Food an addiction?

I grew up on a farm where we had a large garden, raised animals and cultivated fields. It was a lot of work and fresh air. I did not comprehend living the wholesome lifestyle and how we ate would make a big impact on me as an adult.

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We all need to eat for fuel for our bodies and minds. Unlike other addictions, we cannot just quit cold turkey (pun intended) or gradually taper off We need a steady supply of nutrients to perform well. Unfortunately too much of a good thing can result in being overweight, cause disease, depression and much more. Is it about will power or could there be physiological reasons behind our cravings?

Our bodies naturally produce serotonin which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. It is mainly produced in the intestines and studies have shown it to be a big influencer on our mood, appetite and digestion. When we eat carbohydrates or sugary foods, our bodies feel great, temporarily. But, when our serotonin levels are drop, our brains tell us we need more to feel good again. This is where our diet can go astray quickly.

What do we need to do?

When we fuel our bodies with delicious, nutritious foods and pay attention to our gut health, we don’t crave as much and our bodies remain consistently happy. Ingesting a good pro-biotic and eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt, kimchi and drinking kambucha, can be very beneficial to keep your gastrointestinal tract healthy and happy.

Commonly added to foods are salt, fats and sugar. Salt, high fat, high-calorie and sugary foods triggers the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the brain’s pleasure center, making them as addictive as nicotine, cocaine, heroin and alcohol which can lead to compulsive eating habits.

The sad part is they are most often hidden by fast food and some chain restaurants increasing our caloric intake too!

Stress, depression, boredom, blood sugar imbalances are common causes to have us reaching for the bag of cookies or some salty chips. The reality is food cravings rarely last longer than an hour. Instead, reach for whole, raw and plant based foods such as hummus, nuts, fresh berries or having a cup of tea. Usually our taste buds are satiated within 20 seconds so eat mindfully and take your time.

By the time we feel thirsty, we are already dehydrated. Plenty of water throughout the day helps us control our hunger, stave away headaches, gives more thinking clarity and keeps toxins flushed from our bodies.

Regular exercise, even as much as a quick walk during the day, helps control cravings, boost immune systems, strengthens heart muscles and produces sleep better. Exercise may boost serotonin levels that can trigger reaching for healthy choices.

Get plenty of rest. Sleeping 6-8 hours rejuvenates our cells especially when we keep a regular schedule. When we are rested, we tend to make better choices.

Meditation, even 5 to 10 minutes a day decreases stress, has shown to boost serotonin levels and fosters an overall sense of wellbeing.

Sunshine and vitamin D are restorative. Get plenty of outside time even if it is cloudy and cold as you can still receive light therapy benefits.

Besides being a crucial component to overall health, having healthy teeth and gums prevents bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease. Having a fresh mouth helps quell cravings too.

Plan movement activities like walks and bowling verses events centered on food. There is something uplifting about playing with friends. Often laughter occurs naturally producing even more feel good endorphins.

Practice healthy habits daily and watch your overall cravings diminish.

Where health is the destination, wellness is the journey. –Dr. Jim Nicolai