Is Food Your Drug?
An addictive relationship with food requires three factors:
- The emotional need for the “drug” (food).
- The biochemical relationship with food that helps you use it as a drug.
- The drug-like foods themselves and their prevalence in your life.
When food is used as padding from our pain, our challenges, or a life we cannot fully embrace, it becomes a drug. And make no mistake: food—like drugs—can have strong chemical effects. It can produce a serotonin rush and even cause the body to release natural opiates by triggering chemical reactions in the brain.
Virtually all eating disorder programs will seek to help you identify the triggers behind what is viewed largely as “emotional eating.” Exploring the emotional issues that make you use food as a drug is important. I did not choose therapy, but instead spent a lot of time reading self-help books and journaling. Two books that I recommend are Bradshaw on the Family by John Bradshaw and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
Critical Mood Nutrients
I would have sworn that emotions were behind my eating disorder. Only years later would I fully understand the staggering (and deceptive) power of the biochemical influences that masquerade as emotions. The factors below are just a sampling of those that contribute to eating disorders as well as other addictions and emotional balance in general.
- Imbalances in the “feel-good” brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, have been directly linked to depression, anxiety, insomnia, carb cravings, and even compulsions, such as bulimia and gambling. Supplementing with the amino acid L-tryptophan or its derivative, 5-HTP, as well as L-tyrosine has been shown in numerous studies to increase serotonin and dopamine, respectively, without side effects.
- Blood sugar—stabilizing nutrients can stabilize blood sugar changes that create cravings and mood swings (not to mention weight problems). Nutrients such as chromium, gymnema, cinnamon, and alpha-lipoic acid, among others, help the body use insulin and metabolize sugar more efficiently. Zinc, another blood sugar-stabilizing mineral, can actually resensitize the taste buds, reducing the need for sugar and salt in order to taste real food. Abstaining from sugar itself reduces cravings of all kinds dramatically.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oil, have been proven to significantly reduce common mood disorders connected with eating disorders, including depression, anxiety, and even anger and aggression.
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has shown promising effects in reducing compulsive-obsessive behaviors and raising serotonin and dopamine, in preliminary research.
- B vitamin deficiencies have been linked with both depression and many addictions. NAD, a form of niacin, caused a stop to almost all withdrawal symptoms in alcoholics within four days, according to a study in the Journal of Surgical Obstetrics and Gynecology. Low folic acid levels have been shown in people with depression.
- Other nutrients, such as L-theanine, Relora (a specific herbal blend), GABA, and holy basil (an herbal remedy), have well-substantiated anti-anxiety effects.
CraniYums Diet Support, the company’s flagship product, offers “feel-good” brain chemical support lozenges, which include 5-HTP and L-tyrosine.
Himalaya USA GlucoCare is a clinically proven Ayurvedic herbal formula shown to stabilize blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Key ingredients include the herbs gymnema and guggul.
Nature’s Sunshine Nature’s Cortisol Formula is a combination for weight loss, antiaging, and stress reduction with Relora, holy basil and L-theanine.