Most of us are fond of at least one product that has the effect of a stimulant and that eventually becomes an addiction. These products include exercise stimulant drinks (they come in cans and look like cola), fizzy aerated drinks, tobacco, betel nut, betel leaf, strong coffee, strong tea, ma huang (an ephedrine-like compound consumed in china), and alcohol. But what is the cause of food addiction or eating addictive foods that are harmful to the body?
Before I tell you why we shouldn’t consume these products, I’d like to deal with the question of why we do consume them in the first place.
There’s no one who doesn’t know that products like these, consumed in excess, can severely harm our bodies. Yet, we still find them hard to resist. The need to eat stimulant food is a simple human weakness that has existed for ages: humans (and many animals) have always indulged in foods that give a sort of emotional high. An emotional connection is a cause of food addiction. In clinical terms, this means rapid heartbeat, a little sweating, dilation or constriction of the pupils of the eye, a warm flush on the face, and a sense of greater sensitivity, concentration, and perception are some of the consequences of eating addictive foods that are harmful.
These sensations of an emotional high die down within a few hours, and we are left feeling listless and low. This leads to a craving for that food again, to experience the high one more time. And there we are going round and round in a vicious circle. This is another cause of food addiction or any addiction, continually trying to chase the same sensation or feeling that you have had time and time again.
The physiology of addictions is as follows:
When you eat addictive foods that are harmful, it stimulates the hormone-like substances found at the end of your nerves, which triggers an avalanche of similar stimulatory substances and you experience a high. As the substances near the nerves are depleted, you get into the low phase, which leads you to crave that food again. This yo-yo phase of nerve stimulation and depletion leads to a cause of food addiction.
Consuming addictive foods that are harmful is one of the oldest unhealthy food practices and, despite a revolution in health consciousness; it shows no signs of dying out.
Below are some side effects of certain addictive foods.
Alcohol Addiction: Erosion of stomach and intestinal lining, liver damage, nutritional deficiency specifically related to co-factors for the liver.
Tobacco: Erosion of gum and tongue can lead to cancer of the buccal mucosa.
Betel nut: Leads to the discoloration of teeth, erosion of the lining of the mouth, and cancer of the mouth and upper tract. It also leads to heart problems among people who already have a weak heart.
Ma huang: It contains ephedrine and leads to heart problems.
Aerated drinks: High doses of caffeine can create adrenal fatigue, exhaustion, and nervous system overload.
Caffeine and xanthine: Found in tea, and coffee. These become harmful only in very high doses; don’t consume more than five cups a day.
Mixed drug reactions: People who consume medications for the heart, hypertension, and asthma have to be very careful about the interactions of the drugs with stimulant foods, as mixing the two can be fatal.
After years of experience, all doctors know how difficult it is to break the food addictions of their patients. So, like them, I can only advise a good compromise. If you can’t break the addiction, then at least you should practice moderation. Consuming addictive foods that are harmful will eventually have implications on your health that a pill cannot cover-up. Oftentimes, many illnesses do not occur spontaneously but often occur after years of misuse and abuse of the body.
In one study conducted, processed food that was higher in fat was most associated with addictive foods that are harmful. In other studies, it was evident that foods with refined carbohydrates, and salt were also foods that were addictive and harmful. Much evidence suggests behavioral, neurobiological, and genetic implications as some of the many root causes of food addiction. Many of these implications can be overcome with a structured care plan. It was also shown that brain reward dysfunction, preoccupation, risky use, impaired control, tolerance/withdrawal, social impairment, chronicity, and relapse were also associated with the cause of food addiction. While this is unique to the individual patient involved it is clear that there is much overlap when addressing the root causes of food addiction. If you or someone you know struggles with food addiction and needs help, please reach out for a consultation.