3 Natural Treatment for Food Addiction

3 Natural Treatments for Food Addiction
By Iris Bell, M.D. Ph.D.

Food addiction is a real and serious biochemical problem of the brain that affects behavior and needs a multi-pronged treatment approach. Specific diet plans are the foundation of therapy, with abstinence (complete avoidance of the trigger foods) essential. Although natural treatments other than diet for food addiction get less attention, several strategies may help you get through the initial treatment phase.

Overall, to come up with ideas that might help, it is important to think about the biochemistry of the brain pathways involved in developing cravings and experiencing reward. The pathways include what is called the mesolimbic system, which relies in part on the brain transmitter dopamine. Other neurotransmitters that regulate dopamine in that region include glutamate (excitatory) and GABA (inhibitory).

In addition, many foods stimulate release of natural endorphins, the morphine-like peptide hormones of the brain and body. Endorphins can contribute to the calming effects of certain highly rewarding foods like sweets and/or fats. Finally, the gut digests the proteins from specific foods like wheat gluten or milk casein into morphine-like peptide hormones called exorphins.

With that background in mind, let's look at 3 natural treatments other than restrictive diets that might help people with food addiction get back in control of their eating behavior:

1. Wild ginseng - Wild ginseng is an herb available over-the-counter that has demonstrated an ability to cut down on morphine-triggered sensitization in rats.

Scientists believe that sensitization, i.e., adaptive changes in the function of cells that regulate dopamine release and behavioral responses by the mesolimbic pathways, contribute to cravings for many different addictive substances. Addictive substances include drugs like morphine, cocaine or amphetamine and foods like table sugar (sucrose). In sensitization, the same stimulus repeated intermittently leads to the progressive amplification of responses because of changes in the individual who has received the stimulus (or drug) or a cross-sensitized stimulus (or drug).

In addition, stress itself can cross-sensitize with cocaine or amphetamine, which means that once sensitization has taken hold, there are many different, seemingly unrelated factors that can set things off again.

Finding ways to block the development and/or expression of sensitization may help reduce the addictive potential of drugs or foods that act on those brain pathways. Wild ginseng appears to be more effective than Panax ginseng in inhibiting the biochemical changes associated with developing sensitization to morphine.

2. N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) - NAC is an antioxidant and amino acid available over-the-counter that can alter the changes that a stimulant drug like cocaine can cause in the mesolimbic pathways of the brain involved in sensitization. In this case, NAC may balance effects of another brain biochemical called glutamate, which is an excitatory amino acid involved in many essential brain functions. NAC cannot prevent the immediate effects of addictive substances, but it can cut down on the progressive growth of the sensitized response in the brain and behavior.

Furthermore, NAC together with bethanechol, a parasympathetic substance, can mimic feeding signals in the body and reverse insulin resistance seen in diabetic animals who had been eating a high-sucrose diet.

3. Acupuncture - Acupuncture is an ancient healing technique that involves the insertion of very thin needles into specific points (acupuncture points) of the body. Acupuncture practitioners are highly trained experts who know when, where and how to stimulate or sedate a point to produce desired therapeutic effects.

Chinese medicine theory suggests that these usually superficial acupuncture points fall along pathways called meridians as part of a complex, subtle network. The acupuncture network is separate from nerves, blood vessels or other physical structures in the body, though connective tissue may be involved.

Meridians run literally from head to toe. Sophisticated brain imaging tests have shown that inserting needles into specific acupuncture points along the body can change activity of specific brain pathways located physically far away in the body from the point where the needle was inserted.

Research has shown that acupuncture can cut down on cocaine-sensitized behaviors in association with changes in the dopamine reward pathways of the brain. Acupuncture at a specific point can also cut down on morphine seeking behavior and withdrawal symptoms in morphine-addicted animals. The brain transmitter GABA may be involved in this beneficial set of effects.

Overall, these 3 integrative approaches taken from alternative medicine may offer some helpful strategies for people trying to overcome food addiction. But, every person's situation is unique. You should always consult your own physician, acupuncturist, and/or naturopathic doctor about what may or may not be advisable and safe for you.

To discover more tips for self help and natural approaches on how to stop food addiction, claim your copy of our 7-part mini-course on food addiction at Overcome Food Addiction today.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Iris_Bell,_M.D._Ph.D.
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