On Monday, April 15th I, like most of the rest of you, paid my taxes.  It really hurt.  My comfort came from the Good Book – “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”.  

Admittedly, though, before that crossed my mind, I read a study on alcohol consumption.  Well, it was Monday and I was taught that if you actually drink on Monday, you need to go to classes, so I read about it.  A study done in Neuropsychopharmacology, using a PET scan (a scan that ‘labels’ certain chemicals to see their activity), showed that the taste of beer, without any effect from alcohol, can trigger the release of dopamine, the pleasure hormone. In short, the taste of beer triggers a sought after, feel good feeling. 

In the world of diet and weight loss, dopamine is a key hormone. It is the one everyone is trying to control, as it is believed to play a critical role in cravings. We all seek its release and our use of food to stimulate its release is not a surprise to anyone. It is this hormone that makes food such a great drug.  Think about it – we use food to feel better when we are sad, we use food to celebrate and feel even better when we are happy – there is no emotion or feeling that food cannot be used in conjunction with.  If you have a weight loss or health goal, this can present a problem. 

So what might be an alternative to food for a much needed (legal) dopamine hit? Exercise increases dopamine.  Sex induces dopamine release, both in the anticipation and the reward. B vitamins appear to increase dopamine.  Smiling, laughing, and social interaction all increase dopamine. Going for a hike in beautiful southeast Idaho, thereby stimulating the senses of smell, touch, sight, and hearing, can increase dopamine.  Sleep uses very little dopamine, building up the warehouse for the next day. 

Next time you have to get a ‘fix’, try one of these activities and rest in the fact that taxes are a year away…

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