If you find yourself craving and binging on bread, pasta and sweets, don’t blame your lack of willpower. There is actually a physiological reason behind your cravings. You are most likely consuming foods to which you are allergic or intolerant. Many people associate food allergies with an emergency anaphylactic response, but it is possible to be intolerant of certain foods and not even know it.
The body reacts to foods to which it is allergic or intolerant by producing its own addictive narcotics, the opioid endorphins, which create a feeling of euphoria when that particular food is consumed. You begin to crave these foods when you eat them, because they induce pleasurable feelings!
The most common foods to which people become addicted are gluten, the protein in wheat, rye, and barley, and dairy. Gluten intolerance is very common, especially among those of Irish, Scottish, English, and Eastern European descent. The most common symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, digestive issues, and depression. A person with gluten intolerance cannot digest the protein portion of many commonly eaten grains, and this is what causes the unexplained digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and cramping.
The relationship between gluten intolerance, alcoholism, and food addiction is well documented. Gluten consumption sets off a feel-good endorphin reaction when consumed by gluten intolerant individuals that can lead to binging and purging. Food addiction is chemical addition, not just a behavioral problem of willpower. Food addicts suffer from altered brain chemistry: they may have low levels of serotonin and other feel good neurotransmitters, or they may suffer from protein malabsorption or inborn errors of metabolism. When people are low in serotonin, they crave carbohydrates, most especially ice cream or combinations of grains and dairy products, such as cereal and milk, particularly in the evening hours. Consuming these foods temporarily raises brain levels of serotonin.
Food dependency can cause compulsive overeating, anorexia, bulimia, obesity, and it brings on feelings of depression, and anxiety. There is a strong relationship between food addiction and chemical dependency. Because food addiction is a chemical dependency triggered by certain foods, avoiding these triggers is the cure. Eliminating sugar, which is as powerful as heroin, is a must; white flour, processed foods, and caffeine must also be replaced with nutrient-rich, organic, whole foods.
Food is meant to nourish, not nurture. But from the moment of birth, we have been nurtured with food as the ultimate symbol of comfort. Our first experience with food was mother’s milk, which nourished and nurtured us. By reprogramming our relationship to food and choosing foods that nourish us, that are the correct macronutrient ratios for our physiology, and that maintain blood sugar stability, we can be free from cravings.
Food and alcohol addicts often suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and blood sugar instability. They may experience sweet and carbohydrate cravings, mood swings/irritability, alcohol cravings, gluten intolerance, and adrenal fatigue. These conditions can all be corrected by the healing diet, which includes eliminating gluten, dairy, soy and processed foods while consuming plenty of nutrient rich vegetables, fruits and protein from organic sources.
Consider the following questions:
- What is your relationship with food?
- What is your first memory of food?
- Are you a compulsive overeater? Undereater?
- What was your first problem with food?
- Do you have a history of eating disorders? Is there alcoholism in your family?
- What is your family’s relationship with food?
- Do you use alcohol or drugs to control your weight?
- How often are you eating? Is there anything you eat too little or too much of?
- Are you or is anyone else concerned about your eating or your weight?
Living Gluten Free
There is life beyond a diet of gluten and gliadin containing foods! If we stop and consider for a moment, most of our primitive ancestors never ate grains. Our origins come from hunters and gatherers whose diets were rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, proteins and natural fats; all of those foods that could be gathered from the earth’s harvest. There are a number of studies and research findings that show how native tribes experienced a profound sense of health that has been changed dramatically by the introduction of processed foods into their traditional diets.
Our American diet has become very grain and process-food oriented. Eating gluten-free can in many ways is a return to an earlier way of eating, a way that our body genetically, hereditarily, digestively and metabolically better understands and functions with. Enjoy a diet rich in proteins (chicken, beef, eggs, lamb, turkey, fish), vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and the grains rice, millet, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat. You will feel greatly better for your efforts! Please note that the intestinal healing process takes a minimum 2-3 months of a gluten-free diet, the more dramatic health changes are usually seen after 6 months.
The gluten-free world is one that is growing. Know that you are not alone in this dilemma, but rather part of an expanding group who are realizing the benefits of improving their diet. To help you in your meal planning and preparation we offer the following places to start. Each of these references will lead you to further suggestions, ideas and references. Enjoy the learning process!
- “The Gluten-free Gourmet” and “More from the Gluten-free Gourmet” – Bette Hagman
- “Special Diet Solutions” – Carol Fenster, PhD
- “Special Diet Celebrations” – Carol Fenster, PhD
- Pamela’s gluten free baking mixes, flours, and products
- 100% Buckwheat Soba Noodles (read the labels carefully)
- Rice Noodles & Brown rice pasta
- Rice & almond Flours
- Brown Rice Bread
- Savory Thin Rice Crackers
- Arrowhead Mills – Wheat-free All Purpose Baking Mix
Any restaurant that serves grilled, poached or sautéed fish, chicken, turkey, beef and lamb – ask that bread basket not be delivered to table and ask if your menu choice has any hidden flours (see below). Accompany your meal with a salad, vegetable, or rice. Our culture has become very bread/pasta oriented. Do not hesitate to break the cultural rules.
Read food labels carefully. Glutens can be hidden under such names as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, modified food starch, dextrin, and “natural flavorings”. Gluten might also be found in the alcohol used in flavorings such as vanilla and in distilled vinegar and veined cheese such as Blue Cheese and Roquefort. Even the smallest amount could be enough to keep you from feeling the best that you can, so you will want to take extra care in finding those places that it might be hidden.
The focus of a gluten-free cookery is often on replacing gluten flour in baked goods with starches made from rice, arrowroot, potato, other legumes like chickpeas and wheat starch (all the protein has been carefully removed).
In many respects it is easier and nutritionally wiser to forgo the baked goods in large measure and eat other foods. The task of changing your diet is very much like moving to another country and culture. You may try to bring all your old habits with you, and struggle to get all of the ingredients that you are used to forming into meals, or you can gracefully, and with a sense of adventure try the new cuisine. Certainly, bakery foods are delicious and tempting, but so are creatively prepared rice, vegetable, fruit, fish, and meat meals. Even with multiple exclusions, an appealing, varied diet is within reach if you are willing to change your eating style. The main thing is to be inspired to create and enjoy a new cuisine that will diminish your disturbances, sustain your interest in food, and provide balanced nutrition.
Often, those being treated for food problems make odd, exotic food choices and use new food products of doubtful safety. Exotic legume products, new flours and a host of new snack foods are all put on the questionable food list. We cannot be sure how your body will tolerate these products, so eat them with caution. In food-related illness even the most wholesome-appearing food may be harmful to those with allergies, and digestive, or metabolic abnormalities.
Even though the food industry and grocery stores are awakening to the demand for wheat & gluten-free products and providing them in new and interesting products, do not get caught up in using these new products. The best choice is still to eat those foods that come directly from the earth, those foods which Mother Nature provides.