Dependancy: the darker side of food cravings, or… is it?


Intense food craving are incredibly common. Chances are you too probably have one sometimes. Yet most individuals don't consider food craving to be something dangerous, aside from an occasional feeling of guilt about some extra weight around the waistline. Food cravings obviously not in the same department as substance abuse. Or are they?

Addiction is generally referred to as a compulsive physiological and psychological desire for a habit-forming substance, even in the light of harmful consequences of its use. It is often joined together with the existence of withdrawal symptoms, which could include stress and unstable or negative moods. All people recognizes this definition when it is ascribed to drugs. Interestingly, at least some aspects of it can be found in relation to food craving.

Addictive nature of food craving

Desire for food for food might be of two differing types: coming from the stomach, and while it began with the mind. The very first type involves a geniune feeling of hunger, the stomach sending signal into the brain, requiring a fresh portion of nutrients. In such a scenario it usually is not important which meals are consumed, it's the fact of intake itself that means something. Another type of appetite uses a contrasting physiological mechanism, one that's closely related to the 3 areas of the mind that a responsible for pleasure rewards. It is primarily the second type that's usually denoted with the term "food craving", and not the first.

The mentioned three brain areas, namely hippocampus, insula and caudate, are associated with the same circuitry as drug-induced gratifications. Like cocaine, for instance. Put simply, food craving usually are not associated with real nutritional needs physiologically; rather they are generally triggered by depressed emotional states. The feeling of food induced satisfaction develops from a discharge of opiate family hormones (such as dopamine or serotonin), a brain areas involved with that process have been "spotted" to be active in the substance abuse related studies. Finally, the potential physical harm such as obesity and an array of associated diseases is obvious as well. A pretty grim picture, you would say, but think about the withdrawal effects? There can't be an addiction without them, right?

Obviously, you wouldn't notice any withdrawal from some chocolate, but for some people the problem is a lot more serious. Men and women experiencing conditions including binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa, often manifest the signs of withdrawal, similar to those present with drug users. This is another parallel between compulsive eating and substance abuse present day medicine draws.

The counter-argument: not all pleasure is addiction

Despite the fact that the similarity in physiological and psychological mechanisms is great, the vast majority of food craving cases does not deserve the label of the addictive behaviour. In spite of all of the commonality, some variations in neurotransmitter use incited by drugs and intense food compulsion are actually demonstrated. Also, it isn't the discharge of pleasure hormones as such that specifies the addiction. Pleasure rewards related to dopamine release happen in the course of quite many regular activities, from hearing an incredible bit of music to some passionate nights making love. These are pleasures, not addictions.

The important thing element that distinguishes between addictive and pleasurable behaviour is the degree of control and awareness. In the event you remember, the original meaning of addiction included the word "compulsive". Gratification and joy are important aspects of life, and should not be avoided, as long as it is you who controls the desire to have pleasure, and not the other way around. Nevertheless, the tale sketched above is important in focusing our attention to the thin line between normality and compulsion in some eating behaviours. And while under regular conditions food cravings should not be a matter of extreme concern, they still should be managed at the very least to a 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.

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