Food Allergies and Food Addiction

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Most of my recent posts have been recipes, reviews and promotions. It has been awhile since I wrote a post from a personal perspective. My life at times feels like a blur. I have a new passion which brings me great joy and I have been working full time at my job since January 2015. Previously I worked 32 hours, now I'm at 40. I stepped into my supervisor's job this past September which added about 30% of work to my already full workload. I often feel like I am driving a vehicle which has a blown tire and it is pulling hard to the left. It is hard to keep holding the steering wheel straight. Some might say, just let the car drive itself, but I'll be veering off into oncoming traffic. At least that is how it feels sometimes.

To add on top of everything else, I'm not happy with the weight I've gained. More than likely, my stress levels are almost certainly playing a factor in my weight gain. I was so cocky, thinking I'd mastered the solution for my body. I never got down to the weight the charts say I should weigh, but I was happy at 165-170. And then of course since I was maintaining my weight easily sticking to full GAPS foods, I decided it was time to transition off of GAPS. That was apparently a big mistake. I keep saying I'm going back to full GAPS, and I do for a few days, and then I end up straying again. I have come to believe what is happening for me has to do with food addiction possibly caused by food allergies.

Food addiction problems plague my family of origin. There is a part of me that thinks I got lucky because I don't have a severe problem, like bulimia or anorexia. But I definitely have some disordered eating issues.

“Disordered eating refers to a wide range of abnormal eating behaviors, many of which are shared with diagnosed eating disorders. The main thing differentiating disordered eating from an eating disorder is the level of severity and frequency of behaviors.” From Eating Disorders Victoria

I believe my problems are minor, and at times brought on by my own behaviors. For example, if I attempt to count calories or impose portion control, I begin to have problems. I start feeling like I can't eat anything, I feel guilty for the things I do eat, I feel like I'm a bad person, I'm a failure, I'm a loser. And then I eat more. One upside of counting calories and focusing on portion control… apparently I eat too much food. Ironically, recognizing that makes me feel even more guilty. And I eat more.

Part of the stress with calorie counting is because when you eat “real” food, it becomes a major time suck to count calories since the food doesn't come in a neat little container with a label that tells you exactly how many calories.

The other part of the neat little container though, is the ridiculous serving size. Really? Two handfuls (okay, large handfuls) of mixed nuts is four servings? That tiny little bag is 400 calories? That's crazy. When I look at that, I feel like I should comply and eat “one serving”. I know the bag of nuts isn't telling me what to do. It is how the manufacturer conveys to us how many calories are in that bag. I just wish one little bag of nuts would say “1 serving” = 400 calories. I'm smart enough to realize if I eat half a serving I would get 200 calories.

Why do I even torture myself looking at the nutrition label?

Anyway… my point in beginning this post was to talk about an article I found recently which helped me immensely. I have heard before that in many cases if you crave a food, it is almost certainly a food that you are allergic to. I grew up thinking if I crave certain foods, it was because my body knew that I needed some nutrient in that food. And that could be correct, but I am now leaning more towards food addiction.

I notice it especially with high starch foods, like white potatoes. If I abstain from eating potatoes for a few weeks, I am not tempted when I see them. But if I have been eating them regularly, it is close to impossible to stop myself from having a strong craving for them to which I must give in. I have stopped buying them for home use, but at my job the cook makes one variation of potatoes or another at least once a week. It might be mashed potatoes, or hash browns, or fried potatoes, but if I have been eating potatoes regularly you will see me there eating 4 or 5 or 6 or 10 “servings” of potatoes. Cook also makes rice once a week, another weakness of mine. She also makes pasta, but I draw the line at gluten products.

So this article I read which I want to share with you is called Food Addiction, Food Allergy and Overweight by Sephen Levine, Ph.D. Please take the time to read the entire article yourself to get the full impact, but here are a few snippets that jumped out at me (emphasis mine):

“Food sensitivities may cause allergic people to crave those foods to which they are allergic. Just as a drug addict suffers withdrawal symptoms when the drug is withdrawn, allergic people experience discomfort when they lose access to a particular food.

Obese people can testify to the overwhelming power of food allergy addiction. Compulsive eaters crave and continue to eat those allergenic foods to which they are addicted day after day. The obese person has no idea that his daily food cravings or eating habits are based on a physiological need to stop withdrawal symptoms caused by food allergy addiction.”

So… I have experienced this. In the years I was committed to GAPS, one of my coworkers told me, “You just have so much willpower. I couldn't do what you are doing.” I tried to tell her that I don't have willpower. When you stop eating foods to which you are allergic, the cravings stop. They really do stop. It is almost miraculous.

“Water retention, or edema, is particularly common among allergic individuals and is an important contributing factor to obesity. The removal of an offending food will often result in a rapid water loss of five to ten pounds within a week’s time, all without the use of a diuretic.”

And this is why people often lose weight after going on a diet which eliminates a lot of the common allergenic foods! If you can break the cycle, and understand that is what you are doing, you will have better luck. It is a nice feeling to eat good tasting food that is enjoyable and delicious, and being able to actually feel positive about eating, rather than beat myself up for eating anything when I'm in the throes of my disordered eating.

“This neuro-physiological analysis is shared by William Philpott, M.D., a clinical ecologist from Oklahoma City, who has written extensively on the subject. Dr. Philpott speculates the frequent contact with allergenic foods triggers a rise in the brain opioid enkephalin. The enkephalin is a narcotic produced by the body that is as addictive as externally supplied narcotics.”

Now THAT is some pretty powerful information! And really speaks volumes to me. And gives a possible explanation for the reason why, when I eat those foods that are addictive to me, I wolf the food. I barely chew the food, so eager am I to get it down my throat. (Chew one bite of food 30 times? HAH!)

“What’s most important is that it’s extremely difficult for these allergic individuals to lose weight unless they ultimately gain control of their food allergies. They must identify the particular allergens, break the craving and then eliminate the chemical or food.”

I feel that I have learned how to tell the difference between foods which are allergens to me, and those that are not. It is not too difficult… if the food tastes good to me, but I am eating it normally, it is probably not an allergen. But if my mouth is watering and I can hardly wait to eat the food, then stuffing it into my mouth as quickly as I can… almost certainly an allergen. I will eat and eat and eat until the food is gone. Even if my belly is full and aching. I'm so glad that I don't do that much anymore, but I do remember asking myself why was I eating so much that my stomach hurt. What was wrong with me? I have to take protective measures against my behaviors by making just a serving or two of the food. (What's the point of cooking 1/4 cup rice? “None,” my allergic cravings say. Have you ever tried cooking 1/4 cup of rice? It's not that easy!)

Some foods that trigger uncontrollable eating behaviors for me: rice (brown or white), white potatoes, cottage cheese, corn products. (Again, I don't include pasta because I don't eat gluten, but I'm sure if I were eating pasta I'd be devouring it in huge bites).

“The allergic reaction itself can result in a drastic reduction in blood sugar with the accompanying symptomatology: weakness, hunger and irritability. Allergic hunger is pathological in that it does not respond to the normal satiety control center in the brain when food is consumed in normal amounts, so both the addictive and allergic responses to allergy can cause uncontrollable eating behavior.”

*Light bulb*

Is this why I had to eat so often before I started GAPS? I remember after being on GAPS for about a year, I was SOOOO delighted that I could actually eat three meals a day and not have to carry a food bag around with me!  I probably could have moved to three meals a day much earlier, but was still convinced that I had to eat many small meals every day or I would be cranky, weak, tired and starving hungry.

I keep reading that last quote over and over. That is huge! Blood sugar drops are possibly caused by an allergic reaction to food! Wow.

And allergic hunger does not respond to normal feelings of being sated. Another light bulb just went off. So that's why my belly can be full but my mouth is insisting on more, more, more, more, feed me, more, more, more, feed me, feed me, more, more, more.

These are important things to know, it helps to arm ourselves with knowledge. If I can use my logical brain to persuade the addiction, I will have better success.

So what about you? Do you relate to any of this? Don't forget to go directly to the article and read the whole thing for yourself: Food Addiction, Food Allergy and Overweight

Stay tuned. I've started Intermittent Fasting and I'm liking it a LOT.

 

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4 comments to Food Allergies and Food Addiction

  • Jennifer

    Starlene,

    Thank you SOOO MUCH for writing this! It really resonates with me and I am going right now to read the entire article.

    I look forward to reading how intermittent fasting is working for you.

    [Reply]

  • Hi Jennifer, you are welcome and thank YOU so much for your comment! I really appreciate the feedback! Have a lovely evening! 🙂 ~Starlene
    Starlene recently posted..What is Coconut Butter, Coconut Manna and Coconut Cream Concentrate?My Profile

    [Reply]

  • Leah

    HI there,

    Thank you for writing this article. I struggled with food addiction for so long as well. I just was able to break free of its clutches a few months ago with fasting and as I study food chemistry. Learning what the body needs to run and heal itself. A book I am currently reading is by Ted Morter called Your Health, Your Choice. What an eye opener. Hope this helps. I have read and enjoyed your blog for 4 years. I was on Gaps for 18 months but was not totally healed. I also wanted food bondage freedom. I finally found it!

    [Reply]

    Starlene Reply:

    Hi Leah! Thank you so much for your comment! I will take a look at Dr. Morter’s book, thank you for the recommendation. I am really glad to hear you have recovered from food addiction, that is encouraging! And THANK YOU for hanging out with me for the past four years, I am honored and delighted to hear that. Have a wonderful day! ~Starlene

    [Reply]

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