I first came across Julia Ross when I interviewed her about her book The Mood Cure, I loved her no nonsense approach to the importance of nutrition to balance brain chemistry, and when I challenged some of her dietary recommendations for those in the early weeks of recovery from alcohol addiction, her fabulous answer was:  ‘This is not optional, it’s a medicinal diet’

In The Sober Club there are often posts from people trying to ditch the booze, or perhaps they have, and now the sugar monster have crept in.  They tell me: ‘I really WANT to do this, but the cravings are so strong!’

Cravings are something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives. Whether it’s an insatiable desire for sweets, the allure of that glass of wine, or the never-ending urge for a bag of chips, cravings can feel like an uncontrollable force.  In her book, The Craving Cure, Identify Your Craving Type to Activate Your Natural Appetite Control Julia Ross unveils the fascinating world of cravings and provides an insightful guide on how to conquer them by understanding and balancing our brain chemistry.

The Different Craving Types

I love the way Julia introduces us to the concept of distinct craving types, each associated with a specific neurotransmitter deficiency. These are:

Dopamine (Low Energy) Cravings: These are the cravings for comfort foods like sugar, caffeine, and starches. Ross describes these as “numbing” cravings, a way our brain seeks to boost low energy and motivation levels.

Endorphin (Pain Relief) Cravings: These cravings are driven by the need for pain relief, often leading to indulgence in sugary or fatty foods. We reach for these comfort foods to alleviate emotional and physical pain.

GABA (Stress and Anxiety) Cravings: When stress and anxiety are high, we often crave alcohol, tranquilizers, or marijuana. These cravings are a misguided attempt to boost GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.

Serotonin (Low Mood) Cravings: Cravings are triggered by a desire for mood elevation. This leads to the consumption of sugary, starchy, or alcoholic substances.

Food is medicine for your brain. Choose wisely.” Julia Ross

The Four Main Neurotransmitters and Their Importance

We know that when we make any behaviour change, especially ditching alcohol or reducing sugar, our brain chemistry can be very out of balance.  In this book Julia emphasizes the crucial role of neurotransmitters – those tiny chemical messengers in our brains – in managing our cravings. The four main neurotransmitters discussed are:

Dopamine: Known as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, dopamine is vital for motivation, reward, and pleasure. When it’s imbalanced, we seek instant gratification through unhealthy foods or by going back to alcohol, doing what we’ve always done!

Endorphins: These are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. An endorphin imbalance can lead to a desire for comfort foods to alleviate pain or sadness.  We reach for the booze to ‘drown our sorrows’

GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid): This is essential for relaxation and stress reduction. When GABA is deficient, we crave substances like alcohol that offer temporary relief from anxiety.

Serotonin: This neurotransmitter is responsible for mood regulation and feelings of well-being. A serotonin imbalance may result in cravings for sugary or starchy foods to boost our mood.

Balancing Brain Chemistry Through Nutrition

The exciting aspect of “Craving” is how it emphasizes that you can reclaim control over your cravings and overall well-being by providing your brain with the nutrients it needs. Julia presents a comprehensive guide to nurturing and balancing your neurotransmitters through the right foods and supplements.

Essentials for Everyone, Especially Those Addicted to Sugar or Alcohol

To conquer your cravings and find balance in your brain chemistry, Julia recommends the following essentials:

Protein: Ensure an adequate intake of high-quality protein to support the production of dopamine and other neurotransmitters.  With my 1-1 coaching clients I always suggest 3 meals a day, and protein with every meal.   Regular meals are important, Consistent eating habits can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.

Amino Acids: Targeted amino acid supplements can be used to address specific deficiencies and boost neurotransmitter levels.  Many people find they need Tryptophan which helps with sleep.

Complex Carbohydrates: Healthy carbs (Wholegrains, vegetables and fruits)  can help stabilize blood sugar levels and promote serotonin production. This is not to be confused with pasta, biscuits, pastries et al!

Julia gives a detailed guide to using supplements like 5-HTP, GABA, and L-glutamine to restore balance too.  I’d recommend Magnesium for everyone, B vits, Vit C and Zinc also.

This book is a treasure trove of knowledge that sheds light on the complex world of cravings and neurotransmitters. By understanding the root causes of our cravings and how they are linked to neurotransmitter imbalances, we can take charge of our health and well-being. Remember, you have the power to balance your brain chemistry and conquer your cravings.

The Craving Cure, Identify Your Craving Type to Activate Your Natural Appetite Control by Julia Ross


If it feels impossible to get started on the right foods, here is a simple recipe:


Protein-Packed Quinoa Bowl


1 cup cooked quinoa

Grilled chicken or tofu cubes

Sautéed mixed vegetables (bell peppers, broccoli, carrots)

Chopped fresh spinach or kale

Avocado slices

Olive oil and lemon juice dressing

A sprinkle of flaxseeds or walnuts for added omega-3s


Cook the quinoa according to package instructions.

Grill chicken or tofu and set aside.

Sauté a variety of colourful vegetables until tender.

Assemble your bowl with cooked quinoa as the base.

Top with the grilled protein and sautéed vegetables.

Add fresh spinach or kale and small slices of fruits such as kiwi, fresh fig, or even banana for extra nutrients.

Drizzle with a dressing made from olive oil and lemon juice.

Sprinkle flaxseeds or walnuts on top for added brain-healthy omega-3s.

This bowl provides a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce cravings.

Janey Lee Grace offers 1-1 coaching including nutritional support and runs the community The Sober Club www.thesoberclub.com