Compulsion: the darker side of food craving, or… is it?


Intense food cravings are incredibly common. Then chances are you too probably have one from time to time. Yet most people do not think about food cravings as being something dangerous, apart from an intermittent feeling of guilt about a little bit more weight on the waistline. Food craving are certainly not in the same department as substance abuse. Or are they?

Addiction is frequently described as a compulsive physiological and psychological desire for a habit-forming substance, even in the light of harmful consequences of its use. It is frequently combined with the presence of withdrawal symptoms, which often can include nervousness and unstable or negative moods. Everyone recognizes this definition when it is ascribed to drugs. Interestingly, at least some facets of it are located in relation to food craving.

Habit forming nature of food craving

Urge for food for food can be of two different types: coming from the stomach, and springing up form the mind. The very first type involves a geniune feeling of hunger, the stomach sending signal into the brain, requiring a new portion of nutrients. In this scenario it usually is not important which meals are consumed, it is the fact of consumption itself that matters. The other type of appetite uses a contrasting physiological mechanism, one that's closely associated with several regions of the mind that a responsible for pleasure rewards. It is primarily the second type which is usually denoted with the term "food craving", rather than the first one.

The mentioned three brain areas, namely hippocampus, insula and caudate, are involved in the same circuitry as drug-induced gratifications. Like cocaine, as an illustration. Put simply, food craving usually are not associated with real nutritional needs physiologically; instead they are often triggered by depressed emotional states. The sensation of food induced satisfaction comes from a release of opiate family hormones (such as dopamine or serotonin), a brain areas involved with that process have been "spotted" as being active within the substance abuse related studies. Lastly, the potential physical harm in the form of being overweight and a plethora of associated diseases is obvious too. A pretty grim picture, you would say, however think about the withdrawal effects? There cannot be an addiction without them, right?

Of course, you wouldn't notice any withdrawal from a piece of chocolate, however for some individuals the problem is a lot more serious. People suffering from conditions such as binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, often manifest the signs of withdrawal, similar to those common to drug users. This is yet another parallel between compulsive eating and substance abuse the modern medicine draws.

The counter-argument: not every pleasure is addiction

Even though the similarity in physiological and psychological mechanisms is great, the majority food craving cases doesn't deserve the label of the addictive behaviour. In spite of the many commonality, some variations in neurotransmitter use incited by drugs and intense food compulsion are already demonstrated. Also, it's not at all the discharge of pleasure hormones as such that identifies the addiction. Pleasure rewards connected with dopamine release happen for the period of quite many regular activities, from enjoying an incredible piece of music to some passionate night of making love. These are pleasures, not addictions.

The important thing element that distinguishes between addictive and pleasurable behaviour may be the level of control and awareness. In the event you remember, the original definition of addiction included the word "compulsive". Gratification and joy are important areas of life, and should not be avoided, so long as it is you who controls the desire for pleasure, and not the other way around. Nevertheless, the story sketched above is very important in concentrating our awareness of the thin line between normality and compulsion in certain eating behaviours. Although under regular conditions food cravings shouldn't be a matter of extreme concern, they still have to be managed at least to some degree.

Some degree of control are often had with a sensible, balanced diet. Natural Health products can also assist with certain types of food cravings. The product AppleSlim Xtra, comprising apples and other natural fruits and vegetables has been shown to be of some help in this matter.

Daniel Miller - About the Author:

Daniel Miller lives in the UK and is a nutritionist and a consultant in natural health. He is a very healthy 60 year old and lives by the sea with his wife and very big dog.

Read more:

Daniel Miller - About the Author:

Daniel Miller lives in the UK and is a nutritionist and a consultant in natural health. He is a very healthy 60 year old and lives by the sea with his wife and very big dog.

Read more:

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