What is an addiction-
An addiction is something we do compulsively and have little control over. It usually starts off as a habit and once reinforced enough becomes the norm on an every day basis and is hard to give up, as it provides us with either a physical or emotional boost due to dependency.
The most common addictions I see-
- Alcohol, cigarettes, sugar/carbs, caffeine, wheat and dairy.
How do we get addicted-
- Emotional triggers- Depression, anxiety, boredom, stress, other emotional issues such as anger or loneliness can lead to eating foods to boost serotonin levels which may be sugary or carb laden foods.
- Gut flora imbalances– As most of your serotonin is in the gut and is connected to the serotonin in the brain, this regulates your moods. When the gut flora is imbalanced this disrupts serotonin levels.
- Tiredness- You may need pick me ups, as lacking energy, so more likely to eat sugary foods or have caffeine.
- Hormonal imbalances- If your adrenal glands or blood sugar levels are not balanced, then this can lead to cravings for certain addictive foods like sugar, caffeine and refined carbs.
- Lack of time- If you are eating on the go, so lack of healthy choices.
- Trying to yoyo diet- Starving yourself, eating only certain types of foods, e.g. low fat or low protein diets, or restricted calories can lead to binging on the most addictive foods.
A little more on why we get addicted-
- Low serotonin levels can lead to cravings for sugary/carb foods. These foods elevate mood and then this increases opiate receptors in the brain that trigger a drug like high and then dopamine (another neurotransmitter involved in mood regulation) in the brain increases (which is the brains reward centre and motivational aspect) which signals to the brain to reinforce this behaviour as you get pleasure from it. The more you reinforce it the more it becomes a habit and then an addiction as it gives you a boost when feeling low or need calming down.
- In the case of caffeine, sugar or cigarettes these produce adrenaline to give you a false sense of energy, if have chronic fatigue, or they can be used to suppress the appetite in the case of someone who is trying to lose weight.
- Alcohol has a calming effect on the nervous system as it increase serotonin and is very addictive as it helps sleep also by boosting melatonin the sleepy hormone, so it is very easy to addicted to this as it can really block out huge emotional responses that affect mood and sleep.
- Foods/substances that give an instant high are much more tempting to use as you get instant gratification and feel better quickly, rather than working on the root of the brain imbalances that help regulate mood and energy production, which take far longer, so it is easy to see why people would take this route initially. If you are that certain type of person who gets addicted to anything easily you are far more likely to develop an addiction to any of these. This could be due to personality type, biochemical imbalances in the brain or other deficiencies, then add in some stress or emotional issues and then it is even more likely!
Health issues addictions may lead to and from which foods/drinks-
- Weight gain– sugars, refined, carbs.
- Weight loss- caffeine, alcohol, smoking (due to not eating properly as appetite may be suppressed).
- Intolerances– gluten, dairy, sugars, grains.
- Diabetes- sugar, refined carbs.
- Damage to gut (absorption/digestion)- sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, smoking.
- Hormonal issues- thyroid, PCOS, Endometriosis – inflammatory/autoimmune- sugars, refined carbs, alcohol, caffeine.
- Chronic Fatigue- sugars, caffeine, alcohol.
Why consult me-
Primarily I can give you time to talk and really listen to your issues, plus I treat the root of the problem. I can provide all of the following:
- Dietary advice- To boost serotonin, balance blood sugar- cravings/binging and anything else that is relevant.
- Supplements- To treat deficiencies that may lead to low serotonin/dopamine or other underlining causes of this.
- Exercise programme- To boost serotonin naturally & reduce cravings.
- Lifestyle advice- To help cope with addictions.
- Referral- To other therapies that may help with emotional triggers for addictions.