In this episode of the Elevation Recovery Podcast, Chris Scott interviews Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, The Diet Cure, and The Craving Cure, and the pioneer of amino acid therapy for mood disorders and substance use disorders.
In this riveting and eye-opening interview, Julia Ross discusses many of the keys to using amino acids to repair unique neurotransmitter imbalances and thus reduce cravings, quit alcohol or drugs, and optimize your mood, motivation, memory, learning, focus, confidence, and, ultimately, to become the ‘Real You’ and to become your best self.
Here are some ways to learn from this episode:
- Watch the video
- Listen to the audio
- Read the transcript
Julia Ross: One of the things I love about working with the amino acids is that I've learned so much from the people we've given them to, who tell us exactly what a normal optimal brain should feel like. And it's the same when we give the other amino acids that feed the other parts of the brain that are targets of alcohol and other addictive substances. When these depleted nutrients, we're really talking about amino acid deficiency-specific amino acids, when we get restored to our natural supply of amino acids, we become who we really are. Our neurotransmitters, the brain functions normally and we find out who we really are. A lot of people haven't known since birth because they've been on junk food since birth, and never had a really vigorous protein-based diet.
Announcer: Thanks for tuning in to the Elevation Recovery podcast, your hub for addiction recovery strategies. Hosted by Chris Scott and Matt Finch.
Chris Scott: Welcome everyone to the Elevation Recovery podcast. I'm Chris Scott. Today, I have a really amazing guest who's had a profound influence on me personally. Her name's Julia Ross. We have a video version. So, you can check out this video on my fit recovery channel on YouTube. And Julia is the author of several books, The Diet Cure, The Mood Cure. Most recently, The Craving Cure. The Mood Cure actually helped me understand how amino acid therapy could help me in my early recovery. A lot of people call Julia the founder of amino acid therapy. So with that said, we're going to have a natural flowing conversation. I'm really excited. Thanks for being on the show, Julia.
Julia Ross: You're welcome.
Chris Scott: And yeah. So let's talk a little bit about how you came from, because you are a trained psychotherapist, right? And then you got into amino acid therapy. So I think we'd have a recap on how that came to be?
Julia Ross: That was an initially tragic story that turned into the best thing that could ever have happened. I had been working, from the time I was in graduate school, for probably three years, two or three years when the crack cocaine epidemic hit. The recovery program that I was working in, a beautiful place, four-Story Victorian on a Hill in San Francisco, nonprofit. So there was no profit motive we could do. We had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. We created the most comprehensive counseling education program you can imagine nothing like it exists now, actually. We had that much freedom and we were so in love with the program and our clients in this residential program, and then the outpatient program that I founded after that, we're in love with it too.
Julia Ross: And word got out with the reason we started an outpatient program was because the people who couldn't live there were demanding that we give them what we had. And then the crack cocaine epidemic hit. And we started to get the relapse statistics. And we found out that even with the alcoholics that had comprised the majority of our clientele before that we were getting 50%, relatively long-term recovery. And that was very depressing because we felt as though we were getting a 100% or more. When people were right in front of us and they were able to hold onto their sobriety, they turned into who they really were. And we took all the credit. But when, when crack hit us, this is nationwide, nobody in the addiction fields could handle it. And it was the typical news nationwide, that we were getting a 100% relapse rates within 24 hours.
Julia Ross: So we knew right then and there, within six months of it hitting us that we didn't have the tools. And we blamed it on the drug. It's a whole new drug, we were doing fine with alcoholism, but we're not doing so well now. We're not doing anything now. It must be whatever the drug is doing to these people. And of course, at that time, there was also the lurking thought that, well, maybe it's just that their allusions to begin with, especially unmotivated people that are drawn to cocaine in the first place. This ridiculous rationalization in that, recovery people give to why what they're doing isn't working. So basically the whole field went into a depression. We didn't know what to do. We could not help people.
Julia Ross: And then we started getting conferences of neuroscientists. This is in the early middle 80s who were specialists in the addicted brain. And a lot of us went to those conferences and we tried to understand what the hell they were talking about. Clinical psychology master's degree did not prepare me for understanding neurochemistry. But then one particular neuroscientist came through, who'd actually done clinical studies showing success with crack addicts. And he was using amino acids to get that success. And of course, I didn't know what amino acids were but it didn't take me long to figure it out, but we already had nutritionists on staff. That's how far we had come. We were already counseling people to eat better because we knew, and there was some writing and some statistics showing how much better people did in recovery if they ate regular meals and ate healthful food, throughout the day.
Julia Ross: The trouble was that nobody followed our dietary recommendations because all they could think about was sugar, which is a drug. And it does some of the same things to the brain that whatever their former drug, alcohol, crack, whatever was doing. But we didn't understand that, but at least I had a nutritionist on board and one of them was a Ph.D. And I said to her, look at this study, it shows that in a cocaine-only treatment program, this scientist proposed a study that the treatment program went with which was that they would start giving everybody a multi amino acid. It actually had three, maybe four amino acids in it, fairly low potency. And well actually no, this one had two, amino acids in it, both stimulating.
Julia Ross: And after three months they looked at the statistics and they saw that instead of getting 40% AWOL rates. In other words, people leaving after they paid $10,000 a week later, they'd walk out completely unfinished with treatment. Instead of getting 40% AWOL rates, they were getting 4% AWOL rates. So you can see why that got my attention. And I got more information about it. I brought it to my nutritionist. I said, please research this for one week. And if it looks like a safe prospect, let's start doing it right now. And I know right away who I'm going to ask to be our first client. A crack addict who had been a bodybuilder and loved using nutrient supplements and knew what a good diet was. And so that's what we went ahead and did. She found there were no dangers to it, especially with someone who was obviously depleted in the amino acid that the brain can use to give us energy and the things that crack forces on us. And that was how I got into the amino acid therapy world.
Chris Scott: Yeah. I'm very glad you did. Yeah, because it changed my life. And I was already in a period, I was probably six months to a year off of alcohol before I found your work. And I was struggling with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. And those are three big symptoms of post-acute withdrawal for alcohol. I hadn't been abusing hard drugs. I'd never done cocaine, but I was a heavy, heavy drinker for years starting in college. And then it ebbed and flowed. There'd be periods of extreme drinking and then periods of abstinence, which was just white-knuckling. When am I going to get my next drink? Just willpower. But my biochemical reserves of willpower were limited, so eventually, I would drink again. But I found that I use tryptophan and 5-HTP to help deal with the depression helped a lot. I didn't even need much, maybe a few weeks of those.
Chris Scott: But then L-Tyrosine and DL-Phenylalanine, those helped me for the next year. I seem to have been really depleted in the dopamine and endorphin sector of my brain. And I don't know, I would be a different person if I didn't discover those things. I had to tell people who are recovering that these little capsules, that may look to them indistinguishable from prescription drugs, except that you get them in a store or Amazon, that they can do so much for you. But for me, it was really life-altering. So I know, I'm sure you've had a large impact on people coming off of alcohol as well. And that's like the big legal yet still really toxic drug in our society.
Chris Scott: A lot of people don't know that alcohol itself is more toxic than hardcore opioids as far as its overall effect on the body and the inflammatory response. And you have these pro-inflammatory cytokines going into the brain, potentially inhibiting the synthesis of, or plugging in of neuro-transmitters. So I can see you're excited. I'll let you talk. But I just wanted to, again, thank you for reaching people like me. I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of others out there, who were feeling similarly.
Julia Ross: Well, first of all, I wanted to ask you one thing which was, did you have cravings at the time that you discovered the amino acids?
Chris Scott: I was in the process of using neuro-linguistic programming to help reframe alcohol as a negative. There was a limited amount of progress that I've made with that to at the very least, rechannel my cravings towards other things. But I did [crosstalk 00:12:06] still feel like I need, yeah there was a visceral desire for something. And I knew that I could transfer it to other things. I've always been a Type A intense person. To this day, I don't like going a few days without working out. I need that dopamine and endorphin rush. And when I was in inpatient rehab, I was told, "Don't work out too much. You're going to become an exercise addict." And I'm like, ah, maybe I'm sure that's a thing, but I'm really not afraid of that compared to alcohol. But what I didn't realize was that it was the combination of NLP, whatever I could do psychologically, and lifestyle with the amino acids that brought me to a whole new level. So yeah, I would say at six months to a year, I had some alcohol cravings, but I had made some progress in extinguishing them using lifestyle and psychological strategies-
Julia Ross: But when you say lifestyle, were you eating well?
Chris Scott: I was trying. My eating to this day, I'm seven years off alcohol now and I'm still experimenting with things. I've been largely keto almost carnivore for the last month as a kind of experiment. I can tell you at that phase, I couldn't have gone keto without getting the keto flu. You could say I was carb-addicted.
Julia Ross: Okay. That would be the typical thing at the time I was talking about when I was moving from an all alcoholism treatment program into some alcoholics there's a lot of cocaine addicts. It was typical for people to be gaining 30 pounds in the first 30 days of recovery because of picking up the carbs which do have a drug-like effect on the brain, which is why everybody's addicted to carbs now, unfortunately, and hopefully we'll get to that. But because it's so critical for alcoholics in particular to have a good diet, we have found that it's useless to advise them to do so. They just are too depleted to be drawn towards healthful food. They've got to go towards the substances that have some drug effect, will give them some neurotransmitter boost.
Julia Ross: And so whereas in the beginning, we were bludgeoning everybody about a better diet. Nobody followed the lead. They said it made sense. They wanted to do it. They knew they were hypoglycemic and that they were skipping meals and feeling crummy and relapsing on days when they hadn't had three meals. As a matter of fact, when we monitored relapse, skipping a meal was the most common trigger. They psychologized it, "It was maybe because, I'm not living at home yet and couple counseling isn't going so well," but the truth was, what made that day unique was that they had skipped breakfast. And so of course we went right to the food, that didn't help. So what we found when we added the amino acids was that when we did it carefully, and I'm going to tell you what amino acid you haven't mentioned that is key to staying away from a toxic diet in recovery.
Julia Ross: Let me start with the story. This is a scientist who discovered one of the amino acids. This very amino acid that not only reduces cravings for alcohol but also for carbohydrates dramatically. And his name is Roger Williams and he discovered that there was this little protein fragment called glutamine. So glutamine was huge news in the neuroscience world. They found one of the last amino acids down in protein foods that existed on the planet. And so he was flooded with grant money and he started a new lab. And one day he was walking through the lab and he noticed that one of his lab texts was doing an experiment. They had living cells in a Petri dish and they had added alcohol and the cells were dying.
Julia Ross: Well, he'd seen that before. What he hadn't seen until that moment was when the lab tech added some glutamine to the mixture and the cells came back to life. They weren't entirely dead, but dramatic improvement. Well, that got his attention. And that was the turning point in his life from then on, he was researching how glutamine could help alcoholics. And he didn't know that then, but his discovery has helped us with the carbohydrate addiction, which is now a much, much more deadly addiction than cocaine ever was or could be. So we would have added to your protocol some glutamine, which would have helped you with the residual cravings, kept you from snacking on junk food, but you would have had to adopt three meals a day, which is a big step for a lot of alcoholics because they're used to having coffee all morning.
Chris Scott: Can I pause you for one second?
Julia Ross: Sure.
Chris Scott: Actually, I didn't mention this, but glutamine was fortunately among one of the first amino acids I discovered. Because against the advice of the rehab program I went to while I was still an inpatient, we were allowed to go to a gym. They were totally against it, but next to a gym was a GNC. And they said, "Don't get vitamins and supplements. You're going to get addicted to those, just like you get addicted to everything because you're an addict." So I went in, I said, this is stupid. I'm sore. I've been sore since I got here and I feel like crap. I got some glutamine. I had no idea about the research that you were talking about. I mean, I do now, and I've since used glutamine extensively, I still use it to promote recovery. I knew what it was then because I knew bodybuilders took it to promote muscle recovery. There are all sorts of great stuff. And I did take that.
Chris Scott: And ultimately, I was able to keep away from the toxic, horrible, processed carb foods that people were eating. We had a cafeteria there. It was common for people to have a plate of French fries, a plate of mac and cheese, and an ice cream sundae. And that was literally the only meal that they would have, or maybe they'd have the same thing again a few hours later. They'd be tired and cranky and then they'd say it was the disease, wanting them to do something, but it was really the blood sugar swing they were on and the inflammation and God knows what else. But no, I did take glutamine. I was happy about that, but I didn't know that glutamine had done that for me. I thought of it as just a muscle recovery thing while I was trying to rebuild myself, which it was, but I didn't know at the time until months later, what you're talking about now.
Julia Ross: Well, one of the important things about what you're saying is that muscle builders know that they need more glutamine in order to build muscle. So without glutamine, they might consider themselves in an amino acid deficiency condition in terms of the goal of building muscle, which is up to a point, is a healthy goal. And when you give someone glutamine that can build more muscle, we look at it in the light of the subsequent research, which shows just extraordinary specific health benefits for glutamine. And one of them is glucose and insulin regulation. So a lot of alcoholics, like a lot of the rest of the population are diabetic or pre-diabetic. And so it's important for them to know that glutamine can protect them from the progression of that disease. And of course, the specific subjective experience of that is that they're not interested in sugar anymore. They're really happy to turn to high protein, good fat, lots of vegetables. I'm not a carnivore fan.
Chris Scott: I'm a maybe-
Julia Ross: For long-term nutrition.
Chris Scott: I did have some bison liver the other night, and I got a nice little natural high from it. So I like to incorporate organ meats and other things people think are gross, but I also like to have my microgreens, and my broccoli rabe, and my fermented foods and all of that. But yeah, it was a shock to me when I realized that the glutamine I was taking was being converted into energy in my brain I believe, without causing a correspondent insulin spike, which you would get from an ice cream sundae. And so that's why it is really one of the keys for regulating the sugar and insulin or the insulin response. A lot of people are walking around having to eat carbs all the time, especially if they were hooked on alcohol because alcohol itself is a highly refined sugar, right?
Julia Ross: Right and it raises blood sugar that is dropped too low but it raises it way too high. And then the next thing that happens is insulin is released and then it goes to low again. Whereas glutamine is so sensitively used especially in the brain, which doesn't have a backup supply of fuel or glucose, but the glucose enters the scene and it very sensitively raises glucose levels, not overreaches, but perfect. So that there's not too much and there's not too little. And when we ask people what's the subjective experience of being on glutamine? They say, "I feel balanced. I feel even." They don't even know about the blood sugars situation yet, and they're giving this language.
Julia Ross: And it's one of the things I love about working with the amino acids is that I've learned so much from the people we've given them to, who tell us exactly what a normal optimal brain should feel like. And it's the same when we give the other amino acids that feed the other parts of the brain that are targets of alcohol and other addictive substances. When these depleted nutrients... We're really talking about amino acid deficiency, specific amino acid deficiency. When we get restored to our natural supply of amino acids, we become who we really are. Our neurotransmitters, the brain functions normally. And we find out who we really are. A lot of people haven't known since birth because they've been on junk food since birth and never had a really vigorous protein-based diet.
Chris Scott: Right. Yeah. I field some interesting questions when I do coaching for alcohol recovery. One that popped out to me recently was, well, I always choose low sugar wines or I drink tequila, so there are no carbs in there. What would your reaction be just out of curiosity, to someone who thinks that they do keto? I've had clients who are aware of the ketogenic diet or paleo diet. They seem 80% healthy until you learn how much they drink. So, yeah. What would you-
Julia Ross: I learned this from a couple who came in. The woman was very clearly addicted to carbs and he had said, well, why don't we go see this woman who seems to be good at getting rid of cravings for carbs. But he was curious about it. Well, it turned out he was a huge alcoholic and had been for decades. And he really had no interest in stopping drinking. He was a big blogger in the keto and the paleo world. So both keto and paleo advocates often do gravitate towards alcohol. And as you say, or caffeine. Low carb, what's the problem? Well, the problem is that the substances are targeting, not the glucose receptors, but the receptors for the endorphins, our natural pleasure enhancing neurotransmitters, GABA, our natural tranquilizing neurotransmitter. And so, they're creating just leads us directly to what they need.
Julia Ross: So when we ask them, well, what is it that it gives you that you like? It's not giving you any calories. So what is it giving you? And then they tell us, "Well, it relaxes me." So we know right then that what they're missing is their natural capacity to relax, which is provided by a single neurotransmitter called GABA. I mean, there are a few others that are relaxing, but that's the major inhibitory or relaxing neurotransmitter. And we use a sublingual low dose GABA lozenge in our trialing. We do live trialing at our clinic. And when I teach people that doing acid therapy, I teach them to do the trialing so that people can see in real life immediately that this stuff's going to work. And when they get an individual amino acid, it's targeted towards what they need in this case, GABA, we see people reporting in, I'm serious two minutes. Oh, yeah. And they'll sit back in their chair, instead of being on the edge of their chair and they'll smile.
Julia Ross: And so, this is really the story of amino acid therapy. It is fast. And it is easy to identify and the substance that you're using and the reason that you're using it is the key. So if somebody is drinking because they can't face the pain in their lives, maybe they're in the middle of a divorce and they know that if they quit drinking, they might not have to have a divorce. But they can't quit drinking and they can't quit drinking because they can't tolerate pain. They don't have the adequate amounts of natural painkillers. And so you were one of those people who really responded to the amino acid that shows up our endorphin levels, and that too happens. It might take five minutes but-
Chris Scott: First time I took it, it was like, I like to say I started to live life in full color, that and the tyrosine. I mean, the DPA helping out with the endorphins, but also the LPA and the tyrosine, there were some of those. At some point, I went from living in this cold bleak, black and white world, and unfriendly, potentially malevolent one, to a more relaxed, bright, suddenly there's flowers on the ground. I swear there hadn't been any plants before. You just notice things. It's a different mode of consciousness that you get from amino acids.
Julia Ross: Well, it's what you get from protein. These particular proteins were ones you were really deficient in. So at this point, when people are discovering what they've been missing, that it's a simple nutrient deficiency. That's what's so extraordinary about alcoholism and all the addictions. They're really not, nationalists on drug addiction have publicly admitted complete failure in finding what they've been looking for decades, which is a drug solution to the addiction world, to all addictive diseases. That's how hard people are looking for elaborate solutions, elaborate causes. It's so simple. It's just simply a nutrient deficiency. And you could be deficient in as many as five nutrients. That's the limit of the number of amino acids we ever typically need to use.
Julia Ross: So some people need the relaxing, but they also need the painkilling amino acids. They need to build up those two parts of the brain that those amino acids serve. So fine, they take two. Other people definitely need the glutamine with it because of their cravings for carbs and their hypoglycemia. But you've mentioned another one which we haven't talked so much about and that is, they need energy, they need motivation, they need excitement, they need enthusiasm and they need to be physically active. And that all comes from a family of stimulating, natural stimulating neurotransmitters. We call them the cats for short, but the formal term is the catecholamines. But lots of people are hearing about dopamine now, which also has a rewarding... It draws you to something that's going to make you feel better.
Julia Ross: Unless you have something rewarding you arrive at that thing, it doesn't help you much. So if you don't have many endorphins, you could take a lot of energizing tyrosine, amino acids tyrosine, and want to find reward by you won't. But it will give you energy and mental focus. And so it's interesting that I mean, most people don't say, "Oh, alcohol. Yeah, it's great for energy."
Chris Scott: I did. For me, it was, yeah.
Julia Ross: It was?
Chris Scott: I would drink so I could do my laundry, take the dishes out of the dishwasher, and dance around while doing it. Otherwise, it wouldn't get done.
Julia Ross: We had one client who was a bookkeeper and she would go down to the local wine bar and do her work. She had to have wine to do her work, but it's probably the least common reason for somebody to drink is to get energized. I think most people would identify with the, "Oh, I get to relax." So that's what alcohol can do for GABA. Or, okay, I go home and my wife's bitching and I don't really care because my endorphins have been overactivated by alcohol.
Chris Scott: I think I might identify with all of those things. I would use it to fall asleep. I would use it sometimes to wake up. I had a multi-layered series of deficiencies that all seemed to respond very well to alcohol in the short term. And of course, my whole system was deteriorating and rapidly by the end of my drinking career. But that's part of the difficulty with treating individual cases, is biochemical individuality. And I know you make use of questionnaires, which are really cool and detailed. And I know there's frustration with people using trial and error. I use just the trial and error method. My assumption was I'm not, this was before I found your work and the questionnaires and everything, and all sorts of different, cool methods. I'm hoping we have some AI algorithm that just spits out exactly what someone needs within 10 years.
Chris Scott: But I thought, all right, all of these are safer than the alcohol I was drinking. All of these amino acids and evidence-based herbs, vitamins, minerals. So I may as well just take them and see what happens. And actually, it did end up working for me. It took longer, but it worked. And I know some people don't respond well to certain amino acids. It's not common to have a severe reaction, but someone on SSRI probably wants to avoid the serotonin precursors or at least take it under the guidance of a professional so you don't get serotonin syndrome.
Julia Ross: So by that you mean tryptophan or 5-HTP supplements, right?
Chris Scott: Yeah. That's right.
Julia Ross: Well, there's a whole chapter in the mood cure on how to utilize these marvelous alternatives for antidepressants. And just to give you an idea, the simple version is, you tell your psychiatrist or GP, whoever's prescribing, that you'd like to do a trial of just a few days on a few amino acids, just one amino acid really, four or five hours away from the drug. And they usually say the following, "Well, it probably won't help you at all, but it won't hurt you. Sure. Go ahead and try that. You just don't want to take it on an ongoing basis or any closer to the time you take your SSRI." Fine. So then they do their own trial and they find out how much better it makes them than the SSRI is currently making them. And then they call their doctor again and they say, I really like this much better than the SSRI. I've been on it for quite a while. And it's actually helping me less over time, which is very common.
Julia Ross: And so you say, please help me with an attempt to withdraw, to take her down off the SSRI. And I'll follow your directions. If you're okay with it, I'm going to continue to take these supplements that fuel serotonin and then I'll go off and I'll keep taking them as long as I need them. And we have only had one psychiatrist who said no and no one who's been distressed. So the worst thing that could happen is either it doesn't help, or you do have a reaction to taking the two on the same day, even though they're far apart, very, very rare. Very, very rare.
Chris Scott: I've actually seen some research showing that people on SSRI who did take 5-HTP or tryptophan, I can't remember which it was, but it felt better. And so not only were they not getting serotonin syndrome, but they were being helped. So that made me less paranoid talking about these things. The last thing anyone wants is to get an email from someone saying they got serotonin syndrome, but I've not heard of that. I know it happens in extreme cases, but I don't know what the dosages involved are. But the coolest thing being, with this, is that with an SSRI, and obviously I'm not advising anyone to change anything based on what I said, but you're creating a dependence syndrome when you're on a prescription drug, that's artificially concentrating, let's say serotonin between the synopsis, right. But if you take 5-HTP or tryptophan, you're replenishing the natural supply and you might not even need to take them forever. It's not like a new drug that you're on for the rest of your life.
Julia Ross: Oh, no. As long as you eat and start eating protein three times a day so that you get your own food-based supply of tryptophan coming in, nobody stays on it permanently. The reason that most people do have difficulty with this, is that they're so many people who know who is on two SSRIs or an SSRI in SNRI, which also almost all of them target serotonin as well as norepinephrine. Many of the people who are on two SSRIs are on something like well, of course, Prozac, but Zoloft or Lexapro or whatever. But they're also for sleep on an SSRI that is only used for sleep. It isn't a very good antidepressant, but it's called Trazodone, which is wildly popular. But when you're doing this transition from an SSRI to the aminos, and you don't know that Trazodone is an SSRI, you might very well take tryptophan at night because it's good for sleep. And the next thing is that you're not feeling well.
Julia Ross: So that's one of the things that I caution people about on the website and also of course in the book. There is one mistake that I made, I wanted to take the opportunity of being my first interview, to admit to this. We were talking about hypoglycemia and the importance of glutamine. The questionnaire for neurotransmitter deficiency in the mood cure is only four-part. There's a fifth part that should be there and that is a questionnaire about, do you have hypoglycemia? And if so, you need to take glutamine. There's information about hypoglycemia and glutamine in the book, but it's not positioned right in front of the first chapter with the rest of the questionnaire. So I-
Chris Scott: I know you're very detail-oriented. And my co-host Matt Finch, who I'm close with and you've known for some time now, he warned me. He said, "Make sure you're very precise when you talk with Julia because she'll call you out if you make a mistake." So I'm trying to speak with immense precision here. But it's good to know, you're also self-critical with your... I don't think anyone will fault you for not including that, but I'm sure people will appreciate that. And it's always good to know if you have hyperglycemia.
Julia Ross: Definitely.
Chris Scott: Yeah. So there are so many topics that I want to cover. I do want to talk about the craving cure and the issues with diet. I know we've touched on diet a little bit. But something that keeps coming up whether we're talking about food or about addiction treatment, is the difficulty of innovating and getting past whatever the powers that be are. And I don't want to get either of us in trouble with them on the interview, but do you think there's hope for changing the paradigms either for food addiction, which is rampant now and arguably a bigger deal than alcohol or drug addiction? Or-
Julia Ross: There are more deaths from food addiction than from alcohol and drug addiction combined.
Chris Scott: Sure. Yes.
Julia Ross: Including tobacco.
Chris Scott: Well, I was remarking to a friend of mine the other day. We're both bachelors in our thirties. I said it's rare for me to meet a healthy-looking late 20s, early 30s lady who doesn't have multiple health problems under the surface. Things that come up and I'm not faulting them for this. It's just a systemic issue. It seems thyroid problems. They're on SSRS, they've been on them for years. They've been on benzos for years. It's not uncommon for me to meet someone, "Oh yeah. I take Xanax. I've had a prescription since college."
Julia Ross: Eating disorders.
Chris Scott: Eating disorders, for sure. That was the next one on my list. And if not eating disorders, then severe carb addiction, that would be hard to reconcile with the fact that they seemed to be fit. And it seems like they're ultimately in a losing battle. A lot of people are in a losing battle in the long term, between their arguable over-exercise, eclipsing the amount of carbs that they're eating all the time and bad food choices that seem normal, because societally the bad food choices are normal, unfortunately.
Julia Ross: Yeah. It's fascinating to me because I grew up in the 1950s and 60s and everybody was normal weight then. Everybody was active. Everybody was normal weight. There was no onus on different people's weights, the different weights that people had. Everybody knew that it was just like different eye color. Oh yeah, everybody's a different way. They come from different... He's got a German background and you know they're Italian. So we just knew we were different from each other and there wasn't the criticism. But when you look at crowd scenes in the 50s and 60s and when I do my PowerPoint presentations to my trainees and the public, I show them pictures because they don't know what normal crowds look like. They think normal crowds are full of obese people, no.
Julia Ross: I've got endless numbers of crowd scenes, where there aren't any obese people from the 50s and 60s. And if I had them, we'd have plenty of pictures from the 40s, and the 30s, and the 20s and all the way back. But the 50s and the 60s are interesting because we have plenty of food then. The restrictions from the war, the depression was behind us, we had plenty of food but nobody was overeating. So in the 60s, we started to get some weight gain. That was the decade of Tab. So it was the first sugar-free soda. But it was minor. Most people were trying to lose weight so they could look like the model Twiggy, not because they thought they were too fat, but they just thought it would be fun.
Julia Ross: I mean, I remember it. I was already really thin actually too thin, so I didn't have to do it. But my friends who knew they were beautiful said, yeah but I want to see what I would look like if I was at her weight. What they didn't realize is they were going to set off this Yo-Yo of undereating, which would slow down their thyroid, which would mean that they would gain a needed weight when they finally got off, whatever restrictive diet they were on. And then they would go on another diet. And then they would lower their metabolic rate even more. And then they would gain it all back and then go on another one. And that was even before the food industry got as sophisticated as it is now on addictiveness. That is their complete focus.
Julia Ross: The food that we're getting is unbelievable profit center because it's 60% nutrient void. So it's just these super cheap ingredients hardly any nutritional value at all, refined to a point of extreme brain toxicity so that we get high on them. And we get addicted to them, we can't stop. And we're just doomed to death by diabetes eventually.
Chris Scott: I have a member of my online course who had a very sugar-heavy childhood. And he's healthy now. And he's also recovered from alcohol addiction, but he has a theory that the constant sugar growing up, primed his brain to lead to alcohol addiction. Such that potentially, and it's a theory, but I'd be interested to hear what you think about it because I think it's plausible. When he finally encountered the alcohol, his brain was, I guess toxified, if that's a word. Also, he was used to this blood sugar swing and he found this highly refined version of sugar that created an even greater hit, and it was just like graduating to the next level. And so sugar was like a gateway drug, which is now a term I like. I make fun of it a lot of the time, but in this context that makes sense, maybe sugar was a gateway drug.
Julia Ross: It does. And this is part of the big problem now is that some people have some genetic vulnerabilities, maybe there was alcoholism, grandparents generation or some vulnerability. But they would never have lived it out, in other words, it wouldn't have become a major influence on them if they were not eating such a nutrient stripped diet, because our genes have to be programmed by nutrients. If we're not eating them, nothing works properly, including our genetic programming. And so we are developing symptoms that we would never have experienced because the genetic program just isn't functioning normally.
Chris Scott: Right. Now back to the theme of resistance from some of the powers that be, big food, big pharma, government agencies and groups and lobbyists that seem to be allied with them. And I know you had mentioned something when we talked on the phone prior to this, would you mind repeating that?
Julia Ross: No, not at all. I mean, when I wrote my first book, it never occurred to me that I would be the target of anything because I had no idea it was going to be such a big hit. And even if I had, it just didn't occur to me that anybody would be threatened by what I was saying. Well, within a month of my first book coming out in 2000, 20 years ago, I got a call from a representative of General Mills. And I tell the story in the craving here, but I will be glad to tell it here. So what happened was that I said, well, why are you calling me? I couldn't imagine why he was calling me, but I was certainly alerted to the fact that he knew about me. And he said, well, we like to stay on the cutting edge. But there was an ominous tone.
Chris Scott: He wasn't offering you free cereal for life?
Julia Ross: No. But the rest of it is fascinating too. He said, actually, I just have the one question for you. I know you're busy. And that question is pretty hot for us right now. But before I ask it, I want to admit to some things because then we won't have to argue about them, we can just go right to the question. So let me admit that we use damaged and nutrient-empty starches. They're damaged because we have to make these really cute shapes, which requires all this overcooking and over-processing and so forth. Something similar goes for the fats in that they are poor quality vegetable oils and we don't have much other nutritional value in our food. And of course, we do market to children. And finally, we are increasing the amount of sugar in our products on a regular basis.
Julia Ross: So he said, "Getting that out of the way, let me just ask you the one question which is, do you think that our stuff is physically addictive?" Well, I was flabbergasted that he would ask me and also that he wouldn't know. I really didn't believe that. But I said, I do have research in the book about the physical addictiveness of it, but I'd be glad to get you more if that would be helpful to you in changing your formulations. And he said, as a matter of fact, I really want to encourage you, between the two of us, we can get together a think-tank to try and figure out is there anything helpful that you can put in those boxes for breakfast, for the children? Because if you could figure that out, you would be the hero of every following generation. He just [inaudible 00:51:31] and said, we're going to save these kids. He said, well, maybe I'll get back to you on that later. I'm just feeling too depressed about what you just said about the physical addictiveness right now.
Chris Scott: Yeah. Well, that's amazing. And I certainly haven't heard anything from, I'm not big enough at this point to hear from big rehab. I'm actually encouraged by, I think there is something of a trend, especially among younger doctors, younger health practitioners, some even younger counselors, who are trying to actually help people with their addictions in terms of their openness to this. But, there just does seem to be a certain stubbornness, people who've been doing it for a long period of time...
Julia Ross: Well, there's one reason that we did discuss this earlier today for the reluctance. The reluctance, I would say brick wall surrounding treatment that's been there since, I would say, the 80s. The 80s was the first time where everybody in the field that I knew admitted to at least 90% relapse rates in their treatment programs. And so I always wondered, well, why are they willing to even trial the nutritional methods that I'm advocating? Some of them spend good money on a really good diet. They also have tons of candy and everything, but they really provide some good food. So it's not, I wouldn't think it'd be the money. What is it? They've known me for years. They trust me. We worked together and known each other as friends and they won't take a step forward.
Julia Ross: And then when I left, after 14 years, this nonprofit treatment program that I'd been in and had started outpatient programs in and had introduced the nutrients into, one of the program directors in the local area took me to lunch. And he said I want to help you with some strategies to make what you're doing successful. Because I know you've never been in business before, you don't really know anything about it and we run our program like a business. So let me give you some of the principles that we follow. And he gave me some good marketing advice. And then he said here's another thing that I'm going to share with you, but I will never admit that I ever said this. And he said, what we do and that I advocate you're doing is that, you build in a week ineffectual after-care program. So let's say you're an outpatient program, so you might see people for 12 weeks. Then after that, like once every two weeks or once a month, you would have a free group where people could come for support after leaving.
Julia Ross: And I said, why would I do that? And he said, because you're creating a guaranteed source of income, they will inevitably relapse, but they'll come back to you. They won't think it's your fault that they relapsed. We make it pretty clear that if they relapse it's on them. So they'll come back to you. They love you. You were really kind to them. And that actually forms the core of your income going forward is relapse.
Chris Scott: Right. Yeah. So in essence systemically as a whole, if you reduce relapse rates down to say 5%, instead of 90%, you're obliterating the rehab industry at least in terms of the amount of profits that they're getting now. Yeah, that's an atrocious business plan, but and also-
Julia Ross: I guess it explains why they're not more interested in looking-
Chris Scott: It totally explains, yeah.
Julia Ross: Because having been in the business around it for so long, I know that they spend plenty of money sending staff to learn new interviewing skills, or hiring a yoga person, or various things they're willing to do, various things but not this.
Chris Scott: It seems to me though, and I don't come from a place of hating all businesses, I don't think you do either. But I think that with 30 to 100 million people potentially needing help, there's no shortage of people to help. Of course, it's easier to get repeat customers, but that's demoralizing. And it's, yeah that leaves a sour taste in the mouth for sure.
Julia Ross: It's murder.
Chris Scott: Yeah. And if he had actually understood what it is that you do, I think you would understand that the people aren't inevitably going to relapse. As you said, amino acid therapy is potentially a very effective and rapid treatment for a lot of people. And that's just not the nature of what you do, but it does make sense now that you put it that way, that's why it's not seeped into the whole system. It's going to take, I think, a paradigm shift. It's going to take enough collective consciousness about what we're talking about for these places to no longer get away with what they're trying to get away with, either consciously or subconsciously. And the inpatient place that I went to I'd say people were kind, they wanted to help, but most of them gave no thought to their own business model.
Chris Scott: There's a few people who were giving thought to that. And maybe they were just tagging along with what everyone else did. So it's not necessarily the case that there are evil people in rehab centers who want high recidivism rates, but it is the case where there's a culture in which that's rewarded. People do tend to respond to incentives.
Julia Ross: Well, and this was a corporate treatment program that this man worked in. So it's very different from the independent treatment centers that used to be the majority. That it's not true anymore. The corporate treatment industry is moving in and buying up the formerly independent programs at quite a rate. But you said something earlier when we were talking that gave me a lot of hope and that is that, it's not actually unheard of in Europe for treatment to be integrating some nutritional strategies in with the other perfectly good, they're good strategies. They just don't work for stopping cravings.
Chris Scott: That's right. Yeah. And so one of my friends and business associates named Dr. Rebecca Erickson. She's working on her second Ph.D. now. She has a Ph.D. in Nutritional Genomics from Imperial College, London. She works at the Executive Health Clinic in Marbella, Spain. And she said it's common practice there. And that's a very glitzy... I traveled over there to meet with her and a business owner for my supplement company, and there are a lot of wealthy people there. So it's probably called Executive Health Clinic for a reason where they can afford these specialized holistic treatments. But I don't know if she had read your work or Joan Matthews Larson's or whatever, but she was just very in tune with everything I had read. And she was looking at all these studies. At one point I lamented, I said, I wish there were more studies on nutrients for alcohol recovery. And she looked at me like I was stupid.
Chris Scott: She said there are thousands of studies coming out of Europe all the time. And she was like, what's wrong with you guys in the U.S. why don't you give... She's like, you don't give people amino acids when they come in for alcohol addiction? I said, no, almost never. And so I don't know that it's common practice everywhere in Spain, but she seemed to think that it was way more widespread and that was news to me. I know there is a certain open-mindedness in Europe in say, like alternative therapies, maybe not nutrient repair, but the Sinclair Method in Finland I believe, it's a lot more utilized.
Chris Scott: As a therapy here, there's a lot of resistance to the Sinclair Method because it goes against the abstinence-only AA approach. And so I'm not saying that everyone needs to do that or not, but it's interesting that in Europe, there's just a more open-mindedness. I think there's less of a puritanical abstinence-only influence and less of a, all you need is a black and white. All you need is your higher power and working the steps. That seems to be less the case over there.
Julia Ross: Well, do you think that you could ask her for some of that research?
Chris Scott: Absolutely. Yeah.
Julia Ross: Great. Let's get it. You can get it automatically translated on the internet and we really need it because there is a blockade on this research over here.
Chris Scott: Yeah. I will absolutely ask that and I'll let you know.
Julia Ross: Great.
Chris Scott: Yeah, I'm always impressed with people who are multi-lingual because she can read studies in English. I only speak one language. I think she speaks Spanish and she's half Danish, she'd probably speak French or German. But yeah, there are some impressive people over there. So I'll get you that research. I think we might be approaching an hour here, but I wanted to make sure we didn't leave anything out.
Julia Ross: Oh, well, we did. Believe me.
Chris Scott: Oh, yeah. I know we left lots of things out. If there's someone out there listening for the first time, they're really inspired by your work or they're excited to get your books, is there anything that you would tell someone who's struggling and maybe just need some informational support?
Julia Ross: Oh yeah. Please go to my website, juliarosscures.com and it's composed of three segments, one for each of the books. But go right to The Craving Cure section of the website, because it has a really good questionnaire that's complete all five parts. And because whoever calls is probably not only craving alcohol or drugs, but drug-like foods. It's a very appropriate questionnaire and it's divided into the five sections for the five neurotransmitter deficiency symptoms that could be driving your particular cravings. And that way you'll see how specific it is. Each section is very different from the other and maybe all five of your pleasure centers are depleted. That's good to know. Maybe they're only two. So that will give you a very concrete understanding of your own brain chemistry and where you need nutritional health.
Julia Ross: All of the books The Diet Cure, The Mood Cure, Mood Cure has a specific chapter on addiction. So in some ways, once you've done the questionnaire you could get the Mood Cure and dig into this specific substance that you're struggling with. But the principle is the same, whatever the substance you're struggling with, whether it's sugar or alcohol, these five brain centers, and their nutritional status is the key to explaining your cravings and to eliminating your cravings, and it's not hard. And at one point I think we should make very clear is, these nutrients are cheap. They're very cheap. And if you use them sub-lingually, you only need half as many because they hit you a lot harder. Everything hits you, if it absorbs through your mouth. So if you trial or take your amino acids diluted in some water, and swish it around in your mouth, it'll get right to your brain and you'll get more benefit more quickly.
Julia Ross: But even if you don't have time to do that which most people don't, plus some of them don't taste good, some of them do though, you won't be spending that much money. You can shop around and find the same amino acids by different makers at different prices. And you can do that. You can also start with a blend which will should make a difference and then you can monitor yourself on the questionnaire. Okay. This is really making a difference, but I still have, on a scale of 1 to 10, I no longer all 10s but I'm 5s, and I want to be zero. So maybe I'll add some individual aminos to the multi at any rate. I don't want you to be intimidated by the prospect of a super sophisticated and expensive process. At this point, there are plenty of cheap amino acids out there, and almost all of them are equally good.
Chris Scott: Awesome. Well, Julia, thank you so much for your time. I'm sure we can have many more enlightening conversations. I'm sure we will. [crosstalk 01:06:21] We'll have you back on the show for sure. Thank you so much for joining me.
Julia Ross: Thank you, Chris. Bye-bye.
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