When the word “addiction” comes up, the average person typically thinks of someone who has a problem with drugs, alcohol or cigarettes…or maybe even gambling or sex.
But there is a whole other category of addiction that most people don’t even think of…
Unless you’re affected by it.
I’m talking about addiction to sugars and starchy carbs.
People whose 4 food groups are pasta, breads, sweets and crackers are sometimes humorously referred to as “carb-o-holics.”
Sadly, there’s a lot of accuracy behind that expression.
The fact is carbohydrate addiction is VERY real.
Here is what you must know about carb addiction and how you can overcome it.
Carbohydrate addiction—the history
Although there are many different definitions of “food addiction” from various sources, The Food Addiction Institute describes it well:
“Addiction means the body has become chemically dependent on one or more substances and needs these substances to function “normally.” So, when we are talking about a specific food as potentially being a substance of abuse, we are saying that the body has become dependent on a particular food or eating behavior. The most common addictive foods are foods high in sugar, flour, fat, grains and salt or some combination of these.”
Many people have trouble grasping the idea that a person can be addicted to food, but the idea of food addiction is not new. As long ago as the 1940s scientists were reporting findings that suggested people could become addicted to certain kinds of foods.
By the early 1960s studies showed that starchy carbohydrates in particular could be addictive.
Then by the time the 1980s rolled around, research in this area exploded, and began to include studies of the effects of sugars and starches on brain chemicals, particularly the neurotransmitter serotonin.
And more recent studies have shown that sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine!
Is it all in your head?
Carb addiction actually manifests itself both mentally and physically. Here are 3 of the primary underlying factors:
1- Your brain’s neurotransmitters
When refined carbohydrates like sugars and starches are eaten and your pancreas releases insulin, in addition to regulating blood sugar, the insulin also decreases your bloodstream’s concentration of amino acids—except for tryptophan. The resulting higher tryptophan levels eventually reach your brain, which triggers it to produce serotonin, creating a soothing, calming sensation.
Refined carbs also trigger increased releases of dopamine and norepinephrine, and as your brain becomes indulged with these neurotransmitters, a feeling of euphoria results and a craving for more refined carbohydrates is stimulated.
2- Your gut
Your gut bacteria play a role here too because candida or yeast overgrowth can trigger sugar cravings and addiction. Yeasts feed on sugar, and in turn can multiply out of control and overcome the friendly flora in your microbiome.
A vicious cycle can result whereby the yeasts, wanting more nourishment, trigger cravings for sugar, which in turn leads to greater yeast overgrowth, which then triggers more intense cravings for sugar.
3- Chronic stress
Stress causes the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones raise your heart rate, dilate your blood vessels and mobilize fat and carbohydrates stored in your body for quick energy for a "fight or flight" reaction.
Once the stress ends, adrenaline production subsides, but cortisol stays around thinking it has to help refuel your body and bring it back to balance—and it does this by making you hungry.
But when stress becomes chronic, this can lead to the familiar “stress eating” of carbs, since your body is repeatedly following the instructions of cortisol and looking to refuel itself.
Break the cycle of craving and addiction!
The good news is you CAN overcome carb cravings and addiction. Here are some measures to help your success:
Stay far away: Purge refined carbs from your cupboards, pantry and refrigerator. Avoid dining out in restaurants where you will be tempted by a breadbasket, huge plates of pasta or desserts.
Choose wisely: Stick to wholesome real foods like meats, chicken, fish, nuts, eggs and cheese, as well as fresh vegetables and healthy fats including real butter (never margarine), olive oil, coconut oil and avocado. These are the foods that will nourish you, keep you full, and avoid triggering a carb eating cycle. (An added bonus here—you’ll likely drop some weight too!)
Encourage a strong microbiome: Sugar feeds yeast, so if you’ve been eating a lot of refined carbs, chances are excellent you’ve got imbalance in your microbiome and your friendly flora may be waving the white flag of defeat. Supplementing with a full-spectrum, top quality probiotic like Super Shield multi-strain probiotic formula can help encourage a healthier balance.
Two of the powerhouse strains in Super Shield, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus, have been shown to be extremely effective in fighting yeast (Candida)!
Address yeast overgrowth head-on: If you suspect you have a yeast overgrowth problem (if you get fungal nail infections, are bloated often, are a walking gas bag, get vaginal infections and of course crave sugar, trust me, you likely have yeast overgrowth), you’ll want to attack it head-on and fight it, and Optimal Yeast Support Blend is your ticket!
Optimal Yeast Support Blend contains a well-researched blend of the best, most effective natural herbal antifungals and antimicrobials plus biotin, that work together to fight back at yeast overgrowth and encourage a healthier (more helpful—not harmful!) intestinal yeast population.
De-stress: Do whatever you need to do to minimize stress, keeping in mind that regular exercise gives a one-two punch—it not only helps reduce stress, but it also raises your level of feel-good endorphins! You can also try massage, deep breathing, prayer, meditation and even adopting a pet!
Speaking from experience, after I’ve had a tough stress-filled day, nothing relaxes me and puts a smile on my face like snuggling my 3 cats!
Get support: Just like any other form of addiction, overcoming carb addiction can be challenging, so be sure to seek out help from family, friends and support groups. Look for professionals who understand food addiction and can help you with your self-care program such as therapists, personal trainers, life coaches and even humble nutritionists like me. Acupuncture has also been shown to be extremely helpful with addiction, as well as stress.
You CAN break free of carb addiction. Take the proper measures and get the support you need and start your new addiction-free life now!
To your health,