Food Addiction



Food addiction is a chronic, compulsive overconsumption of certain types of highly palatable, low-micronutrient foods (usually high in sugar, flour, salt, and oil) despite the negative health consequences.

Food addiction often involves the uncontrollable pursuit of a mood change. The addictive foods excessively stimulate the reward centers of the brain, creating an almost irresistible craving for them.

People who suffer from food addiction find that they get a “high” when they eat their trigger foods, followed by a “low” when they are not digesting food. The condition is chronic, progressive and -– given the unhealthy nature of the addictive foods -- potentially fatal.

 
  • Overview
  • Action Plan
  • Ask The Doctor
  • Related Info
  • Success Stories

Overview


Food addiction is essentially no different than drug addiction. Certain foods, especially those whose calories are absorbed very rapidly, signal the reward centers of the brain, causing dopamine to be released as these foods are eaten. The trouble-causing foods include:

  • Processed/refined foods, especially sweets
  • High-fat foods or other high-calorie foods, such as fried food
  • Excessive salt
  • Higher-fat animal products

Although dopamine is involved in many processes in the body, it also gives you a feeling of euphoria or a “high.” Just as addictive drugs, that can give you a “high,” the euphoria of dopamine is short-lived and can be followed by a “low” that causes depression, lack of pleasure, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

In addition to the effects addictive foods have on brain neurotransmitters, the build-up of metabolic wastes from eating unhealthful foods also complicates and contributes to addictive overeating. This is because withdrawal discomfort from metabolic toxins occurs in the non-feeding, non-digestive state, driving unhealthful eaters to eat too frequently to quell ill feelings, particularly fatigue, headache, and stomach cramping.

It is physically painful to stop smoking, drinking, and eating unhealthy foods. The feelings of shakiness, nausea, headaches, stomach cramping, fatigue, and uneasiness that make people feel they have to eat something are the result of detoxification symptoms from eating unhealthful food.

To conquer food addiction permanently, you must avoid highly flavored and calorically concentrated processed foods. You need to flood the body with high-nutrient foods to normalize detoxification channels.

When we experience this variety of neurologic and metabolic side effects from eating unhealthy foods, it can create unfavorable symptoms, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Impaired emotions and thoughts
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggression
  • Compulsiveness
  • Lack of self-control

Food addiction fuels our nation’s health care crisis and obesity epidemic. The answer to keeping our natural potential for food addiction under control is to eat more natural, whole plant foods. Adopting a Nutritarian diet-style allows for a comfortable, and satisfied feeling, yet avoids the extreme “highs” and “lows” of low-micronutrient eating. This allows us to enjoy our food when we eat it, and then later have the ability to enjoy other parts of our lives, without being distracted by the effects of food addiction and its associated ill feelings.

Low-nutrient, high-glycemic foods are also associated with depressed mood, making life more difficult for the food addict. Abstaining from unhealthy, addictive foods is hard at first, but doing so brings tremendous benefits. You will find yourself regaining pleasure from food, as your tastes and food preferences change. And the biggest bonus of all is that eating healthfully can save you from a life of medical suffering and premature death.

 

Action Plan


Diet

Follow a Nutritarian eating style by doing the following:

  • Avoid processed and refined foods (sugar, oils, spreads, refined grains, etc.).
  • Eat only whole foods.
  • Avoid excessive animal product intake, limiting to only a few ounces, and at less frequency.
  • Limit salt intake.
  • Fill a significant portion of your meal with raw and/or cooked whole plant foods (vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and fruit).

Read Eat for Health, which gives you strategies to help change your taste buds to enjoy natural wholesome flavors.

Other Considerations

Just like any addiction, food addiction is much easier to tackle when you are not alone in your efforts. Consider the following:

  • Join a support group of like-minded people who are following a Nutritarian diet-style by becoming a member of DrFuhrman.com and participating in the forums.
  • Create or join a local meet-up group for sharing Nutritarian meals and recipes.
  • Seek out a professional who can give you personalized and confidential support, such as a therapist from our Food Addiction Recovery Program. This program was created especially for food addicts who are having difficulty getting started with the Nutritarian diet-style.
 

Ask The Doctor


The following are sample questions from the Ask the Doctor Community Platinum and higher members can post their health questions directly to Dr. Fuhrman. (All members can browse questions and answers.)

Q.

What makes a food addictive? Is the criteria simply the micronutrient deficiency of the food? Could you list the categories of addictive foods? Are all processed foods and animal products addictive?

A.

Most addiction involves high glycemic foods, salt, oil or high fatty animal products, such as cheese. When a flood of calories enter the bloodstream all at once, as is the case with commercial baked goods, sweet deserts, and foods rich in oil, such as fried foods, the chance for dopamine stimulation is greater.

Nevertheless, some people can be so sweet addicted that even dates could become somewhat addicting.

Overall, the addictive symptoms I discuss are not based on any series of addictive food but on the quality of the entire diet. In other words, if the micronutrient quality is low enough, micronutrient and antioxidant stress will build up, increasing toxic waste in the cells and tissues, leading to enhanced detoxification symptoms during the non-digestive phase (catabolic phase) of the digestive cycle. This makes addictive withdrawal occur, just from the overall nature of the diet that is too low in nutrients and usually too high in calories.

 
Q.

I am addicted to sweets. After lunch and dinner, I need candy. This behavior causes me to sabotage all the good forward momentum and put me on a path to failure. This is a lifelong addiction since I was a kid, and because I was always thin, my parents never thought there was a problem. Now, as an adult who has recently suffered from an injury, my once active lifestyle is sedentary. If I can beat this sugar addiction, I know I will be successful. Any advice would be helpful.

A.

Breaking an addiction requires 100 percent abstinence, there is no other way. What makes it easier is you can have a whole frozen bag of strawberries or some fruit, but to break an addiction requires an announcement to others you are living with it and then removing the temptation from your environment and often requesting help from your family to help keep those foods outside your reach. You have to make it like an addiction retreat in your own home with everyone making sure that there are no options for you to get sweets.

 

Audio & Video


Fundamental Principles of the Nutritarian Diet

The Nutritarian diet is designed for excellent health and is based on modern advances in nutritional science, which are enabling us to make great health achievements. ... Read More

Understanding and Overcoming Food Addiction

Foods containing highly concentrated sugar, salt and fat—typical of the American diet—tend to drive a loss of self-control and frequent overeating. Researc... Read More

Food Addiction and Emotional Eating

As a Licensed Social Worker and one of Dr. Fuhrman's Motivational Outreach Program (MOP) counselors Kathleen Renner has worked with addiction in all age groups and... Read More

Standing Up to Food Bullies

Standing up to food bullies! Food addiction counselor Randi Carbone, R.N. offers tips and strategies for dealing with people (even Grandma!) who may be sabotaging your... Read More

Food Addiction & Emotional Eating

As a Licensed Social Worker and one of Dr. Fuhrman’s Food Addiction counselors, Kathleen Renner has worked with addiction in all age groups and in various settin... Read More

Dr. Fuhrman on Eat To Live - The Powerful Patient Radio Show February 2011

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to live the rest of your life in pain or on medication. Dr. Joel Fuhrman speaks with Joyce about how he uses nutriton to... Read More

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3 Steps to Incredible Health! - PBS - clip 3

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