brain is a protein-starved brain. Taking a few protein supplements, namely free-form amino acids, can eliminate the problem, oftentimes overnight. Without amino acid brain repair, addictive cravings and “emotional” overeating can continue forever. With aminos, the cravings are generally gone in 24 hours. Kenneth Blum, PhD, a neurochemistry researcher and addiction expert from the University of North Texas, pioneered the use of amino acid therapy starting in the early 1980s. His 1997 study of 257 Optifast graduates found that a low potency amino acid formulation reduced food cravings by 70% for females and 63% for males after two years. Blum concluded, “Neurotransmitter deficits are the primary causes of all addictions, including carbohydrate addiction, and amino acids are the solution.”


For carbohydrate cravers with blood sugar drops who get moody, fatigued, and sugar-obsessed if a meal is delayed, the amino acid L-glutamine can help keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. For those who eat for an energy boost, L-tyrosine will increase the brain’s natural caffeine, norepinephrine. For stress eaters, we recommend GABA, our brain’s natural Valium, while for those who crave comfort foods, D-phenylalanine increases brain levels of endorphin, our natural pleasure and comfort chemical. Last but not least are the brain fuels L-tryptophan and 5-HTP (5 hydroxy-tryptophan), which convert to our natural antidepressant, serotonin. They can knock out afternoon and evening carb cravings as well as an impressive list of mood problems that include irritability, low self-esteem, worry, obsession, and insomnia. Even SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sufferers, during a long spell of dark and rainy weather, can raise serotonin levels and turn on their internal sun using either of these amino acid precursors. Of course, getting plenty of protein, healthy fat, and nutrient-dense vegetables throughout the day is also crucial. Avoiding allergy aggravators such as gluten-containing foods and killing off yeast overgrowth is often necessary as well. But none of this would be possible without the power of the aminos to first kill carbohydrate cravings. With these tools, any nutritional consultant can enjoy watching his/her clients quickly transform from life-long sugar addicts into healthy eaters who actually prefer their protein and veggies to chocolate and pasta! Julia Ross, M.A., M.F.T., is a pioneer in the field of nutritional psychology and author of the bestselling The Diet Curea Nutritional Recovery Guide for Carbohydrate Addicts, as well as the brain repair manual The Mood Cure. In addition to directing the Recovery Systems Clinic in Mill Valley, California, she conducts amino acid therapy training seminars throughout the country. Her websites are and