Addiction is a word we usually associate with illicit drugs, gambling, smoking, or alcohol. But some people believe that they are addicted to something perfectly legal and essential to our communication and survival: they are addicted to food.
These people aren’t just “greedy” or “like to eat,” they say they’re just as addicted as any gambler, alcoholic, or heavy smoker.
The need for food takes over their lives, isolating them from loved ones, causing job loss, alienation, and physical and mental harm.
While some become addicted to unhealthy foods such as cream cakes, chocolate, or pizza and gain a lot of weight as a result, this is not always the case.
Lauren Webb, 33, a Cornish healer, was always fit and healthy before she developed an “addiction” that initially included fruits and vegetables.
Lauren Webb (pictured), 33, a Cornish healer, says she sometimes stood by the refrigerator for hours.
“My addiction didn’t even start with ‘bad’ food,” she says.
“In my 20s, I worked in private equity at a stressful job and did yoga to relieve stress.
“After one session, I opened my eyes and just wanted to eat like never before. I went and bought a ton of food and didn’t stop eating all day.” At that point, her food addiction included raw vegetables, fruits, and vegan foods.
“I thought I was healthy because I didn’t eat junk or chocolate, but I still thought about food all the time,” she says.
Lauren says she sometimes stood by the fridge for hours and ate, passed out from overeating before waking up on the floor.
“This will happen regularly,” she says. (Post-meal syncope, or postprandial hypotension, occurs when food leaves the stomach too quickly and can lead to drowsiness and fainting. This usually occurs in diabetics and in people over 70 years of age, but can occur during bouts of overeating.)
Lauren adds: “I couldn’t eat just one apple, there should have been seven. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and when I’m going to eat next.”
Food addicts typically describe how hard it is to watch others leave food uneaten on their plates – one woman we spoke to said she would even eat other people’s leftovers.
Within a few weeks, Lauren switched from a raw food diet to vegan ice cream, which she ate throughout the day.
“Then I dated someone who ate processed food and got into that too, and gained about 40 pounds in a few months because I was still eating so much,” she says.
“It made me constantly think about food and then feel bad. It was an endless cycle.”
Many “food addicts” will become obsessed with recipes and meals, and even snacks can be scheduled several days in advance.
It wasn’t until Lauren went on a yoga retreat and met a recovering alcoholic that she realized what had gone wrong.
“This lady said she saw the same addictive traits in me—only in food,” she says.
“That’s when I realized that I wasn’t just overeating, I had a food addiction like any other addiction.”
Some people believe that they are addicted to something perfectly legal and essential to our communication and survival: they are addicted to food. (Image from the archive)
However, food addiction is a controversial diagnosis, and is not universally recognized – unlike, for example, alcohol addiction, it is not included in the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization.
Addiction is probably the wrong word, says Jane Ogden, professor of health psychology at the University of Surrey.
“The classic term ‘addiction’ means that you develop a tolerance for something and begin withdrawal when you no longer have it,” she explains.
“But it also suggests that there are some sort of brain and biological responses to the substance, and that’s the level at which addiction occurs.”
She says that while there is a “strong psychological component” to drug, alcohol or nicotine addiction, “with food, it’s much more psychological than biological.”
“It’s probably not what I would classically call an addiction, but people have definitely built an unhealthy relationship with food. Perhaps we should call it addiction.
But Dr Jen Unwin, a Southport-based clinical psychologist, says food addiction is just as real as alcohol or nicotine addiction. However, unlike alcohol or drugs, food is something we all need, so it’s harder to view it as an addiction, she argues.
Dr. Unwin says most affected people seem to crave sugar, cereals (including flour) and ultra-processed foods like pizza and doughnuts. “But everyone is different,” she says. “For example, I can’t limit my intake of nuts, so I have to avoid them.”
How our brains react to certain foods is key to understanding food addiction, Dr. Unwin says, because we’re programmed to survive.
From an evolutionary standpoint, the discovery of high-calorie foods like nuts and sugary foods meant a better chance of survival and caused a surge in dopamine, a brain chemical associated with pleasure and motivation.
Thus, we are motivated to find and eat them again. “In prehistoric times, it made sense to overeat foods like nuts because we needed to put on weight to survive,” she says.
“The trouble is, we only have to walk to the corner store and we’re still overwhelmed with triggers and reward smells like the smell of the bakery.”
After dopamine, explains Dr. Unwin, we get the release of serotonin from food – an increase in the hormone of happiness.
“After a big meal or a delicious cake, insulin levels plummet. [needed to mop up the sugar from your bloodstream] rises, and this makes tryptophan, an amino acid, more easily cross the blood-brain barrier, causing an increase in serotonin,” says Dr. Unwin.
But in addition to evolutionary factors, habits and comfort play a large role in food addiction. “For some people, food is an emotional comfort that can become an integral part of life,” says Dr. Unwin.
Professor Ogden confirms this by saying, “We include food in many different components of our lives – so when you have afternoon tea you have a cupcake, when you are sad you have a cake, when you want to celebrate you go. for dinner.
“Even when you watch TV, you eat chips. It enters your day in such a way that it becomes a habit, and then you attach emotions to it.” Meanwhile, Lauren has used a combination of yoga and mindfulness to help herself and is using what she’s been through to heal others.
“I started the day terrified, knowing that food would dominate my thoughts, but I learned to meditate and tell myself that I don’t need to eat so much,” she says. “Like with any other addiction, you have to be willing to change.”
Now she doesn’t think much about food and has lost some of her 40 pounds. But she says: “There is always anxiety – will it come back?”
Professor Ogden says: “If you think you are addicted to food, keeping a food diary can help. By writing down what you ate and where each day, you can identify triggers.
“Try to eliminate these emotional triggers by finding something else to replace them – go for a walk, talk to a friend, take up a fun hobby and get past that “peak” need.
“Then remind yourself that you’ve made it to the top and be really proud of yourself for it.”
Oral hygiene settings that can make a difference. This Week: Don’t Use Mouthwash After Brushing Your Teeth
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s best to avoid rinsing your mouth after brushing your teeth.
According to surveys, about two-thirds of us rinse our mouths with water after brushing our teeth.
However, this will wash away any remaining fluoride toothpaste, which strengthens tooth enamel.
It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s best to avoid rinsing your mouth after brushing your teeth. (Image from the archive)
Fluoride also reduces tooth acidity (produced when bacteria feed on the food you eat).
“Never rinse your teeth after brushing,” says Lance Knight, a dentist in central Manchester.
Similarly, he adds that it’s best not to use mouthwash immediately after brushing your teeth because it will also wash away the fluoride from your toothpaste. Instead, rinse after meals.
Domino Diseases: Health Conditions with Surprising Links
This week: arthritis and migraines
People who suffer from joint pain due to arthritis may also be at greater risk of migraines.
It may seem like arthritis and migraines have little in common, but a study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine last year and based on a survey of more than 2,500 people found that arthritis sufferers—both wearing osteoarthritis and the autoimmune disease—rheumatoid arthritis – The risk of migraine is 83% higher, and women with arthritis are 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with migraine.
Researchers from the University of Barcelona and other centers suggest that “some effects of arthritis are also migraine triggers, including sleep disturbances, stress and distress, and neck pain.”
Other possible explanations include exercise, which is recommended for arthritis sufferers but can trigger migraines; and inflammation – known to play a role in both conditions (around the joint in the knee and in the arteries in migraine).
Both conditions are also associated with an imbalance of gut bacteria.