The real reason you get cravings

  • Why you crave bad food (and why it’s not your fault) 
  • The foods that act like heroin 
  • 25 everyday health problems and their possible causes

Have you ever had such a strong craving for food that you wonder if you’re addicted?

The usual culprits for this are coffee, chocolate, cakes, ice cream, bread, pasta, biscuits and cheese.

Sometimes it might seem as if you’d NEVER be able to give one of these up – that you’d be unable to control your urges in the long run.

A few weeks ago, I wrote to you about the psychological reasons for this.

Often, we crave sweet, sugary, fatty or high-carb foods because of emotional factors including stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness.

But what if there’s MORE to it than that?

What if you could also be chemically addicted to certain types of foods, in the same way as a drug addict might be hooked on opiates?

Let me explain…

Why we get physically ‘hooked’ on food

Inside our bodies are chemicals known as endorphins, natural ‘feel-good’ chemicals that act as painkillers.

They are released when we do exercise but also when we get into ‘flight or fight’ situations.

The cells in our brains have receptors for these chemicals to which the endorphins ‘bind’, giving us that lovely warm sense of wellbeing.

This is also how drugs like morphine and heroin work…

They bind to the SAME receptors.

However, the problem is that they reduce your body’s ability to produce endorphins naturally, which means that when you stop using them, you feel awful.

So bad in fact, that you are compelled to reach for the opiates again, just to feel normal.

When these opioid-like substances are introduced into your body from an outside source they are known as exorphins.

This not only includes drugs but certain types of food.

For example, gluten produces powerful exorphins that latch onto the same receptors that your endorphins do.

Similarly, they have an effect on your brain, altering your mood and pain reception.

This is how you can become physically hooked on food, because things like cake, bread, biscuits, pizza and pasta create drug-like cravings.

For instance, yesterday I was flicking through a book called The Complete Guide to Food Allergy and Intolerance by Jonathan Brostoff and Linda Gamlin.

This line really struck a chord:

“A good half of patients with food intolerance have cravings for the food, or foods, that make them ill, and eat such foods to excess.”

They think that it’s the exorphins that are behind this paradox.

These foods don’t make you high or anything like that, but you do get a small, yet significant effect on mood.

What’s more, when you decide to give them up you can get withdrawal symptoms for as long as a week afterward.

These can include:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Depression

Please note that it is early days for research on this – also, that some people are more susceptible to this form of addiction than others.

But it’s an interesting idea and could explain why you might find it really hard to change your diet.

The key is to introduce small changes gradually rather than suddenly giving up whole food groups overnight, and try to rebalance your diet over time.

And ‘balance’ is the important word here.

Talking of which, later on in the same book (The Complete Guide to Food Allergy and Intolerance) I found something that might be useful to you.

Twenty-five common health problems and their possible causes

It’s a list of everyday health problems, alongside a suggestion about which nutrient deficiencies could be causing it.

I say “could” because obviously these health issues could be caused by any number of medical conditions.

So if you have any of these symptoms, get yourself checked out first to make sure. Then, if there’s no diagnosis of the cause, look into ways you can up your intake of these nutrients.

  • Fatigue – iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins B1, B12 and other B vitamins
  • Loss of taste or appetite – zinc
  • Cold intolerance – iron
  • Paleness – iron, folate and vitamin B12
  • Loss of height and excessive curvature of the spine – calcium and vitamin D
  • Itchy skin – iron
  • Dry skin – essential fatty acids
  • Easily bruised – vitamin C
  • Sore tongue – iron, vitamin B12, B2, B3
  • Cracking at the corners of the mouth or lips – iron, vitamin B2
  • Recurrent mouth ulcers – iron, vitamin B12
  • Scalp hair loss – iron
  • Dandruff – vitamins B6 or C, zinc
  • Redness at the sides of the nose – vitamin B2, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and zinc
  • Nails, brittle or flaking – iron
  • Muscle pains and cramps – magnesium, potassium, sodium, vitamin B1
  • Calf pain – vitamin B1, thiamine
  • Difficulty getting up from a low chair or climbing the stairs or weakness of shoulder muscles – vitamin D
  • Poor night vision – zinc, vitamin A and possibly vitamin B2
  • Conjunctival dryness – vitamin A
  • Restless legs – magnesium, iron or folate
  • Heart palpitations – potassium and/or magnesium
  • Numbness, tingling, disordered sensation, pain and or weakness in the hands or feet – vitamins B1, B12 and possibly B3, B6 and folate
  • Depression – vitamins C, B1, B3, B6, B12, folate, biotin, fatty acids
  • Poor concentration – iron, vitamins B1, B12, folate

Ideally, you should top up these nutrients through food. But if you struggle to eat a balanced diet, or you need more of a specific nutrient than you can feasibly get every day, then consider a supplement.

There are some options on the Good Life Shop if you fancy a browse: Good Life Supplements

That’s it from me for today – have a great weekend.