Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brain chemistry and food addiction

Chapter 2 of "Anatomy of a Food Addiction" by Anne Katherine deals with the brain chemistry involved in food addiction--neurotransmitters, synapses, serotonin, etc.

Some key points:

"Addiction results when the use of a substance alters the body in such a way that the absence of the substance causes pain...Evidence is mounting that folks who get addicted to certain substances do so because of a chemical function that the substance mimics or, if malfunctioning, seems to temporarily improve, but with negative/addictive side effects."

"(The brain chemical) serotonin promotes relaxation, peacefulness, relief from pain, and a decrease in anxiety. (The brain chemical) endorphin gives relief from pain and a sensation of pleasure. Both serotonin- and endorphin-releasing nerves are highly concentrated in the part of the brain that regulates eating, sleeping, drinking, and sex." Katherine goes on to say that insufficient serotonin levels are a likely cause of more acute feelings of stress and pain, and that when refined carbohydrates are ingested (sugar, pasta, alcohol, white bread), serotonin is released, relieving stress and pain. She also points out that it is suspected that those with insufficient serotonin levels may have a malfunction in the feedback loop that tells them when to stop eating these serotonin level-raising foods.

"For some people, eating sweets, starches, and/or fats cause the release of endorphins; thus, for these people, eating certain foods relieves discomfort and feels good." She goes on to say that certain endorphins also stimulate eating; if eating sugar makes you feel good, you will want to eat more sugar. She also discusses other brain chemicals that come into play and explains how various processes work in the brain to relay messages.

Katherine continues that food addiction and alcohol addiction are thought to be chemically related because there has been a proven genetic component. Food addicts are often at higher risk to become alcoholic. Addiction results from tampering with brain chemistry, whether the substance is drugs, alcohol, food, or something else. I highlighted this passage: "If you have a disorder in your serotonin functioning, you will experience metabolically caused cravings. You aren't morally weak or undisciplined; your body is screaming to you, "Eat! Eat!" I'm paraphrasing here, but she goes on to say that chemically caused eating is a physical abnormality like diabetes, and measures can be taken by the food addict to treat it.

No comments:

About Me

My photo
Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other words...life.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.