Archive for October, 2008

How to Quit with Feeling S**t with Patrick Holford at Baden Powell House

October 12, 2008

What were you doing on the evening of Thursday 09 October 2008? Watching Eastenders perhaps? Well, I travelled up to London to listen to and speak with Patrick Holford, founder of the Institute for Optimum Nutrition and former visiting professor at the University of Teeside. Mr Holford was talking about his latest book – How to Quit Without Feeling S**t along with his co-author Dr David Miller.

The venue for the academic seminar was Baden Powell House. When I saw that in the email containing my ticket I imagined that I would be visiting the headquarters of the Scout Association. Not exactly as Baden Powell House is a youth hostel owned by the Scouts close to Gloucester Road underground station. The entrance foyer was crowded with German backpackers, but I was able to make my way around them to the large conference room at the side of the building. I would say more than 200 people were seated in the room each paying £15. Mr Holford had just started was doing a bit of name dropping in regard to Abram Hoffer. Apparently, at the age of 96 he was semi-retired and now only works four days a week. As Patrick Holford often points out he spends his time reading all the latest up-to-date research on nutrition and in the course of this research he discovered Dr David Miller.

Dr Miller is a recovered or recovering alcoholic. (I am not sure what the correct term is. It seems to change.) More than thirty years ago he was addicted to alcohol. He spoke rather movingly of his struggle to break free from the grip of alcohol. People think rather simplistically that once you stop taking a drug your problems are over. Nonetheless, addicts complain of symptoms such as mood swings and feelings of irritability. Dr Miller described these feelings as “chronic abstinence symptoms.” This does appear to a recognised medical condition. For example, see the following published research in respect of marijuana users.

A cartoon was shown of two doctors, one of whom was shaking whilst talking to his colleague. The caption read: “Doctor I seem to be addicted to prescribing drugs.” I remember that from Mr Holford’s Optimum for the Mind. Ho, ho, ho. Dr Miller then took us on a very short tour through the history of what the addiction treatment: (1) we had the moral model where the addiction arose from defects of character (2) there was the disease model where the problem was seen to be medical (3) the psychological model where the addict was perceived as having a mental disorder and finally (4) you have guessed it we have the integrative or holistic model. Addiction he declared is a “Bio psycho social spiritual disorder.” We were all given a hand out with the grand title “Scale of Abstinence Sympton Severity” and 26 possible symptoms. We were invited to rate ourselves on the scale of one to ten

There is a vicious cycle of stress and fatigue. In fact, there is a paradox in recovery in that in order to recover we need abstinence yet abstinence-based symptoms interfere with our ability to stay sober. Some of these symptoms last months or even years. “1 in 4 Britons are addicted” “13 million Britons have taken illegal drugs” According to The Observer newspaper “Many of us believe alcohol and tobacco pose greater health risks than ecstasy and cocaine.” Be scared. BE VERY SCARED. Before I go any further I would like to ask a few questions. It is a shame there was no opportunity to ask them at the time: (1) What are ¼ Britons addicted to and what is the nature of their addictions? From where does this statistic originate? (2) In what respect do ecstasy and cocaine pose a greater health risk than tobacco and alcohol? Presumably more people are taking the latter, though I would not imagine many muggings and burglaries are committed by people wanting to buy low cost Tesco lager. (3) How often do Britons take illegal drugs? I would imagine many simply take them when young or on just a few occasions.

In our seminar we then went to look at how our brains become addicted. Apparently, once again it is all to do with the neurons and neurotransmitters in our brains. If I had my way I would get rid of them all. Neurotransmitters in our brain are built from amino acids which our body of course obtains from proteins. Neurotransmitters will calm or excite us. Dopamine was given as an example. We were told that addictive substances mess with your brain. Here is a study I found on PubMed

Alcoholism is associated with shrinkage of brain tissue and reduction in the number of neurons

Addictive substances either mimic feel good chemicals or shut them down. The neurotransmitters in the brain that help motivate us become insensitive and dopamine is given as an example. Indeed on the Wikipedia, we read:

Dopamine has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behaviour and cognition. (…) A common hypothesis, though not uncontroversial is that dopamine has a function of transmitting reward prediction error.

For more information have a read of this fascinating article. Did you know that:

Although DA neurons account for less than 1% of the total neuronal population of the brain, they have a profound effect on brain function

So basically what Dr Miller and Mr Holford are telling us is that addictions mess up the biochemistry of our brain. I am sure most mainstream neuro-scientists would not disagree. So with all 200 members of the audience suitably scared what solution could be offered?

Well, we had another hand out listing six neurotransmitters. We were informed: (i) which amino acid it was made from (ii) what it does (iii) the symptoms of deficiency and (iv) the substances addicts use to compensate for deficiency. For example, Dopamine is made from L-tyrosine and gives rise to good feelings comfort and alertness. If you are deficient in it you feel empty, depressed and lack motivation which leads you to seeking alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, caffeine, sugar and tobacco. It all sounds a bit simplistic, but fortunately on the other side of the page is a solution to all your problems. There you will find a ready-made presciption for recovering alcoholics. Apparently, they need to take: (i) combination chill/sleep formula 4 pills a day (ii) Methyl-nutrient formula 2 pills a day (iii) Omega-3 EPA-rich capsule 2 pills a days and (iv) Vitamin C, 1000mg 2 pills. BUT DON’T FORGET ALWAYS TAKE THE BASIC SUPPLEMENTS which means that in addition you need: (i) an optimum multivitamin & mineral (ii) Additional Vitamin C: ideally with berry extracts (iii) Essential omega-3 and 6 fats (iv) Phospholipid complex. Fortunately, when Patrick took over he explained to us that we only have to take the amino acid supplements for a month or so. When the total abstinence symptoms were down you could just rely on the basics. Patrick was very pleased to note that Health Products for Life were able to make it that evening. Indeed, how fortunate they were not doing anything else. I wonder who asked them to come along? They were at the back of the hall selling lots of pills some of which, coincidentally, were recommended by Mr Holford himself.

By the time the break arrived I was extremely hungry. I reasoned that seeing as the place was a hostel for young people there should be a snack machine somewhere. I was correct and found one close to the reception. Unfortunately, Optimum Nutrition has not yet reached The Scout Association so the machines were full of chocolate, crisps and fizzy drinks. I bought a packet of Walkers Ready Salted crisps – low in sugar, only 0.5g of salt and a moderate amount of non-essential fatty acids. However, I dared not go back in the main hall with such a substance. Possibly I could have been lynched by a group of nutritional therapists. At that point I noticed an exhibition in the corner of the room. Unsurprisingly it was about Baden Powell and the foundation of the Scout movement. The text on the first panel explained that back in 1907 Britain was a very different place. There was much poverty and many young people experienced malnutrition. Rickets was not unknown. Baden-Powell’s solution was not a supplement programme, it was teaching self-reliance. Members of the Scout movement experienced life out-doors, got plenty of exercise and learnt how to cook over camp fires. Unfortunately, I seemed to be alone whilst reading the exhibition.

The second part of the evening was taken up with Patrick telling us various things about allergies, testing for allergies, the pressure group Sense About Science, how to detox, why you should not eat dairy products and antioxidants. What this had to with addiction I was not sure, but it was his seminar after all. If I have time I’ll write that up another time. I was a bit disappointed that there was no opportunity to ask questions so afterwards I went up to the front to speak with Patrick. Again another post for another time. I also spoke with David Miller. Meanwhile next to us Mrs Holford was tidying away the audio equipment. She asked if I wanted privacy to speak with Dr Miller. Well no, I did not. Quite the opposite as what I wanted to know was whether there had been any studies done comparing what he was doing with more conventional treatments. We would not want to be shy and private about our successes would we? He told me that studies were shortly to short. That was a pleasant surprise. He handed me two leaflets about two centres offering the treatment. Click here and here for their websites. Both seem to specialise in intravenous therapy which according to one of the leaflets I was given

Delivers nutrients to the brain while by-passing the gut

Bridging the Gaps is based in the Shenandoah Valley of West Virginia. Placebo therapies such as acu-detox are available as is Yoga and gym membership. Possibly that has as much to do with their success rates as the nutrition therapy offered? If Patrick Holford were to open a similar facility in Britain where would it be located – Dartmoor, the Brecon Beacons, the Lake District or the Wye Valley? As soon as we find out we’ll let you know so you can vary your holiday plans accordingly.

As I left I overheard Mrs Holford talking to Dr Miller

David you must be so hungry

I wondered whether I should point him in the direction of the chocolate machine in the foyer. No. Perhaps not.