Foods to Support Sobriety

April 5, 2020

Our guest has been sober for 39 years and credits her success in large part to good nutrition. Listen in to her story and learn why blood sugar control is critical when it comes to addictions, be it alcohol addiction, food, gambling.

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DARLENE: Well, welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Today we have a very important topic to discuss with you that affects many families in Minnesota and also throughout the United States. An interesting study published in the Journal of American Association of Psychiatry found that one in eight American adults now meet the diagnostic criteria for an alcohol use disorder. Well what does that mean? Alcohol use disorder? It means alcoholism. So one in eight adults are now considered suffering from alcoholism. That's up about 2% at least. Because the last time I talked about this it was one in 10 so… so this study went on to say that there has been a 49% increased rate of alcoholism in the first 10 years of the two thousands so between 2000 and 2010 there was a 49% increase.

KARA: That’s a huge increase.

DARLENE: So I think we have to ask the question: “Why? Why is there been such an increased rate of addiction?” What is really behind this outrageous increase of alcoholism? You know, some of the experts, some of the researchers say that it is because people are eating more sugar.

KARA: Well that makes sense. And we'll get more into that later in the show.

DARLENE: Yes. And then there are some people, some experts that say that sugar is actually what they consider a gateway drug into alcoholism. It's kind of interesting isn't it, to think about? So I would assume we will be seeing an increased number of those seeking treatment to gain sobriety. So today we want to help you understand how eating real food in balance can support your efforts to maintain your recovery and sobriety. You know, I'm pretty sure that this information will be new for many of you, perhaps even a new concept. So I'm Darlene Kvist. I'm a Certified Nutrition Specialist licensed in the state of Minnesota since 1996. And after all these years, I am still awed by the help that real-food nutrition can give people with a variety of health conditions, including addiction. I mean, I don't think people have ever thought about that before. You know, so joining us today is Licensed Nutritionist, Kara Carper, who has also put her heart and soul into helping people feel better through real food nutrition. Kara, thank you for coming on today and…

KARA: You’re welcome.

DARLENE: How about introducing our guest?

KARA: I would love to, and it's great to be on with you again, Dar, by the way, because you and I haven't been on in a while.

DARLENE: We haven’t.

KARA: So this is great. So like Dar said, my name is Kara Carper. I'm also a Licensed Nutritionist. To help our listeners understand the impact of good nutrition on maintaining sobriety, we have invited a very special guest. Her name is Nancy Lindgren and she's going to share her recovery and sobriety story. And Nancy's had an amazing 39 years of sobriety.

DARLENE: Imagine, 39 years.

KARA: 39 years.

DARLENE: Going on, what Nancy?

NANCY: 40!


NANCY: Check the record books; can that be true?

DARLENE: You're not even 40 years old. How can this be?

KARA: So, to the surprise of many, you know, one of the tools in her toolbox has been following a diet of eating real food in balance. Now, that's of course not a surprise to us, but it may be to some of our listeners.


KARA: It hasn't been a fancy diet; just real food. So an example is real meat, real animal protein, real vegetables and real healthy natural fats.

DARLENE: You know, before we turn the mic over to Nancy, well we might never get it back if we turn it over, you know.

KARA: Well let’s hope not because she has a great story.

DARLENE: We have some very interesting information to share it. Did you know that the founder of AA, Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, realized as he was getting older that nutrition played a very important role in maintaining sobriety? He discovered whenever he drank coffee or ate donuts or some other sugary treats like they have at AA meetings, that the symptoms of out of control blood sugar would hit him and also his depression got worse, which was really interesting. So the donuts and the coffee were not really healing foods for him. He believes so strongly in the role of nutrition in recovery and sobriety that he actually tried to get nutrition therapy added to the AA program. AA founder Bill Wilson’s knowledge and understanding of how nutrition can support efforts to maintain sobriety was without a doubt, he was way before his time because you know, 75 years later the treatment center; the treatment community is finally starting to embrace nutrition as a support for sobriety. Well, actually I should say some treatment centers; because some are still 50 years behind and they're not really talking about good food.

KARA: That’s so true; kind of more of the conventional old school method.

DARLENE: Right, exactly.

KARA: Yeah. Currently relapse rates for alcohol fall within the range of up to 60%; it's 40 to 60%.

DARLENE: That's amazing, isn't it?

KARA: It really is.

DARLENE: That’s relapse.

KARA: More people are relapsing than not.

DARLENE: So this is, yeah.

KARA: So again, Nancy's story is not, not very common. So to help you realize the magnitude of having 39, almost 40 years of sobriety like Nancy, I'm going to throw another fact at you. More than 50% of American adults drink alcohol. If you don't drink, you actually are considered different; out of the norm. Although currently there's a movement to live an alcohol free lifestyle. We talked a little bit about that before the show. So we're finally going to let Nancy have the microphone. She's, Nancy's worked very hard on her success of personal recovery and sobriety. So Nancy, it would be great if you could please share your recovery and sobriety story if you don't mind, you know, starting at the beginning and then…

DARLENE: Way back 40 years.

KARA: 40 years ago. And then of course kind of insert how you started looking at food and real food as part of the program.

NANCY LINDGREN: Sure. Well first, thanks for having me on the show. I got sober at the age of 25.


NANCY: Yup. I knew at the age of 21 that I was an alcoholic, but I just wasn't ready to stop the partying yet. I actually remember thinking, “You know, when I'm in my forties when life gets really boring, then I'll quit drinking.” But I just didn't quite make it that far. So I knew because I had alcoholism in my family and extended family and I could see firsthand that I drank too much, just like them. I do not have a stop button when it comes to drinking alcohol.

DARLENE: So Nancy, what does that mean? I don't think people would understand. What’s a stop button?

NANCY: There is a quote in AA that says, “One is too many and a thousand isn't enough.”


NANCY: And really, once I start, I don't want to stop.

DARLENE: I mean, that's as true for a lot of people with sugar addiction.

NANCY: Very much so. Yeah.

DARLENE: If they start with one little piece.

NANCY: Yeah, one little piece, one little cookie.

DARLENE: One little drink. And maybe I'll have one little glass of wine.

NANCY: Yeah. I just, I can't do it.

DARLENE: And, so it, it's interesting that you made that realization.

NANCY: Well, I, I actually, you know, had some trouble with alcohol and was told about this program to help people be responsible drinkers. So maybe go sign up for that. So I went to this program and they were teaching us how to have two cocktails, like go out and have your two glasses of wine or two cocktails. And it was on one of those evenings that I went out to try to have this responsible drinking that I really got myself into some serious trouble. And I knew then that I needed something more and they just didn't want to listen. They're like, “No, but you just try.” And I'm like, “No, you need, you need to listen to me. I'm in an awful lot of pain here.”

KARA: You knew yourself better than they did, obviously.

NANCY: Oh, my gosh. I'm like, “Well, you want to look at the bruise on my leg here from what happened last night?” I mean, really, I hurt myself very badly to the point where I still have an injury in my low back from what I did that night by falling. So I mean, you know…

DARLENE: That probably woke you up.

NANCY: Oh yeah.

NANCY: And I really did try. So in 1980, I went to treatment at a place that was way ahead of its time. It looked at the whole person and along with the emotional and spiritual needs that we have, it included bringing the body back into balance with a focus on nutrition.


NANCY: So how's that for 1980, right?

DARLENE: That was amazing.

NANCY: Yeah. So, as many of us know, our poor bodies are so out of balance when we've been drinking to excess, especially with the high amounts of sugar in the alcohol. They served full breakfast of eggs, breakfast, meats, fruits, yogurt, and not just bagels and muffins and donuts.

DARLENE: So were people are in shock when they…?

NANCY: Well, people were being nourished. They liked it.


NANCY: You know, it was pretty amazing. And then there were a healthy snacks set out in the afternoon and late morning. It wasn't just bags of chips or you know, cookies or whatever. So it was kind of cool.

KARA: Was that your first introduction to real food as a tool for recovery and sobriety?

NANCY: Oh, yeah; yeah.

KARA: Sounds cutting edge.

NANCY: Yep, it really was. So it was pretty amazing. Yeah.

DARLENE: Well that's, that's great. So, you know when I'm counseling clients who struggle with addiction, you know, whether it's alcohol addiction or food addiction or sugar addiction or gambling addiction or shopping addiction; we could go on and on, couldn't we? I always start with teaching them about blood sugar and we have to talk about blood sugar control. So in our nutrition classes and even on Dishing Up Nutrition, we explain the connection of having low blood sugar to an increase in having cravings. When you have low blood sugar, your brain has low brain activity which can lead to cravings and poor decision making. Your own personal self control mechanism is usually connected to how well you maintain a normal blood sugar. And I know we have to go to break so we'll come back to low blood sugar later.

KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we're discussing the Food Connection to Sobriety with special guest, Nancy Lindgren, who celebrates 39 years of recovery and sobriety. So we will be back after break.


DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you have an addiction problem of any kind or a chronic health problem, I encourage you to take the Weekend Weight and Wellness seminar the weekend of Friday, April 24th through Sunday, April 26. And we actually have people that fly in to take this and they sometimes fly in with their friends or their family. So it's really great. The weekend seminar will help you understand blood sugar control and neurotransmitter protection in detail. We also have entire families taking this life-changing seminar together so that they can actually support one another. So if you want to sign up, sign up at or if you have questions, just give us a call at 651-699-3438.

KARA: People love that Weekend Weight and Wellness seminar. You know, it's almost like a get-away, especially for those who are traveling.

DARLENE: Exactly. It is, and it's, we have, we have six different teachers so you don't have to listen to the same boring nutritionist, you know, so it’s fun.

KARA: It's a real variety of personalities and yeah.

DARLENE: And they're all passionate about eating.

KARA: They're all super talented.


KARA: So Dar, before break you had started talking about low blood sugar. This is, I feel this is the most important part of, you know, anyone going into sobriety and recovery is managing blood sugars because low blood sugar levels can make you feel hungry, irritable, and anxious. And of course feeling that way, those things can all lead to making poor choices or poor decisions. So Nancy, when you are starting in your real food journey, how did you avoid getting low blood sugar and having some of those uncomfortable symptoms?

DARLENE: Or even how do you do it now? I mean, you have a very busy practice and a busy life and a new granddaughter and all those things.

NANCY: Yup, well and I, I do this; I do it pretty well most of the time. And then there's times where I get off task there with food and yeah. But I'm most successful when I eat good meals and snacks with the same thing you've been talking about for years and years and years: healthy protein, carb and fat. It's pretty amazing. After you eat really well; I think we've all felt it, that feeling of being nourished, you know, that feeling of “I just ate something really balancing for my body. My body feels calmer.” And, the way I do it is to eat the way that I've learned here.

DARLENE: You know, it doesn't even mean that it has to be a fancy meal, does it


DARLENE: And it can even be the same one over and over.

NANCY: Sometimes it's quick, you know, like some rolled up turkey and you know, string cheese and some veggies, you know, and a healthy fat of some sort. You know, I mean it's just quick whatever.

KARA: Almost like a grab-and-go style.

NANCY: Yeah. Yeah. So if I'm really rushing, that's what I'll grab; on the way out the door sometimes just to keep me going.

KARA: Well, you know, some of you might be wondering “What actually causes low blood sugar levels.” So think to yourself for a minute: when do you think you might have low blood sugar? Do you ever experience a sudden onset of intense hunger or that unexplainable feeling of anxiety, irritability, or fog that really comes kind of out of nowhere? It, you know, you didn't wake up feeling that way. It just kind of overcomes you suddenly; maybe you skipped a meal; maybe you skipped a snack. Maybe you had a Coca Cola and ate a bag of chips. You might've had a pastry or a candy bar. So what happens with those high sugar foods is your blood sugar levels go extremely high; too high; and then insulin is overproduced. It's released into the bloodstream to bring down that blood sugar level. So the pancreas will often release too much insulin.

DARLENE: Especially when we eat sugar.

KARA: Yeah, so like the Coca Cola/chips example.


KARA: The pancreas is over-producing that, really just trying to bring that blood sugar level down.

DARLENE: Back into a normal range; yes.

KARA: But Dar and Nancy, as you guys know, what happens is that it can over-correct; kind of goes down too low. That creates low blood sugar and that can create those feelings of anxiety, irritability, brain fog, and also that is when those sugar cravings really get strong; or what we're talking about today, cravings for alcohol. Sadly, alcohol is a quick fix for low blood sugar.

DARLENE: And I don't, that's I think an important fact is alcohol is a quick fix.

KARA: Quicker than food.

DARLENE: Quicker than food.

KARA: So it's almost impossible to get that craving under control until you get your blood sugar stabilized. So Nancy, you, you had given a couple examples of how you ate or how you eat currently eat to maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Would you mind just giving some more examples?

NANCY: No, not at all. First thing in the morning I drink a glass of water. That's just my go to.

DARLENE: Oh that’s a good idea.

NANCY: I like to get hydrated right away. And I keep a glass next to the bed at night if I get up to go to the bathroom. I actually drink some water in the middle of the night. I like to keep hydrated. I eat a breakfast of eggs. Sometimes I'll put like steamed broccoli or sautéed spinach, sweet potatoes, a breakfast meat or put it all together in a, in a veggie omelet, you know. I really do still like my coffee. You can't really find an AA person that doesn’t… well maybe, but, so I have a cup or two of that in the morning. And if I'm shorter on time, I'll have a healthy protein shake.

DARLENE: Now Nancy, in your coffee, do you put cream or do you just…?

NANCY: I do. Yeah. I actually do the Bulletproof sometimes, you know, with a little bit of, of the MCT oil.

DARLENE: And do you know, and then don't you feel good after you have that?

NANCY: I do.

DARLENE: That’s because you’re getting blood sugar balanced.

KARA: With a healthy fat.

DARLENE: With a healthy fat. That's why we always say put, you know, like cream or butter or something in your coffee so that you…

NANCY: Or macadamia cream.  I like that.

KARA: That sounds delicious.

DARLENE: That sounds really good.

NANCY: So yeah. And then I'll have a snack; an apple with peanut butter or walnuts or pecans and string cheese, veggies with hummus. Lunch is usually pretty simple. Like I'd said earlier, protein like turkey, chicken, salmon salad; and dinner is same, you know, kind of a healthy protein, veggies, salad, good carbs.

DARLENE: It sort of like once you get into this routine of eating this way, it's just how you do it. It’s your routine.

NANCY: Yeah, it is. Yeah.

DARLENE: Because you know you're going to feel better.

NANCY: Yup; yup. And I do, you know, like my chocolate. So I'll have the little occasional dark chocolate too, which is kind of a, and I don't need a lot of it. It just…

DARLENE: Yeah; because dark chocolate doesn't have much sugar in it.

NANCY: Right.

NANCY: It's satisfying. It's very satisfying; just a little bit. So I don't need a lot.

DARLENE: You know, many of our clients, they get caught up in low blood sugar levels daily. I mean, I think they skip their afternoon snack or you know, or even their lunch. And then they arrive home with anxiety and cravings. So they pour a glass of wine to calm themselves a little, bring up their blood sugar and then, you know, maybe they're even too tired to make dinner. So dinner might be cheese and crackers with another glass of wine.

KARA: That is so common, isn't it? How many clients have we had explain the cheese and crackers and wine?

DARLENE: Yes; right. You know, they may not be addicted to alcohol, but if one of their goals is to lose weight, they won't see the numbers on the scale budge. In fact that you, it is a fact that you cannot drink your wine and lose weight. Sad but it's true. You know, maybe you can have a glass of wine once a month, but when your liver is detoxing the alcohol; this is more of the science behind it; it can’t also break down body fat. So people just don't lose weight and they don't understand. They're in our classes and they say, “Well, I just don't understand this.” The reality is the pounds will likely pile on if you decide you're going to drink wine.

KARA: And I like to think about it, your body is, it's either going to be in fat-burning mode or fat storing mode, right? One or the other; and so with alcohol trying to get out of the system with the liver doing all that work, you're definitely going to be in that fat-storing mode because the liver is already busy. So it can't be working on metabolism.

DARLENE: So one of the things that I always want, especially if I'm working with someone that has an addiction problem; I always say, “Well, okay, at 4:00 or 4:30, have a protein shake. Get your blood sugar balanced before you even start making dinner or you pour that glass of wine.” You know, it's just like you got to, you've got to do everything to protect that blood sugar in having a protein shake or something like that really works well for a lot of people.

KARA: That's perfect. Like the protein shake on our website would be perfect. Here's how I keep my blood sugar balanced.

DARLENE: I know you work hard at this.

KARA: I do. I do. And you know it's worth it though. You know, sometimes I think this is a, it takes more time. It takes more energy and effort, but, but it's always worth it for that stable feeling of calmness; no cravings, more energy. So I start with a balanced breakfast. I usually have three eggs cooked in butter.

DARLENE: I mean people go, “Three eggs?”

KARA: Three eggs, plus a little bit of either bacon or nitrate-free sausage. I like to add some sort of a veggie, maybe spinach. And then I might cook it, I also could use coconut oil, avocado oil; all those healthy fats; and I'm eating four to six times per day and staying away from sugar and refined processed carbs. So, and I can explain a little bit more about that when we come back from break. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. There are two key vitamins that you should consider taking if you want to support good brain function. First one is vitamin D. We encourage you to have a vitamin D blood test and supplement with enough vitamin D so that you are maintaining blood levels between 50 to 80.

DARLENE: So always find out what your actual level is when they test you.

KARA: Yes. Don't, you know, if it says it's fine or positive or… I always like to call.

DARLENE: What they call in the normal range.

KARA: Normal, that's it. I like to call, call the nurse and make sure you're persistent to get the actual number.

DARLENE: And persistent to get the test.

KARA: Yes, and if it's below 50 that's too low. The other nutrient to include is vitamin A. Vitamin A helps deal with stress. And a good source of vitamin A is cod liver oil.

DARLENE: Isn't that interesting?

KARA: It is.

DARLENE: Vitamin A is a stress reducer.

KARA: It's a stress reducer, and it's in cod liver oil and we usually suggest two teaspoons per day, so we'll be right back after break.


DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. This may surprise you, but researchers have found that when we have sufficient vitamin A, we can manage stress better. So if your grandma or great grandma had you taking cod liver oil every morning before school, she knew her nutrition because the vitamin A in cod liver oil helped you manage the stress from school. I think there are a lot of teenagers that could use their cod liver oil these days. So cod liver oil is one of the best ways to provide vitamin A. You know, just two teaspoons daily is a good way to deal with stress. You know, a very safe cod liver oil is an Omega-Three Care Natural Cod Liver Oil that we have. It's 100% pure Norwegian cod liver oil. And, you know, if you want to pick it up it's at an all of our seven metro locations or you can order it online. So now we're back to blood sugar.

KARA: We’re back to, I was just sharing a little bit about like a, a breakfast that I would have to keep my blood sugar balanced. And it's got the protein, the healthy fat, the vegetable carbohydrate. You know, as a matter of fact, some addiction researchers believe that eating too much sugar or you know too many processed carbohydrates as well can be a gateway that can lead to other addictions. Having said that, it could be that cereal and a Mountain Dew or a white chocolate mocha latte with a blueberry muffin might not be a good breakfast for a teenager either; for anyone for that matter. But, that high sugar breakfast can lead to other addictions. Nancy, we would love to get your thoughts on, you know, if you go to the coffee shop and you see teens ordering some of those fancy sugar coffee drinks before or after school, what, what's kind of going through your head?

NANCY: I was at a coffee shop yesterday afternoon at a meeting and around 2:30, 3:00, there was a group of five or six high school kids that all came in and they got their high sugar fancy coffee drinks with the caramel drizzled all over them and caffeine and the eight pumps of some sort of flavored sugar.

DARLENE: With high fructose corn syrup.

NANCY: How are you going to feel in an hour? You know, I could just see the blood sugar crash coming with yawning, tired, inability to focus, being cranky or anxious or you know, and then try to get to sleep at 10 or 11 at night. You know, because caffeine has that sort of 12-hour, you know, it's in your system…

DARLENE: It’s actually longer than 12 hours now.

NANCY: So these kids can't sleep at night either.

KARA: And what about homework? I wonder how that’s going after.

NANCY: Trying to focus.

KARA: Yeah.

NANCY: And just being kind of all over the map. So I don't know.

DARLENE: It’s kind of interesting to start to think about this. These kinds of drinks could be a lead into addiction or other addictions. It's really kind of scary then when you think about it.

NANCY: Yup. And there is, you know that when people get the sugar going in their system and it’s constant and they keep it going and they have to and if they don't get it, oh wow. Watch out. You know, I've seen it happen both in children and adults and teens; and myself. So you know, I'm really grateful that I'm not so addicted to that anymore.

DARLENE: Oh good. So know the bottom line is when people stop drinking alcohol, the reality is that people still have the imbalances you had before you started drinking. You know, you know, sadly, we know that you even have more imbalances from choosing alcohol or ingesting other toxic ingredients instead of nourishing your body and brain. So alcohol puts stress on your liver. We know that; which is a main organ used to detox your body. You know, when I'm working with someone in recovery, I try to help them, or him or her kind of realize that healthy healing nutrition is much more than just eating better. It really is. It's a science, you know, it's about making the best possible choice all the time; staying away from fast foods and sodas and the high sugar coffee drinks. You know, it takes a deeper commitment to embrace a healing diet plan. And that's what I've been trying to do is get people to make commitments; their own commitment to their own health. You know, researchers are found that most people in recovery need an eating plan with higher protein and sufficient good, beneficial fat. And they found that grains and sugars cause more inflammation and can negatively affect the thinking brain. So you just don't think as well when you eat grains.

KARA: Right, so that would be like bread, crackers, pasta, bagels…

DARLENE: All the things that a lot of people eat all the time.

KARA: Yeah.

DARLENE: So Nancy, here's a good question for you. How did you develop that attitude and commitment to yourself to make better healthy food choices?

NANCY: You know, in my first year of sobriety, I gained 30 pounds.


NANCY: And I switched addictions, you know, really from drinking alcohol to eating… all of a sudden my sugar started going up. It was probably emotional because I was so, like anxious about, you know, trying to live my life as a sober person. And then it was biochemical because it was the sugar, you know, that I was, my body was really missing after all those years of drinking. So I gained 30 pounds and I'd start in the morning with a cinnamon roll and then, you know, after lunch I'd have like a candy bar, cookies; things like that. And then every night before bed I had ice cream. So, and it was in the 80s, the high-carb, low-fat, you know.

DARLENE: Everybody thought that that was the way to eat.

NANCY: Yeah. So then my second year of sobriety I got really uncomfortable with, with that weight and none of my clothes fit and I was just kind of over it. So I decided to cut way back because I could tell what was causing the trouble. And, that helped. And then I met you, Dar, in 1998. And that really helped things turn around for me. I thought I had kind of a good grip and you know, “I'm eating healthy. I'm having that bagel for breakfast with low-fat something on it or jelly,” or you know, whatever.


NANCY: And so, then I met you and I started to learn the value of healthy eating on a whole new level. And just like sobriety, it's simple, but it's not easy at times.

DARLENE: That’s true. That’s so true.

NANCY: Yeah.

DARLENE: I mean, that's for all of us.

NANCY: Yep. And so when I don't eat well, I feel tired, spacey, irritable and sleepy. And when I do eat in a balanced way, I feel much better, you know, more energy, focus and I sleep better. I don't always get it right, but, you know, progress, not perfection, right? But I find it's a, it's a quality of life issue. And there is one other thing I wanted to share and my pancreas and my liver had really taken a beating.

DARLENE: Oh really?  Because you were young.

NANCY: I was young, but I had a scan on my abdominal area for some female things I had going on and they weren't so concerned about that, but they were concerned about some little lesions they found on my pancreas and my liver.

DARLENE: Oh really? Wow.

NANCY: And, so when I went for the follow up, the doctor said, “This is really not an issue. But how sick were you with the alcoholism?” And I said, “I was really sick.” And he said, “Well, your pancreas and your liver were probably pretty swollen or inflamed and that's what caused this.” Because it wasn't cancer, you know? And, so there was, you know, evidence there that I had really been sick.

DARLENE: So you started, you went into recovery at age what?

NANCY: 25. I'd only been drinking for 10 years, you know.

DARLENE: Yeah; from 15 or 16.

KARA: Like larger quantities though.

NANCY: Yeah. I mean, I was an advanced alcoholic at the age of 25.

KARA: Okay.

DARLENE: So I see this isn’t uncommon for a lot of people that are going through this.

KARA: Yeah, it’s good for people to know that the damage can even be done for a young person, you know? Well, Nancy, thank you for sharing that. I want to share something else. In recent years there've been a lot of research studies about how our neurotransmitters affect our cravings and our wellbeing. And neurotransmitters; I just think of those as happy, feel-good chemicals. Two of the most important neurotransmitters to consider and to understand are dopamine and serotonin. I think a lot of people have heard of those two.

DARLENE: Yeah, I think so. And so, Nancy, you kind of alluded to the fact that you have kind of an understanding about some of this biochemistry now because you've been around the business for awhile.

NANCY: Yup, I have.

DARLENE: You’ve been learning all the time.

NANCY: Yeah. I did take your classes and in the Weight and Wellness series of classes at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, I learned about the chemistry of why I either feel better or worse based on what I eat. So I try to eat quality protein at least three times a day. I learned about brain chemistry and when my dopamine level is low, how I’ll crave sugar. But in the past it was alcohol.

DARLENE: And so Nancy, you, you try to animal protein at least three times a day?

NANCY: I do.

DARLENE: And you feel that that keeps your, your energy and your dopamine and your, your wellbeing up.

NANCY: Yup. It does.

DARLENE: That’s pretty simple, isn’t it

NANCY: Mainly I notice the energy, you know, but then behind the scenes is all this brain chemistry going on, making me feel better, you know, and then if I don't get that kind of nutrition support, then I start to get tired or crabby or depressed, you know, depression can set in too. So, yeah, it's been really helpful to learn about this in the classes.

DARLENE: Oh wow. Okay.

KARA: Wow. I mean that, I think that might be a new thought for people that animal protein several times per day is working as building blocks to make more serotonin, more dopamine. So we have fewer cravings. We have more energy, more focus, and better moods. So it's time for our last break already.


KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today just might be the day you decide you need to do something about your health and nutrition. If you're experiencing cancer, heart disease, joint pain, depression or alcoholism, you will be surprised how much better you feel when you follow a real food plan like Nancy and Dar and I follow as well. Come in for a two-hour initial consultation and let the nutritionists and dietitians help you eat better to feel better. And we can meet you in person. We can talk to you on the phone or we can use Skype. In other words, if you live out of state, if you're in the United States and you're in Texas, Montana, if you're out East, even if you're in New Zealand, we have clients across the world. We can help you with your nutrition. Call (651) 699-3438 to set up an appointment or you can go to our website at


DARLENE: Well, welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Nancy, it was really a pleasure to have you share your story on our show today. Today's special guest, Nancy Lindgren not only has 39 years of sobriety, going on 40; she also has a very active healing practice. And I know Nancy, people are going to hear this podcast and they're going to say, “I want more information.” So if they have questions for you, can they call you or how did they get ahold of you?

NANCY: Oh, sure. Yeah, you can go to my website,, or call me: 612-868-2160 is my phone number to see if it would feel like a fit to work with me. I'm a counselor. I do energy psychology with people; and do energy healing with people to help them release, oh, what's keeping them stuck so that they can move forward. So it might be physical or emotional pain that they're stuck with and it really helps people free that up and they can move forward and do the things in their life that they want to.

So, and I love my work.

DARLENE: I know that you do.

NANCY: I love to work with people and help them that way. I really think that it's important to have a good quality of life and maintaining a good quality sobriety is a part of that for me. And I think when people are new in their sobriety, they're looking for so many ways to try to, to stay sober, get sober. And I think the AA program is wonderful for that. And also, you know, the, all the behind the scenes stuff, the emotional and the physical part of life. And I think that really we got to eat, you know, to keep ourselves feeling better. We may as well eat good quality food and take good supplements and…

DARLENE: Yeah, that’s a good point.

NANCY: You know, we all know how we feel when we don't eat very well. Our bodies ache. We get sick more often. The anxiety and depression set in. And I think it's really important to pay attention to those kinds of things because then the, if the anxiety and the depression start setting in…

DARLENE: Then the cravings set in.

NANCY: The cravings set in and then all of a sudden you could lose hope.

DARLENE: And people relapse a lot, don't they?

NANCY: They do. And, I think I've been scared to drink in a really healthy way because I don't know how many, if I could ever get sober again.

DARLENE: Yeah. Well, you know, I think one of the things that we said earlier in the show is that people come into this, you know, addiction problem with some imbalances in their body and brain.

NANCY: Right.

DARLENE: And then they get worse.

NANCY: Right.

DARLENE: So if they go back to drinking, it's, they have a lot of imbalances and it's hard. It's really hard for people to not crave alcohol and to rely on that for what they think is stress reducing.

NANCY: Right; right. They think it's going to take the edge off. They think it's going to relax them. They think it's going to help, and it might in that moment. But you know, you're just going to wake up to a much bigger problem, you know, after you're off to the races again, because people who are alcoholic actually have a biochemical imbalance and they can't stop. And they have to keep this certain amount of alcohol in their system to maintain this feeling that they're after. And I think that if you can just get yourself balanced with doing all the physical, emotional, mental things that we need to to keep our lives in balance, we're going to feel better and stay on track better.

DARLENE: So if we look at some of that chemistry, you know, we were talking in terms of we need our neurotransmitters to work and we know that we have a couple of hundred neurotransmitters and they're all made from protein, aren’t they? And you know, I think a lot of times, you know, if we’re looking at the chemistry, we know that when people are low on dopamine, they crave, I mean, they just crave food. They crave alcohol. They crave excitement. They don't have any excitement going on in their brain because they don't, they're low on dopamine.

NANCY: Right; right.

DARLENE: So I think what you've said is it's really important to start your day with some of that protein. You know, a couple of eggs or some pork sausage or a steak or something like that.

NANCY: Yeah.

DARLENE: And Kara, maybe would you just talk a little bit about the other main neurotransmitter, serotonin?

KARA: Yes. Yeah. The other key neurotransmitter affected by alcohol in our food choices is serotonin and signs of low serotonin are anxiety or depression, impulsive behavior, feeling irritable, low self-esteem, which is really interesting. Just kind of, just a poor sense of yourself, you know, just being kind of self-conscious; and insomnia and sleep issues. The production of serotonin needs an amino acid called tryptophan. So again, where do we get tryptophan? We get that from animal protein and we're also, we need vitamin D, we need iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and B6. I mean, these are all really important nutrients.

DARLENE: And you know, Nancy, that, you know, you mentioned about the people stopping at the coffee house; the teenagers?

NANCY: Yeah.

DARLENE: Not going to find… There's no protein probably in any of this, or if there is a little bit of milk, there's a ton of sugar, isn't there?

NANCY: Oh, a ton. I don't even know how many teaspoons of sugar in one of those, but it's got to be like 25, 30.


KARA: It has to be at least.

NANCY: And now they're starting to carry a little bit of, you know, like they'll have a little food there, but that's not what people are grabbing. You know, they're not getting the apples and cheese or whatever they have in those little food packs at, at the coffee shops that they're starting to put in there.

KARA: There are more bagels, muffins, cookies, cakes, sandwiches, coffee drinks. Much more of that than the, like the cheese and meat and fruit tray.

NANCY: Right, right.

DARLENE: So, Nancy, you are eating really well most of the time? Not 100%.

NANCY: Nope.

DARLENE: But now, so are you taking any vitamins? I mean, you know, we know that like vitamin D is really important to maintain a healthy brain, so you have less depression.

NANCY: I am very strict about my vitamin D3 that I take; 5,000 units a day. Magnesium; I take calcium, vitamin C and your wonderful multivitamin to help me feel better; more balanced; and fish oil. You know, the cod liver oil. I love it. When I take that my body feels really good.

DARLENE: Yeah, isn’t that amazing? Because you can actually feel a difference.

NANCY: I can. Yeah.


NANCY: It's subtle but it's really powerful how it can kind of sneak up in a good way or a bad way, you know? Yeah.

DARLENE: You know, nutrition or food for recovery and sobriety is really very, very complex. You know, it's much more scientific than even Bill Wilson, the founder of AA ever knew. However, he was aware that we all need vitamin B6 for that serotonin production that Kara was talking about. You know, to change your food choices from grabbing whatever's available, you know, while on a run to a well thought out food plan, which will restore nutrients to your brain. It can often take weeks and months of individual nutrition therapy. It takes time, doesn't it? I mean, I think that's one of the things that they recommend going to an AA meeting every week at least once a week. Some people go every day and it takes time to recover your body and to recover your brain. You know, Bill Wilson realized the importance of nutrition as a key to recovery over 50 years ago. And today more and more people are seeking recovery and sobriety. And to be successful in recovery and sobriety, nutrition or wise food choices are one of the most important factors to include. It’s, I just said it's one, one of the most… there's so many more things. I mean we know that physical activity is important. We know going to your meetings is important. I mean there's…

KARA: Sleep.

DARLENE: Sleep is important. Your spiritual life is important.

NANCY: Very much so.

DARLENE: It's just one more tool in the toolbox of eating healthy because it's not going to be the whole answer for sure.

NANCY: Right; yeah.

DARLENE: So you know, at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, we always consider food first for any health condition, including recovery and sobriety from alcoholism. If you are one of the many people seeking recovering sobriety, you know, call our office today at 651-699-3438 and set up appointment for an individual nutrition consultation because we try to put together all the things that's going to help you feel more relaxed and less stressed so that you can actually have a quality of life.

KARA: And be less likely to be, you know, one of the up to 90% of people who relapse.


KARA: So it's about, it's about staying with that sobriety in your quality recovery and having a high quality of life and not just getting by day by day. You're not drinking but you feel like you're surviving, and Nancy is thriving.

NANCY: Not white-knuckling it.

KARA: Yeah. Nancy’s thriving. She's not white-knuckling, but it's taken some knowledge and education and…

DARLENE: Hard work.

KARA: Work on her part for sure. So I want to thank you, Dar, for a wonderful show and thank you, Nancy, for being such a great guest and sharing your story.

DARLENE: Yes, Nancy, thank you.

NANCY: Thanks for having me. This has been great.

DARLENE: And Kara, it’s been great fun working with you today.

KARA: Yeah. It's fun to be back with you in the studio. Our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you all for listening and have a wonderful day.

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