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Could you be suffering from a food addiction?

Posted by Rita Texeira on 23 October 2014
Could you be suffering from a food addiction?

Often when we think of additions smoking, alcohol and illegal drugs come to mind. But some of the most common addictions can be found in our daily diet, and they can be doing your body serious damage.

With eating being such a normal activity it's hard to believe people can become addicted to food. Yet the cycle of addiction can still take over, making everyday life a constant struggle because of the effect it has on the brain.

Since the first step to overcoming an addiction is to acknowledge there is a problem, here is a list of the common foods, substances and habits that can be addictive and destructive to your health.

1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system, and it can make you feel more alert by blocking the message that tells your brain you are tired. An often sought after effect in our overcommitted and overscheduled lives. 

While many people find the effects of caffeine enjoyable, for some, it can induce anxiety, depression, restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, and muscle tremors.  The addictive nature of caffeine is evidenced by the effects of withdrawal such as headaches, changes in mood and sleeplessness.

To determine if you are addicted, look at how regular you are having caffeine and why you are having it. For example, do you have a morning coffee as a ritual or are you having multiple cups daily to help you get through the day?

2. Sugar

Sugar can be extremely addictive, and consuming a lot of high sugar foods can actually change an individual's brain chemistry to the extent that they can experience withdrawal symptoms if they don't keep eating them.

The taste of sugar releases endorphins that calm and relax us, and offer a natural "high”. While a little bit of sugar is fine, too much can be detrimental to our health and these days with so much sugar included in foods it can be harder to know if you are having too much.

One way of knowing if you are becoming addicted to sugar is by needing a “quick fix” to get you over the afternoon slump each day or when you find you are starting to crave it.

3. Energy drinks

Energy drinks are becoming very popular particularly with younger people. While they are advertised as aids to increase energy, concentration and alertness, they contain three to five times more sugar than ordinary soft drinks.

With ingredients such as caffeine, sugar, taurine (increases the effect of caffeine) and guarana (acts as a stimulant and increases the metabolic rate), the overuse of energy drinks can have similar effects as caffeine with effects on the heart being a real concern. Over consumption of these drinks can prove a real threat to health.

4. Additives

Food additives are substances added to food to preserve flavour or enhance its taste and appearance, and they are added to most of the food we consume.

While some additives are natural, many more are artificial. Being manufactured they can produce allergies or other health risks for others. Some additives have been found to increase children’s levels of hyperactivity and some colours have been found to be problematic to children.

Other reactions can include hives, diarrhoea and other digestive disorders and for some a more serious reaction that affects the respiratory system such as asthma.

This is why we are being warned to read the labels and identify what additives (colouring, flavour enhancers, acids, stabilisers, sweeteners etc.) are in the food we buy and eat.

5. Fatty Foods

More and more research is showing that fast food as well as highly processed food can be addictive. The fats and simple sugars can act on the brain in the same way as nicotine and heroin. The ongoing stimulation to tasty calorie-filled foods may in some cases desensitise the brains wiring.

Scientists are finding that just like drug taking, it takes more of the fatty foods to provide the same “high” because it can cause changes to the brain and the body that sends the message it needs more.

Although sugars and fats have been in our food for a long time, processed food has concentrated levels of fats and sugars without the fibre or nutrients so there is no healthy balance.

So, maybe it’s time to revaluate some of your food choices and eating habits to make sure it is for the right reason and not due to an underlying addiction?

Author: Rita Texeira
Tags: Wellbeing Nutrition Healthy Eating Diet Health

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