By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
Note: Please see the updates on healthism here. Flexibility, social connection, enjoyment of health, and not obsessing on perfection of diet is what makes health a means, not an end.
This week, on my BreakFree medicine blog (dr-lobisco.com), I discussed the issue of gluten sensitivity and its potentialto be addictive:
Gluten can cause the release of high levels of the excitotoxic l-aspartic and l-glutamic amino acids, similar to the molecules aspartame and monosodium glutamate. This can create excessive excitation and create inflammation in the brain, making it more permeable to undigested proteins.
Furthermore, it can cause the undigested proteins, gliadomorphins, which make one addicted to the substance. This makes gluten hard for most to give up, even if they know it is harmful. As some clinicians say, “this makes the gut a lot
like Reno, what happens in the gut, doesn’t stay in the gut.” Gut issues can cause changes in your brain.
Dr. Amen, a psychiatrist, who is known for his functional approach to brain and mood disorders, reports on how inflammation in the brain can lead to addiction:
We look at your brain scan, genetics, environment, and nutrition in addition to
neurotransmitter testing, which shows us your dopamine, serotonin, and
glutamate levels along with underlying inflammation that may be responsible for
the “hot” areas on your brain scan. The combination allows for very targeted
therapy with high rates of success.
If there is inflammation and you don’t catch it, you can throw the kitchen sink at
treating addiction without success. Without finding the root causes of
inflammation in the brain, patients will continue to self-medicate in order to
feel calm. This type of inflammation could be caused by a bad diet, so if you
are gluten-sensitive you are going to get a surge in glutamate and a drop in
GABA. Inflammation can also be caused by mold toxicity, staph or strep
infection, heavy metals, or even Lyme disease. Whatever the reason, we can help
you target the inflammation and go about treating your addiction issues
Another big issue with addiction can be stress-related. Many people may seek out comfort in substances, including food, at these times. In fact, according to an article in Medscape:
Researchers have found that rats exposed to heightened levels of stress during their first
few days of life are more likely to be prone to anxiety and stress in later
life, and prefer to consume sugary and high-fat foods.
One may hope to offset this sugary craving with the use of artificial sweeteners, yet these are synthetic chemicals that can create havoc in our brains and bodies that are worse than sugar. Some research has linked these sweeteners to negatively affecting our weight, blood sugar, and immune function. After I inform my clients of the negative impacts of these sweeteners, many ask me what their best option is.
Dr. Mercola recently summarized the four categorie of sweeteners and the best to use:
- Sugar substitutes can be divided into four general categories: artificial
sweetener, sugar alcohols, natural sweeteners, and dietary supplements
such as Stevia and Lo Han
- Artificial sweeteners can actually be far worse for you than sugar and fructose, and
scientific evidence backs up that conclusion
- Furthermore, numerous studies show they increase weight gain and worsen insulin
sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar
- Natural sweeteners such as honey and agave may seem like a healthier choice, but
not only are they loaded with fructose, many are also highly processed
- In moderation, some sugar alcohols can be a better choice than highly refined
sugar, fructose or artificial sweeteners. Of the various sugar alcohols,
xylitol is one of the best. When it is pure, the potential side effects
- Three of the best sugar substitutes are all-natural Stevia from the whole plant,
Lo Han Guo, and dextrose (pure glucose). Contrary to fructose, glucose can
be used directly by every cell in your body and as such is a far safer
Some people can be sensitive to sugar alcohols due to an overgrowth of bacteria in their small intestine. If xylitol causes
uncomfortable gut issues, this could be a reason. For the pleasure of other’s company, these people may want to avoid it and take care of that issue with a physician. 😉
Whatever the reason for food addiction, it’s important to treat all the factors: physical, emotional, and biochemical.
Sometimes one may need a hug or kiss for a dopamine boost over a chocolate feast. Still, it’s important to be gentle with yourself as you release addictive patterns. What we eat makes up who we are. As your biochemistry shifts, so will your mood and health.
I invite you to find out about how to improve health and find support on my BreakFree medicine blog and
Mercola, J. Sugar Substitutes–What’s Safe and What’s Not. Mercola.com. October 7, 2013.
Physician Spotlight-Dr. Elizabeth Stuller,Addiction Specialist. Dr. Amen’s Blog. September 24, 2013.
Joseph Nordqvist. Stress after birth linked to comfort food preferences in adulthood. Medscape Today. August 4, 2013