Before my doctoral program – that required me to narrow down into a specialty (sugar addiction) – I’d studied food intolerances. Many books on the topic begin with food reactions, then proceed into chemicals in our homes and offices, gas fumes, and much more. Important as these things are, they are not about nutrition. My curiosity about food intolerances has always been their connection with addiction.
Recently I “attended” a webinar by J.J. Virgin, whose first book (I think ) was on food intolerances and how to eliminate these foods to improve health and lose weight. The webinar re-sparked my interest in food intolerance and dependence. Common causes for food intolerance include chocolate, corn, soy, wheat (or other gluten-containing foods), peanuts, milk, eggs, sugars and other additives.
What Does Food Intolerance Look Like? Signs and symptoms may include headache/migraña, joint pains, fatigue, sleepiness, heart palpitations, depression, irritability, stomach pains, bloating, and a lot more. Because digested food moves through the bloodstream, the ramifications of an intolerance can appear virtually anywhere in the body. Food reactions may be the exact same whenever the food is consumed, like a rash. Or the responses might vary – state, a non-itchy rash one time and itching without a rash another moment.
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The reaction may be cumulative. Maybe a small segment of the food causes no response, but a percentage consumed again that day, or several days in a row, does induces you. Addiction is another possible response that can develop over time.
What Causes Food Intolerances? The causes are many, but let us keep it simple. One cause is a genetic intolerance or a tendency toward it. We can become intolerant to a food we eat frequently or in massive quantities. Overeating a food uses up enzymes specific to digesting that food, so complete digestion is avoided. That may lead to improperly digested food particles going through the digestive tract and blood, triggering an immune response. The undigested, unabsorbed food provides no nutrients.
We can become responsive to a food we eat together with another tripping food. So the list of triggering foods may grow, resulting eventually in malnutrition. The guiding principle of the human body is homeostasis. When a trigger food is eaten, the body tries to reestablish homeostasis by ridding itself of the offending food. It prevents absorption by attaching antibodies to the partly digested food while it’s from the gut. That might successfully remove the food until it can pass into the bloodstream. If the food does enter the blood, it may trigger inflammation. The acute reaction could be brief, and the body may return to homeostasis quickly.
If someone proceeds to eat a tripping food over time, the body undergoes an adaptation. The immune system may become slower (or less able) to react. The response may now manifest more gradually than the reaction. Signs or symptoms may last longer, sometimes hours or even days. How Can That Become a Food Addiction? The immune response to a triggering food involves a release of stress hormones, opioids, like endorfinas (beta-endorphin), and chemical mediators like dopamine. The combination can create temporary symptom relief during the analgesic action of endorphin and serotonin, also mood elevation and a sense of relaxation. In that way, eating the tripping food may make somebody feel better almost instantly and even believe the food is beneficial. Endorphin release generally entails a concomitant release of dopamine.
The combination of these two brain chemicals and serotonin forms what I’ve always known as the “addictive bundle.” Avoiding the food could result in withdrawal. After long-term usage, a person may eat the tripping food to not have the pleasure of the compound “high,” but to alleviate the distress and withdrawal without it. It’s almost textbook addiction.
How Does Intolerance/Addiction Affect Health? As somebody addicted to a tripping food proceeds to consume more of it, the immune system must keep adapting, and might become hyper-sensitized, responding to increasingly more meals – particularly those eaten together with reaction-triggering foods, or with sugar. The continuous demand on the immune system may result in immune exhaustion and degenerative reactions, based on genetic weaknesses. The signs and symptoms listed above are only a start. Sugar can be a significant participant in this because it causes inflammation in the body and makes it more prone to food reactions. Eating triggering foods and sugar can make it more probable that new reactions will happen.
I remember a book by Nancy Appleton, who suggested that eggs might trigger reactions in many people because they are so often consumed at breakfast with orange zumo. Cake is another example: sugar and wheat, eggs, milk. As the addictions persist, cravings occur, resulting in greater consumption. As a growing number of foods activate an immune reaction, the outcome might be malnutrition, as explained previously. Stats say that rates of food intolerance are climbing. My theory is that it is at least partially as a result of sugar in our diets – such as sneaky sugars which are often viewed as healthy, such as agave, fruit, fruit juice, and sweeteners. Definitely give up any foods that you suspect may be causing any responses – even in the event that you love them. Consider foods that you eat with these triggering foods on a regular basis, and consider removing those, also. Most importantly, avoid sugar.