Susan McCauley on Addiction and The Stress Connection – Podcast #46

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The effects of stress can cause major damage to your psychological and physical make-up.  When people are unable to deal with these stressors, they may resort to using alcohol, drugs or any other form of addiction to manage their stress levels.  While these can provide temporary relief, it is ultimately self-destructive. 

Find out how eating “real” food, stabilizing sugar levels, sleep as well as how amino acids and other co-factors help nourish your brain and diminish cravings to aid in recovery from stress and addiction.  Listen to how Susan used a solid foundation of diet and lifestyle to take her recovery to the next level.

In this episode, we cover:

13:14   Kombucha health benefits

20:52   Addiction Classification

23:14   How Susan overcame stress and addictions through nutrition and lifestyle change

33:03   Importance of blood sugar stability to curb addiction

36:46   Supplementations to modulate dopamine and serotonin








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Justin Marchegiani: Hey there, this is Dr. Justin Marchegiani and welcome to another awesome episode of Beyond Wellness Radio.  We now have full podcast transcriptions over at  Head over to, click on the podcast button and you will be able to access all shows forward and past.  And while you are there, feel free to sign up for the Thyroid and Hormone Video Series.  Some great information there for everyone and while you are there you can also sign up for the podcast newsletter where you will get access to these podcasts right in your inbox before anyone else.  While you are there, you can also schedule a consult with myself if you want to dive into any other functional medicine or health issues.  You can also access my partner in crime here, Baris Harvey at  Baris is also available for nutritional consult as well.  Again, stay tuned for the show.  And if you are enjoying it, please feel free and share.   Sharing is caring.  Think of one person that could benefit from the show and share it.

And also, feel free and head over to and send us a review.  We really appreciate it.  Thanks and enjoy the show.

Justin Marchegiani: Hey there, its Dr. Justin Marchegiani here from Beyond Wellness Radio.  And today we have a super awesome guest, Susan McCauley.  And Susan has two websites.  She has as well as her podcast at  So make sure everyone checks at her site and signs up for her awesome podcasts.  Well, Susan we are super happy to have you here today.

Susan McCauley:  Thanks for having me, Justin.  How are you doing?

Justin Marchegiani:  I am doing great.  It’s a beautiful day in Austin, Texas.  I’ll, maybe, hop on the boat later on tonight if I have enough time.  But, I am really excited to chat with you because this topic that we are going to address today is near and dear to my heart.

Susan McCauley:  Yes.  I think so too.  You know the things that we do at Evolve Recovery, talking and getting to know people and understand what addictions do and carrying the real food word out there beyond our little kind of paleo circle that we get into. We forget that there are so many millions of people out there that do not know what real food is.

Justin Marchegiani:  Exactly.  And before we kind of get in, I want people to know your story because I think you really have a good one to share.  What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Susan McCauley: Oh, what I had for breakfast this morning is two chicken sausages from Trader Joe’s, the chicken garlic ones which do not have any nightshades because I do have an autoimmune disease.  And I had a couple of bites of sauerkrauts and some leftover grilled asparagus grown locally because the asparagus is grown about 20 minutes from my house here in California and grilled by my husband out on a barbeque last night.

 Justin Marchegiani:  Oh, wow!  That’s the stuff.  Absolutely awesome.  So sweet.

Susan McCauley: Yes.  That is kind of like one of my normal.  I do not eat eggs every day because of the autoimmune and I have something called ulcerative proctitis which is the distant cousin to ulcerative colitis.  I am far enough along in my journey that I know what I can and I cannot eat.

Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Susan McCauley:  I cannot eat certain things everyday like eggs.  I relegate those to the weekends with my bacon.  So a lot of sausages, you know.  The sausages from Trader Joe’s and I have those recipes on my website for some zesty pork sausages that my husband says tastes like the sausage inside the Sausage McMuffin with egg from McDonald’s.  So, if that is the kind of thing you like, then head over to my website and grab the recipe.

Justin Marchegiani:  That is sweet.  Awesome.  Well, can you share with all the listeners your story?

Susan McCauley:  Sure.  So, my story actually kind of dates back about 16 years when I first got clean and sober from the drugs and alcohol.  I am starting to write more and more about it.  You can find some information on my website.  My bottom happened 16 years ago.   I got clean and sober.  But, you know, I never had a problem with my weight.  I had a period of a couple of years one time when I gained a whole bunch of weight.  But you know, took it right off.  So health really never was on my radar.  Even though my mom had died of lung cancer that metastasized to brain cancer when I was 9, and she smoked cigarettes.  But I smoked cigarettes because that is kind of what you do when you are in recovery.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  You smoke cigarettes and you drink a lot of coffee.  You stay up late and you eat fast-food and that is kind of what I did for about 7 to 8 years until I decided probably smoking cigarettes was not going to keep me alive for very long.  I was not prettier or sexy or did not smell good, you know all these things.  So I quit smoking.  And then that is how everything kind of changed.  I started developing an appetite and I did not know what to eat.         I though low fat was the way to go weight wise.  So I did everything.  I started Yo-yo dieting and that was kind of my downfall.  I had another kind of bottom a few years later when I developed kind of a binge eating.  Not kind of a binge eating thing going on where I felt very out of control with my eating in respect to like processed carbs, like doughnuts and potato chips. And it was because I was so nutrient depleted because all I was eating basically was boneless skinless chicken breast because I thought carbs were bad and I thought fat was bad.

Justin Marchegiani:  Oh my gosh!

Susan McCauley:  Yes.  So you can imagine I was just so depleted and I developed some digestive issues and Kaiser could not tell me what was wrong with me.  Then my husband, I was just like at my wits end, I was just crying a lot and you know guys.  You know how it is.  You want to fix.  You want to fix.  And so he found something called Whole30 and he said, “Hey, baby why don’t you read this and take a look at it.”  And I read it and it spoke to me and I said, “I think I want to do this.”  And he said, “I will do it with you.”  But he drank at that time at least a 12-pack of diet Coke every day.

Justin Marchegiani:  Wow!

Susan McCauley:  I know.  Like we would buy five 12-packs of diet Coke a week. But then he works too.  So whenever he was out of the house that is how much he drinks at home.  And you cannot drink diet Coke.  He does not have a problem with drugs or alcohol.  He is like a completely normal kind of guy.  And he said like, “We could do anything for 30 days.”  And we just never looked back.  We started like the next Sunday and my binge eating thing, you know, I still have my moments don’t get me wrong but that was relieved.  My digestive symptoms kind of went away.  And I didn’t even put two and two together until about 4 years later.  But what I really noticed was my brain seemed to work better.  Nothing seems to be as hard.  When you are in recovery, when things do not go exactly how you want, which I think happens to people that are not even in recovery.

Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Susan McCauley:  You know it’s very stressful and we do not have, I guess, a good way to relieve that stress like other people might, like by having that glass of wine at nights.  (Laughs).  But everything seems so much easier.  And it was just like, finally I realized, so I quit my job.  I had made upwards of six figures, I was an executive at a food manufacturer and I was miserable and I quit my job and went back to school to become a holistic nutritionist.  And that is what I learned in school why everything was working was because my brain actually had the nutrients it needed to make the things that needed to make me feel good.

Justin Marchegiani:  Hmmm.  Okay.

Susan McCauley:  You know, it is like oh my brain had fat.

Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Susan McCauley:  And my brain had animal protein.  And my brain had all the micronutrients that come from fruits and vegetables so I can make my serotonin and my dopamine and all the things that I needed to keep my brain functioning properly.

Justin Marchegiani:  Got it.  And then you said you were like kind of an insider food executive.  So can you give us a perspective of what it was like on the inside and now that you are like an outsider and it will probably be hard for you to go back to that job knowing what you know.  Can you give us an insider’s perspective?

Susan McCauley:  What is funny, the company that I worked for makes soup for a lot of other cattle-based like stink liquid products for companies like Whole Foods.  So, I was a Whole Foods insider from way before I even knew anything about what real food was.  So, I know why they use canola oil.  They use canola oil because it is cheaper than olive oil.

Dr. Justin Marchegiani:  Exactly.

Susan McCauley:  When it comes down to food, everybody needs to understand that it comes down to cents per ounce.  Because I was a CFO, so you talk about profitability and you talk about cents per ounce.  And the other huge thing where it comes down to is the food manufacturers, it is not their job to get you healthy.  They are beholden to their stockholders.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  I am not saying there is anything wrong with capitalism or free market society.  But we just need to be aware of that.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:   Their job is to be profitable.   And that all we need to do is to be aware of that so then we kind of can put on our thinking cap and say, “Hmm, does that make sense or does that not make sense?”  So the things that the food manufacturers like to do.  One of the things, we had one customer, and I am not going to name the customer, based MSG in their products.

Justin Marchegiani:  Wow!

Susan McCauley:  Yes and it was in their Mami-type product and they did not want to put MSG on the label anymore.

Justin Marchegiani:  Wow!

Susan McCauley:   And so we had to have our person, you know, devoted to labels that, you know, broke it out into autolyzed yeast extract and one other thing.  You know, so that MSG was not on the label anymore.  The other thing is they like to break up, use more than one form of sugar so sugar does not have to be first on the label.

Justin Marchegiani:  Exactly.

Susan McCauley:  Or roll up a whole bunch of different products into like a parenthesis so then the healthy things looks like it comes first.

Justin Marchegiani:  Hmmm, I see.

Susan McCauley:  Yes. So I have a whole label reading series on my website.  But the main thing is it really does come down to dollars and cents and looking for the cheaper product.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  When you see things like and, or like sometimes you will look at a product and it will say the different fats because I always look for fats.  It will say Sunflower oil or Safflower oil or Canola oil.  So what that means is, the purchasing person is looking for whatever is cheapest at the moment so they do not have to switch the label up every time.

Justin Marchegiani:  Got it.  I know for like the longest time I just could not get any mayo without Canola or Soya and it drove me nuts.  And I finally, I saw at Paleo f(x), they had Mark’s Primal Mayo.

Susan McCauley:  Oh, yes.  I have not tried that yet.

Justin Marchegiani:  I got it.  It’s really good because it’s got the avocado oil in there which is nice because I always do my tuna fish with a cut of avocado and salsa.  And it is just a really nice mix.

Susan McCauley:  Oh yes.   We make our own here.  In fact, they have even trained my husband how to make my recipe.  So I do not have to even make it anymore.  (Laughs)

Justin Marchegiani:  Oh, nice.  How do you do it?  Do you do avocado oil or olive oil?

Susan McCauley:  I use light tasting olive oil so it is not the highest quality olive oil, it’s just less expensive.  I have a video actually on my website with the recipe and it’s just two pastured egg yolks, a little bit of dried mustard, olive oil, white pepper which I have been really a big fan of white pepper in recipes, white wine vinegar.  I do not use lemon juice.  I do not like the lemon juice mix mayo taste.

Justin Marchegiani:  Hmmm.

Susan McCauley:  And salt of course.  Very simple recipe.

Justin Marchegiani:  Awesome.  That is on your website?

Susan McCauley:  Yes and a video.  How to video.  I used the Immersion blender and it is just so much easier.  You do not have to drizzle the olive oil in.  You just put it all together and put the Immersion blender in and it’s like magic.  I think that is why my husband likes to do it because he feels very accomplished. (Laughs)

Justin Marchegiani:  Nice.

Susan McCauley:  Magic, I made mayo!

Justin Marchegiani:  That is sweet. Yes, if you can send me that after the show, I will put it up for the show notes so everyone can get access to that.

Susan McCauley:  Sure!

Justin Marchegiani:  That is great.  I love a good mayo.  Awesome.

Susan McCauley:  Mine tastes, it’s very Best Foods like or Hellman’s if you are on the East Coast. (Laughs).

Justin Marchegiani:   Got it.  And I think you mentioned a couple of things that are really important about people have to know that the food companies are trying to produce a product to make money and that nothing wrong with that.  But they just do not have your health at first priority.   So it is really important that people get educated and may know how to read some of the back of those labels.  I know at the pre-interview before the show, we chatted about a couple of different topics and one being kombucha because it’s like the newest, or I should not say the newest but for the last 5 to 10 years or so it has been a really big health kick especially the last few.  But you know, I have noticed a couple of things and you noticed a couple of things about kombucha, that it is turning in to the new soda, so to speak.   Can you touch upon that?

Susan McCauley:   Yes.  I was actually in Austin, at Paleo f(x) this year and they have a big, the Austin Whole Foods. It’s just like the mother ship for us real food people.  It’s like huge, it’s beautiful.  They have everything and they have a whole cooler full of local kombucha.  And I was so excited because I always looked to buy local ferments like kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, Kvass.  All the different things because it’s just local, tasting new and different things are really neat for me.  And so I was like, “Oh, local kombucha!”  So I started reading and I am a label reader like I said.  I always read labels and sometimes I even get stumped. So I am looking at these labels and it’s like I am looking at the servings because that is what I always instruct my clients to look at first.  The number of servings per container is super important because if there is like, 8 servings per container, then you got to do the multiplication.  And it’s like 2 servings per container, 12 grams of sugar.  My, that is 24 grams of sugar for a bottle.

Justin Marchegiani:  Wow!

Susan McCauley:   And then I just kept thinking then I googled like how much is in a soda.  So what did I figure out?  I am writing a blog post about it right now.  There is 39 grams of sugar and an equivalent amount of where there might be 24 grams of sugar in a kombucha.  And I was like, “Oh, that is a little scary.”  And if you are drinking one or two a day, how much sugar are you getting in everyday?  And is it really contributing to your health?  Or maybe we should like, rethink this and look for the lower sugar ones.  And what I do also is I have a SodaStream, one of those mix your own fizzy water.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  And so I fill up half a glass of kombucha and then put fizzy water in it because then it’s cheaper too because kombucha is really expensive.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes. Exactly.  And I do the same thing when I make an alcoholic libation or drink.  I do the Tito’s Vodka like a really clean filtered Vodkas.  You are not getting any gluten or junk.  And I just use the Gingerade kombucha from GT Dave because it’s got the 2 grams per serving versus like the 25 of the Buddha’s Brew or whatever else and mix that with a half of the lemon squeeze and a little bit of carbonated lemon like LaCroix and it’s just like a great drink and it is actually a clean drink that almost detoxifies you as you get a little buzz.

Susan McCauley:  Yes.  Now, that makes me what to start drinking again.  Just kidding. (Laughs)

 Justin Marchegiani:  (Laughs) Oh, yes, yes.  So if that is something you can do, at least you can do it in a gentle way.  But if you cannot do it, obviously we got to know what we can handle.  So, yes, I just kind of add that as our little disclaimer.

Susan McCauley:  Yes.  If you are having 5 or 6 of those every night, probably not a good idea.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.  Ideally moderation makes it part of your 10% or 5%…

Susan McCauley:  Exactly.

Justin Marchegiani:  And maybe even 0% depending on what you can handle.

Susan McCauley:  Yes. There are those that say that because I do not drink, a lot of times people make the mistake to think that I think everybody should not drink.  And there are studies that moderate alcohol consumption can actually be healthy.  If you can, go ahead I have no judgment.

Justin Marchegiani:  And on that note, can you just talk a little bit like so we had this whole idea of addiction which, is you know, some people maybe addicted to exercise, addicted to a lot of different things.  So how would you, like where does the like cross where it’s a healthy addiction and now it’s an unhealthy addiction?  How do you define that when you are working your patients?

Susan McCauley:  You know, I do not think that there really is any healthy addiction.  You can draw the line between what I call process addictions and then substance addictions.  So process addictions are like exercise, gambling, shopping.

Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Susan McCauley:  And then there are the actual chemical addictions like drugs and alcohol, prescription pain medications.  We are not just talking about illegal drugs because prescription drug addiction is a huge thing as well.  And it is really a hard thing to come back because most people think because it is legal and their doctors prescribed it then it is okay.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  And so when you talk about exercise addiction, you know I have had clients that do exercise too much and it is kind of hard to back them off and that is where kind of the adrenal stress index test help.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  To show them where they are in that line.  But with my luck, every time I run a test on a client when I am trying to show them something to get them to make a change, it usually shows the opposite.  (Laughs)

Justin Marchegiani:  Right.  Right.

Susan McCauley:  Like it will say how they are adrenally fine.  I am like, “Ah!” I can’t try to get them to slow down.  And then, like the food addiction; and I think food addiction, to me, is a fascinating subject because there are actual 12-step programs devoted to helping people kick food addictions.   And I am not sure how well they work.  That is where I probably make a lot of people mad and become very controversial.  Because a lot of these 12-step, you know, I am, in general, in favor of 12-step programs because they do help. They are not for everybody but they do help a lot of people with their issues.  But when it comes to food, some of the crazy things that go on inside these 12-step programs, like I have heard things like, you cannot have any spices and you cannot eat more than one fruit at any time.  Like crazy rules that I think end up developing and can develop into eating disorders and anorexia bulimia.  I remember I had somebody call me one time from Vegas who was a recovering alcoholic.  She was also trying to I lose weight.  She said, “I broke my abstinence,” and that means in the eating programs, that basically you relapsed.  And I said, “What did you do?” and she is in Vegas.  Okay?

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes. All those buffets.

Susan McCauley:  You speak of the buffets.

Justin Marchegiani:  I know.

Susan McCauley:  She goes, “I went to Danny’s and I had scrambled eggs and I asked them like you told me, you know to make sure that they used butter and that they did not add any pancake batter, you know all the crazy things they could do.”

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  “And then I didn’t get the potatoes.  I got the fruit.  And there were cantaloupe, honey dew, watermelon and strawberries and I ate it.”  And I said okay.  I am trying to weigh it like, for the diving head first into the dessert buffet part of it.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.

Susan McCauley:  And she is like, “I had more than one fruit at one time.”  And I am like, “Oh my God, we need to stop this craziness.”  This is not any way to live long-term.  And I also think that food addiction feels really addicting when you are in the moment of it because your brain is not working right like we talked about earlier.  And if you are depriving yourself of fat and of animal protein and all of the crazy Yo-yo dieting things we do, sugar can feel addicting. But once you are nourished, maybe you can have that ice cream every once in a while.  And that is kind of my goal with my clients.  There is nothing that is off the table.  There is no yes food list or no food list.

Justin Marchegiani:  Yes.  And in my family there is a history of addiction and I think it is good to have a definition of addiction.  So like I kind of classify it from being addicted to a habit that produces results in your life that you do not like; that is maybe destructive.  Like, if I can have a glass of alcohol tonight and I can then function afterwards and then go to sleep and function the next day and, you know, be with my family that is great, right?  I enjoy that result.  But some people may have two, three, four or five knocked out, the next day forget their job, forget their kids and their responsibilities and that maybe a habit that produces a result you do not like.  How do you feel about that kind of classification?

Susan McCauley:  That is a good classification.  How I kind of classify it is kind of a two-part question.  If once you start with that substance or process or whatever it is, you cannot stop or if you really want to stop like you really want to not do it anymore but you cannot. Like if you really do not want to drink anymore but you cannot stop drinking but then if you cannot just have one drink, you know, you want ten drinks.

Justin Marchegiani:  Right.

Susan McCauley:  You know, it is kind of like that saying, “One is too many and a thousand is never enough.”  You know, you just cannot go down that

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