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Food Addiction

Just like any addiction, food addiction can be traced back to an imbalance within the body’s chemistry.  There can be many causes for food addictions and severe cravings.  These include brain chemistry disturbances, nutritional deficiencies and even genetics.

Brain Chemistry

It is generally understood that the brain’s neurochemistry (balance of neurotransmitters), can increase susceptibility.  The latest research points to dopamine and serotonin as two primary brain chemicals associated with addiction. Dopamine is essential for gaining and maintaining the sensations of bliss, pleasure, sense of contentment and even sexual desire.  When one is stressed, dopamine levels generally drop as adrenaline is made to deal with the stress of life.  Thus, it makes sense that a person that is stressed will “self-medicate” with food, tobacco, alcohol or other substances to try to stimulate the production of more dopamine.  If a person is stressed, they should consider using the amino acid l-theanine derived from green tea to minimize excess stress response and inefficient loss of dopamine (content brain chemistry).  Some patients also use the herb known as Mucuna, which contains natural building blocks for dopamine.

Serotonin, another neurotransmitter (brain chemical), is involved in maintaining happiness.80% of the entire body’s serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract.  This is one of the reasons that when a person is stressed they may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is associated with either diarrhea or constipation.   The fact that so much serotonin found within the stomach is likely the reason why there is the global saying of: “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”  In short, a happy tummy makes a happier person.  The use of 5 HTP, a form of tryptophan (an amino acid) is a natural way to support serotonin levels, along with trying to minimize stress and maintaining a prayer or meditation practice.

 

Other Causes of Food Addictions


PICA—The eating of dirt

A simple definition of pica can be characterized by the desire to eat “non-nutritional” items. This can occur for many reasons, yet in a clinical practice, many patients that have low iron levels due to blood loss anemia or pregnancy consume ice.  A  good multivitamin and some iron is recommended to help these patients stop consuming ”non-nutritional” items.

Glutamate and MSG:

The human tongue has taste buds that can perceive the following tastes: sour, bitter, salty, sweet and GLUTAMATE.  The last item, glutamate, which is found in MSG (monosodium glutamate) is used as a flavor enhancer around the world.  The problem is, even if something really doesn’t taste very good, MSG can help make it tastier.  Unfortunately, glutamate actually has been shown to kill brain cells, is considered addictive and can lead to attention deficit symptoms.   Dr. Russell Blaylock, a very famous neurologist, warns people about glutamate.

Salty foods:

In clinical practice, salty food cravings are generally due to two major causes: either one has less than optimal levels of sodium or potassium in the blood, which occurs when one has been sweating or is sick with a fever, vomiting or diarrhea.  However, there is another common cause seen in clinical practice called adrenal fatigue.  After long periods of stress, months, years or at times a lifetime, the adrenal glands can’t optimally control electrolytes (sodium/potassium), and this can lead to cravings.  De-stressing can help, yet in the short term working with one’s healthcare provider to keep blood levels of these vital electrolytes balanced is critical.

Dehydration can contributeto food cravings:

You might just think you are hungry when you are really just thirsty. 38 percent of the population confuses the desire to eat with the NEED TO DRINK WATER.  It is called a low thirst drive.  So before you think about eating make sure your tank is topped off with plenty of water.  It is reported that by the time we feel thirsty we are a quart short (a liter deficient) in H20.

Low blood sugar

If you have allowed yourself to get really hungry because of skipping a meal, or not eating regularly you will crave food.  It is a primal survival mechanism.  Think of it this way, if a wild animal has gone without food for a long period of time, the next time they get a chance to eat, they will over-eat.  The same thing happens at the subconscious level for human beings too; though your mind may know you skipped a meal on purpose, your body is just saying one thing:  “Feed me now! Who knows when I will get fed again, so I am going to eat a lot.”

Bottomline:

If you or a loved one finds their relationship with food in a state of imbalance, first and foremost, make sure that brain chemistry is balanced.  If there is depression, stress or anxiety it is essential to treat this trigger for the food cravings. At the same time, look at the other common causes for food addiction and cravings.  Your body may be trying to solve an imbalance by eating itself out of the hole, yet it may not be more food that is needed, it may be more regular meals, more protein, or another vitamin or mineral that is lacking in the diet.  It is also possible that your mouth may not be craving food, rather it may want to have its thirst quenched with some pure H20.

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