Neurotransmitters in food addiction: dopamine, endorphins, GABA and serotonin

April 11, 2014

Chocolate Cake Slice with Raspberries

Food can be as addicting as drugs and we often see mood changes when someone has additions or out of control cravings.

In this blog post Why do you crave and how do you self-medicate? I covered a simple way for you to figure out why you crave something or why you’re drawn to a particular food, substance, or behavior. I also said that it can be challenging to determine which part of your brain chemistry it’s affecting, and you may not associate cravings with mood issues.

In a series of connected articles I’m going to share some of the research supporting this. If you’ve read my book or have been reading my blog posts, you know I like to share research-based evidence. Unfortunately there are not many double blind studies on intervention and symptom management when it comes to amino acids, but I’ll be sharing the research that has been done – focusing on each neurotransmitter and amino acid individually.

Let’s start with this 2013 review titled Pharmacotherapies for Overeating and Obesity. Although the focus of the review is drug-based interventions for finding solutions to food addictions, the mechanisms of food addiction is nicely spelled out: neurotransmitter or brain chemical imbalances. I’d like to add that all of this can be in play even if you are not obese – you just have to love sugar/carbs, wine, coffee etc and eat or drink them to self-medicate.

  • “Research has shown that obesity can and does cause changes in behavior and in the brain itself that are very similar to changes caused by drugs of abuse”
  • “While food addiction is not the causal agent of all obesity, it is clear that many people no longer eat to survive, but instead survive to eat.”
  • “This review considers the importance of the brain’s reward system in food intake.”
  • “…research has recently demonstrated that each of these nutrient elements affects specific neurotransmitter systems in the brain providing the potential for targeted pharmacologic treatments” [instead of targeted drug treatments, we can use targeted amino acid supplements]
  • “The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) now recognizes addictions as a brain disorder, and as such, treatments aimed at addressing food addiction must address the dysfunctions at the level of the brain
  • “There are a number of such therapies under investigation targeting neuropathways and neurotransmitters implicated in addiction, including: dopaminergic [i.e. low or high dopamine, a catecholamine], opioid [i.e. low endorphins], GABAnergic [i.e. low GABA or a need for glutamine], cannabinoid [we’ll ignore this one], serotonergic [i.e. low serotonin], and other novel treatment options.”

If this scientific information is of interest to you, I encourage you to read the whole paper here.

In this 2014 study looking at food addiction, in 233 participants, they did find a relationship between food addiction and negative mood i.e. there was: “an inclination toward behaving irrationally while experiencing negative mood states (Negative Urgency) and low levels of task persistence (lack of Perseverance)

As a reminder here is the table again:

How you feel before

How you feel after

Brain chemistry imbalance

Amino acid to supplement

Anxious or stressed

Calm or relaxed

Low GABA

GABA

Depressed or anxious

Happy or content

Low serotonin

Tryptophan or 5-HTP

Tired or unfocused

Energetic, alert, or focused

Low catecholamines

Tyrosine

Wanting a reward or sad

Rewarded or comforted

Low endorphins

DPA (d-phenylalanine)

Irritable and shaky

Grounded or stable

Low blood sugar

Glutamine

 

As I said, the research is important, but more important are the incredible results my clients get when they have brain chemical deficiencies and use the amino acids in a targeted manner addressing each area of deficiency.

Meme Grant, GAPS Practitioner, Nutritional Therapist, FNTP, givennewlife.info participated my “Amazing Aminos for Emotional Eating” program and this is what she said afterwards:

“I still am amazed at how quickly the panic attacks, binge eating, and mood swings disappeared. Tyrosine enabled me to focus and gave me energy to do things again, glutamine allowed me to walk past the gluten and dairy free junk foods, D Phenylalanine stopped my comfort eating, tryptophan enabled me to stop my negative thoughts and helped me sleep but the best was when GABA was introduced, the panic attacks disappeared.”

This is why I call them the amazing amino acids. And this why addressing neurotransmitter deficiencies can end food addiction and out-of-control sugar cravings.

Join me on The Loving Food Loving Life emotional eating summit, as Aimee Serafini interviews me on how the amazing amino acids may be the solution to your emotional eating.  My interview will air on Sunday April 13th and will be available as a replay for 48 hours.  

Have you tried the amino acids? What results have you seen?

Why do you crave and how do you self-medicate?

March 14, 2014

Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out why you crave something or why you’re drawn to a particular food, substance, or behavior. It can be challenging to determine which part of your brain chemistry it’s affecting, and you may not associate cravings with mood issues. Here is a way to figure out why you may crave certain things.

Your drug-of-choice is something you self-medicate with and it is something that makes you feel good or “normal.” It could be candy, chocolate, starchy foods like bread or pasta, cookies, ice-cream, coffee, sodas or wine/beer. It could also be cigarettes, marijuana, a prescription medication like Prozac, street drugs, or even shopping or exercise.

Cravings for these substances (or behaviors) typically indicate a brain chemistry imbalance, so it’s very helpful to identify how the substances you crave affect you. This will help you determine which amino acids you might supplement to address the imbalance.

For example, a glass of wine may be calming for one person but energizing for another, or chocolate may be calming for some people and comforting for others. Certain prescription medications also offer clues. If you have many symptoms of low serotonin and have found that prescription SSRIs help, it’s possible that low serotonin is an issue.

Taking chocolate as an example, here’s what I suggest: Before you eat some chocolate, think about why you want it. Is it because you’re sad or tired or anxious? Or do you feel like you deserve a reward or feel irritable and shaky? Then, once you’ve eaten it, think about how it made you feel.

Use your drug-of-choice (candy, chocolate, starchy foods like bread or pasta, cookies, ice-cream, coffee, sodas or wine/beer etc) and the chart below to help you determine what brain chemistry imbalance may be affecting you and which amino acid you may benefit from.

How you feel before

How you feel after

Brain chemistry imbalance

Amino acid to supplement

Anxious or stressed

Calm or relaxed

Low GABA

GABA

Depressed or anxious

Happy or content

Low serotonin

Tryptophan or 5-HTP

Tired or unfocused

Energetic, alert, or focused

Low catecholamines

Tyrosine

Wanting a reward or sad

Rewarded or comforted

Low endorphins

DPA (d-phenylalanine)

Irritable and shaky

Grounded or stable

Low blood sugar

Glutamine

Feel free to share in the comments section: your drug-of-choice and how it makes you feel before you indulge and how you feel afterwards. If you’ve used any of the amino acid supplements to end the craving or addiction, I’d love to hear your feedback too.

YOU’RE WELCOME TO INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE THIS COMPLETE BLURB WITH IT:

Trudy Scott (CN), Certified Nutritionist is the founder of www.everywomanover29.com, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Trudy’s goal for all her clients (and all women): “You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”

The Super Size Me: 10-Year Anniversary Summit

February 28, 2014

Super-Size-Me-10-Year

It’s time to fix food. (join me and 30+ top food experts?)

The biggest voices in health & nutrition are coming together to address the future of food (and how you can help fix it).

10 years ago, the Oscar-nominated documentary Super Size Me showed how food can drastically change a person’s body and health over just 30 days. And what an incredible movie it was! (If you haven’t seen it I really encourage you to see what 3x day of fast food can do to a man!)

In this groundbreaking, eye-opening, conversation-starting, film, co-star Alex Jamieson helped to change the way we think about fast food and how what we eat affects our bodies.

But 10 years after Super Size Me rocked America, we’re still facing some big challenges.

People who desperately need good nutrition, like the working poor, don’t have access to it. Our children are still bombarded with junk food messaging, and our schools have yet to embrace healthier lunch programs and nutrition education.

And at home, we still deal with emotional eating issues, weight problems, and body image troubles. Even when we know that we could be doing things differently to eat better, the idea of fixing healthy food at home seems like a chore.

Which is why I’m excited and honored to join Alex (and her 30+ food experts) on her mission to #FixFood. We met last year and I am so impressed with the wonderful work she is doing! She is a woman on a mission – that’s for sure! Alex is truly a passionate and inspirational leader in the health and wellness field.

In celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Super Size Me, she is reuniting the powerful voices that shaped the film and helped make this little documentary a global sensation.

She’s asked the 30+ top experts in food and health who have come up in the last 10 years how they intend to help all of us #FixFood.

And she’s bringing all of these leaders and experts together for a virtual event like no other…

The Super Size Me: 10-Year Anniversary Summit

This conference is available via online streaming for FREE, March 10 – 14, 2014!

Get inside information on what the future holds for food from Alex Jamieson, and experts including JJ Virgin, Dr. Daniel Amen, Dr. Mark Hyman, John Robbins, Robb Wolfe and many more.

As I said, I’m just thrilled to be one of the speakers! I will be talking about real food, red meat (of course!), emotional eating/brain chemical imbalances and how the amazing amino acids can switch off cravings so we don’t feel deprived and don’t need to use willpower to avoid the junk foods, sugars and carbs. This is just one way that will help us #FixFood!

We have the power to change food culture – and it all starts here. See you March 10!

What you need to know:

Dates: March 10 – 14, 2014
Price: FREE
Where: Sign up online at
http://www.entheos.com/Super-Size-Me-10-Year-Anniversary/Trudy-Scott

YOU’RE WELCOME TO INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE THIS COMPLETE BLURB WITH IT:

Trudy Scott (CN), Certified Nutritionist is the founder of www.everywomanover29.com, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Trudy’s goal for all her clients (and all women): “You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”

9 Steps to Calm the Anxious Mind: Nourishing Hope Support Club

February 21, 2014

nourishing-hope-support-club

The Nourishing Hope Support Club is led by nutritionist Julie Matthews and created to help support families of children with autism and ADHD to understand how to apply food and nutrition choices based on each child’s individual biochemistry. She has extensive experience on how food compounds such as salicylates, oxalates, glutamates, and food proteins affect learning, mood and health.

Once a month, Julie discusses emerging research, shares her clinical experience, answers your questions, and interviews special guests. These monthly talks help parents learn to make the most of food and supplement choices, identify possible pitfalls, and stay on track toward improving the health and learning potential of their child. Each month brings content-specific learning topics about how various special diets (gluten-free, GAPS, Paleo), nutrition concepts, and supplements help children with ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorders, and learning and developmental delays.

I am pleased to announce that, this month, I will be the guest presenter on the Nourishing Hope Support Club with Julie Matthews. I will be speaking on “Food and Mood: 9 Steps to Calm the Anxious Mind.”

Guest Speaker: Trudy Scott, Certified Nutritionist
February 26th, 5:00 pm, PST

There is much recent evidence supporting the powerful food-mood connection and there are some very exciting recent studies that support this for both anxiety disorders, stress and other mood disorders. I use a comprehensive 9 step approach with my clients to help them overcome their anxiety, depression, emotional eating and sugar cravings. It is, of course, customized to their unique biochemistry, and includes:

  1. Real whole traditional food, including quality grass-fed red meat and 4 unique antianxiety food solutions
  2. Why and how to quit sugar with no willpower required and how to control blood sugar swings
  3. The effects of caffeine
  4. The importance of optimal digestion
  5. The bad-mood effects of gluten
  6. How to balance brain chemistry with individual amino acids to improve mood and stop cravings in their tracks
  7. How to correct social anxiety / pyroluria with zinc and vitamin B6
  8. The effects of other nutrients (such as low vitamin D), hormones and medications
  9. Simple lifestyle changes that include sleep, exercise and yoga

In preparation for the call, I shared some of the recent research with Julie:

There is a growing body of evidence supporting the very powerful connection between food and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. Dr. Felice Jacka, is an Australian researcher who is one of the lead researchers on food and mental health.

In this 2010 study in The American Journal of Psychiatry, lead author Dr. Jacka, found that a “western” diet of processed or fried foods, refined grains, sugary products, and beer was associated with a higher risk of anxiety and depression in women. The “traditional” diet or real whole food diet was associated with a lower risk of anxiety and depression. This real whole food diet did include grass-fed red meat and she believes following the recommended weekly intake of red meat could boost our mental health.

Dr. Felice Jacka is also the lead author in a 2011 PLoS One paper that found that diet quality in adolescents was associated with a lower risk of mental health issues. They found that “improvements in diet quality were mirrored by improvements in mental health over the follow-up period, while deteriorating diet quality was associated with poorer psychological functioning.” The author stated that this “study highlights the importance of diet in adolescence and its potential role in modifying mental health over the life course.”

You can read the rest of the article here on the Nourishing Hope site.

I hope you can join us! I’ve known Julie for years and admire her immensely. She is truly a trailblazer in the world of nutrition for autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays.

Here is her bio: Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in autism spectrum disorders. She provides dietary guidance backed by scientific research and applied clinical experience. Her award winning book, Nourishing Hope for Autism, has helped people around the world to make food and nutrition choices that aid the health, learning, and behavior of those with autism, ADHD, and other developmental delays. She presents at leading autism conferences in the US and abroad, and is the Nutrition Editor of the Autism File magazine. She is on the advisory boards of the US Autism & Asperger Association and Autism Nutrition Research Center. Julie has a private nutrition practice in San Francisco, California, and supports families and clinicians from around the world. Visit http://NourishingHope.com

To learn more about the Nourishing Hope Support Club and join the call, visit: http://nourishinghope.com/support-club/

YOU’RE WELCOME TO INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE THIS COMPLETE BLURB WITH IT:

Trudy Scott (CN), Certified Nutritionist is the founder of www.everywomanover29.com, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Trudy’s goal for all her clients (and all women): ”You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”

Trans fats make us depressed and anxious!

February 21, 2014

Cheese Pizza

We don’t need trans fats in our diets! In November last year the FDA Targeted Trans Fat in Processed Foods.

Mical E. Honigfort, a consumer safety officer at FDA, says that trans fat can still be found in such processed foods as:

  • crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
  • snack foods (such as microwave popcorn)
  • frozen pizza
  • vegetable shortenings and stick margarines
  • coffee creamers
  • refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
  • ready-to-use frostings

Partially hydrogenated oils are the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food. The FDA is in the process of determining if trans fats are GRAS, in other words “generally recognized as safe.” Trans fats, produced by industrial processes, are unrecognizable to the body and inherently unhealthful and I believe we have enough information to show they are not GRAS.

One of the many detrimental health effects of trans fats is that they contribute to mental health problems. I have my clients avoid them at all costs and educate them on the incredible mood benefits of eating only real whole foods.

A 2011 study called “Dietary Fat Intake and the Risk of Depression” looking at the diets of 12,059 Spanish university graduates found that consumption of trans fats were linked to an increased risk of depression. The authors state this: “These findings suggest that cardiovascular disease and depression may share some common nutritional determinants related to subtypes of fat intake.”

A more recent 2013 animal study in Neuroscience found that “chronic consumption of trans fats can enhance emotionality and anxiety parameters resulting from stressful situations of everyday life, which can trigger more severe neuropsychiatric conditions.”

If you recall, trans fats get mentioned in a recent blog post where I reviewed Dr Masley’s new book “The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up”. They are one of the worst culprits for heart disease (together with sugar and carbs).

And my colleague Mira Dessy shares that trans fats lower cognitive performance scores as well as lower brain volume

So ditch those trans fats and eat real whole food to feel calm, happy, smart and live healthy! 

YOU’RE WELCOME TO INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE THIS COMPLETE BLURB WITH IT:

Trudy Scott (CN), Certified Nutritionist is the founder of www.everywomanover29.com, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Trudy’s goal for all her clients (and all women): ”You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”

The Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin: book review and webinar

February 12, 2014

virgin-diet-book-NYT

Food intolerance is a big factor and something I look at with all my clients. Other than weight gain it can cause a host of other issues ranging from inflammation to aches and pains to fatigue and even anxiety and depression. In fact, over 80% of my anxious clients do better mood-wise on a gluten-free diet.

I’m a little behind the times because JJ Virgin wrote this NY Times bestseller book late in 2012:  The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days (Why Food Intolerance is the Real Cause of Weight Gain).

With her new recipe book coming out I decided it’s time to do a review!

These are the 7 foods JJ wants you to drop: corn, eggs, peanuts, dairy, gluten, soy, and sugar (including artificial sweeteners).

I have to admit I was skeptical about eggs because they are such a wonderful protein source, such a great start to the day  and so handy for a snack. I used to eat a lot of eggs until I recently discovered that I have an egg intolerance! I’m hoping it’s going to be a short-term problem and that I can eventually reintroduce them because I LOVE my soft-boiled pastured eggs.  The message is this: even a healthy food like eggs may be an issue for you.

You eliminate the above 7 foods and see how you do and then add them back and see how they affect you (sugar and artificial sweeteners stay out for good, and possibly gluten too). There are 3 cycles that the book walks you through:

  • Cycle 1: Elimination
  • Cycle 2: Reintroduction
  • Cycle 3: The Virgin Diet for Life

The book goes into a great more detail about the following:

  • what food intolerances are
  • insulin resistance – a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively leading to weight-gain and blood sugar issues
  • leptin resistance – leptin is the hormone that signals satiety or fullness and when you have resistance you feel hungrier and have more cravings
  • zonulin – a protein that is affected by gluten and loosens the tight junctions in the gut contributing to leaky gut and more food intolerances
  • the dangers of GMOs and soy
  • the autoimmune connection – and much more

The book has great sections on healthy proteins and fats, quality produce, sugar and artificial sweeteners, exercising, meal planning, eating out and recipes. I’m looking forward to her follow-up book which launches on Feb 18th – her recipe book The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast 

We do have a few differences of opinion. :)

  • I’m not a big fan of coffee and JJ admits that she fights her fellow-nutritionists on this one!
  • I find that my clients with adrenal issues need to eat more frequently than every 4 to 6 hours
  • Pea-rice protein is the protein powder recommended and would not be suitable if you need to eat grain free or have issues with peas so adjust accordingly
  • I’m not terribly fond of the 3-bite rule where you get to splurge on desserts. JJ has a great sense of humor and says “share your dessert with someone who has a faster fork!” But I think you can get to the point where you no longer have a sweet tooth.

I’d also like to add that these 7 food intolerances are obviously not the only factor when it comes to weight-loss resistance – it’s one of many factors, including thyroid health, environmental toxins, dysbiosis, brain chemical imbalances, poor eating choices, stress (this is a big one!), lack of sleep and not exercising enough or incorrectly. JJ is the pro when it comes to exercise and she is a big proponent of restorative sleep.  There are also many  other foods that could potentially be an issue for you.

I do love that this book has brought the concept of food intolerances to the masses, bringing awareness of something that had not even been considered before. I commend JJ for this and her big mission to help millions of people lose weight and get healthy! So many people have had such incredible results with her program!

PS. In preparation of the new book launch JJ is hosting a webinar on what you need to know about The Virgin Diet. You can sign up here to get the most up-to-date information. Sign up and get to hear her share her words of wisdom.

YOU’RE WELCOME TO INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE THIS COMPLETE BLURB WITH IT:

Trudy Scott (CN), Certified Nutritionist is the founder of www.everywomanover29.com, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Trudy’s goal for all her clients (and all women): ”You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”

30-day Heart Tune-up with Dr. Steven Masley

January 30, 2014
steven-masley-susanne-bennett

Dr. Steven Masley and Dr. Susanne Bennett

Dr. Masley is celebrating the  release of his new book, “The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, a Breakthrough Plan to Tune Up Your Heart, Energy, Waistline, and Sex Life.”

I received an advance copy and it’s great! I’ve been a fan for awhile! Who couldn’t love a doctor who is also a nutritionist and chef and shares videos of him doing wonderful cooking demos! I first heard Dr. Masley present on “The Sexy Younger You Summit” and then I had the pleasure of meeting him recently at the Mindshare Summit in Florida.

Dr. Masley is a board- and fellow-certified physician and nutritionist, author, speaker, and award-winning patient educator with over twenty-five years of research and clinical experience. He was recently named a Fellow by the American Heart Association.

And now I have brought him and his passion to you via an interview we just did. We discussed so much and he shared so many gems. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Why a little bit of stress is healthy and how important love and support is
  • How romance and a cuddle raises oxytocin and lowers cortisol
  • How we have disease-care and not health-care and why we must focus more on blood sugar than cholesterol
  • For every woman who dies of breast cancer, 6 women die from heart disease
  • His 4 tests for assessing risk for heart disease: (the four Fs to fantastic heart health): fitness, fiber, body fat and food/nutrients. His top advice is to be fit (he has a fitness test in his book) and eat 30g of fiber a day!
  • The carotid IMT/ intimal medial thickness test (this was new to me!) and the advanced lipid profile
  • How statins don’t help reduce the risk of heart disease in women and some of the side-effects. I was aware of muscle aches and memory loss but did not know that they lower testosterone levels and raise blood sugar
  • The five new categories of food that will prevent and reverse heart disease: fiber, lean and clean protein, healthy fats, beneficial beverages and fantastic flavors. I love his last category – herbs, garlic, ginger, turmeric! Yummm!
  • The top two foods that cause heart disease: Refined carbs/sugar/flour (I recently blogged about No Sugar!) and trans fat/partially hydrogenated oils. Not fat, and not cholesterol!

The wonderful thing is that by following these guidelines, your heart will be healthy and you’ll likely feel less anxious! If you are super-sensitive to caffeine, like me and many of my clients, then just use common sense when it comes to Dr. Masley’s suggestions for dark chocolate, coffee and green tea. We did talk about this during the interview.

I really wanted to interview Dr. Masley because heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined; and because of the link between anxiety and risk of heart disease: a recent study found that people in the highest third of anxiety symptoms had a 33 percent higher stroke risk than those with the lowest levels.

You can listen to my 30-Day Heart Tune-Up interview with Dr. Masley here.

Dr. Masley is offering a 30-Day Heart Tune-Up Gift Package.

The digital package includes:

  • Know Your Risks – The Tests You Must Have that Your Doctor May Not Be Ordering
  • Are You Getting What You Need for a Healthy Heart? Nutrient Guide
  • Join Dr. Masley in His Kitchen & Whip Up his Favorite, Delicious, Heart Healthy Recipe

I signed up and it’s great information. Great gumbo recipe and super seeing him in the kitchen surrounded by all the delicious ingredients!

Of course, be sure to get a copy of his new book “The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up, a Breakthrough Plan to Tune Up Your Heart, Energy, Waistline, and Sex Life.”

YOU’RE WELCOME TO INCLUDE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEBSITE AS LONG AS YOU INCLUDE THIS COMPLETE BLURB WITH IT:

Trudy Scott (CN), Certified Nutritionist is the founder of www.everywomanover29.com, a thriving nutrition practice with a focus on food, mood and women’s health. Trudy educates women about the amazing healing powers of food and nutrients and helps them find natural solutions for anxiety and other mood problems. Trudy’s goal for all her clients (and all women): ”You can be your healthiest, look your best and feel on-top-of-the-world emotionally!”

No sugar or sugar in moderation? I say NO sugar!

January 10, 2014

Delicious Chocolate Cake

More and more research is supporting the fact that sugar and carbs are as addicting as drugs and as difficult to quit for some people. I came across this quote the other day: “Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. Coincidence? I think not!” and it’s perfect. We crave sugar because we are stressed, sad, looking for pleasure and for energy and motivation. And we self-medicate with it in the same way as drugs, caffeine and tobacco.

This paper called Obesity: The emerging neurobiology of calorie addiction was published just a few days ago:

“The increased availability and consumption of highly palatable foods is the major factor behind the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in developed countries.”

“Progress has been made in recent years in understanding the neurobiological underpinnings for this preference” for sucrose: “sucrose activates dopamine neurons in a region of the brain called the striatum, and the resulting release of dopamine is associated with pleasure.

“Moreover, the repeated consumption of high levels of sucrose can create a cycle of continued overconsumption—even compulsive eating—in order to recapture the initial feelings of pleasure. This is similar in many ways to drug abuse or addiction, and also involves some of the same signalling pathways within the body”

This dopamine/pleasure mechanism is just one way that leads to sugar addiction. This Oct 2013 paper in Nutrition, Neurobiologic basis of craving for carbohydrates says this:

“There is a relationship between emotional disorders, obesity, and craving for carbohydrates

“Research on the basis of carbohydrate craving is varied, but may be grouped into five main areas: the serotonergic system, palatability and hedonic response [i.e. pleasure], the motivational system, stress response systems, and gene-environment interaction”

Last week I posed this question on my facebook page: “no sugar or sugar in moderation? what’s your vote? I say NO sugar! Do you think that’s too harsh and too unrealistic?” I was referring to ANY sweetener other than fresh fruit.

Here are some of the comments my tribe offered:

  • I’d say in moderation. However I’m trying to reduce my view of moderation over time.”
  • I was totally sweetener-free for a long time so I know how that feels for me. I’ve been experimenting with raw honey I seem to do fine with it “in moderation” (i.e. even a little bit each day is fine – although I don’t make baked goods so I’m not using large quantities.)
  • I seem at present to be incapable of moderation with sugar. So for me none at all might be the way I need to go. Humans developed over many thousands of years with just the sweetness of unprocessed fruits and maybe some honey now and then. Our culture’s idea of what “moderate” even means in regards to processed sugars is highly skewed.
  • Zero is way too hard for me but everyone is different
  • I say: a little bit of everything is just perfect!
  • Zero sugar is too rigid for me…I don’t think any of my clients say no to sugar 100%…I do avoid white and brown processed sugar ~95% of the time but will eat it when at someone’s home made with love. Every day, I use maple syrup to sweeten teas and in baked goods.
  • I don’t think a little bit of natural sugar is bad at all; but only just a little bit.
  • I’d say it’s ok for someone else [the zero sugar]! For me, I have to have a little here and there – just like bread. However, it’s a fraction of what it used to be. Maybe at some point I can whittle down from there.

Very few agreed with me about zero sugar. Here is what they said:

  • I’m with you! it is realistic as I have given up sugar and all artificial sweeteners.
  • NO sugar – Dr so astounded that I’ve brought my numbers down so much after wanting to give me meds for years. She said no meds would’ve brought my numbers down as much as I’ve done with diet and especially NO sugar or carbs.

Here are some of my thoughts: “Moderation” has quite a big range for some people and I see it going out of the window when it comes to baked goods. I see many recipes calling for pretty large amounts of maple syrup of honey. I recently heard Tana Amen, BSN, RN and author of The Omni Diet speak about sugar and crack cocaine in the same sentence and she said: “they are both addicting. We’d never do crack in moderation so why do sugar in moderation!?” I agree!

A friend and I were at a recent celiac function that had tons of gluten-free treats – all loaded with carbs and sugar and not healthy at all even though they were gluten-free. We had no desire to have any of the treats. That’s how we should feel! Zero sugar should be easy!

You won’t crave sugar or even feel the need for a little bit or an occasional treat if you have balanced biochemistry and are not stressed, no nutritional deficiencies (low zinc can be a factor) and are eating to control blood sugar.

You won’t be defensive when asked about it and you won’t feel deprived when you do go without it. You won’t feel that you need just a little. You also won’t have to white-knuckle it and use willpower.

Where do you stand? No sugar or sugar in moderation? And do you think that zero sugar is too harsh and too unrealistic? Do you think addiction plays a role? Are you white-knuckling it or can you take it or leave it?

Do you need help to get to zero sugar consumption? Here are some resources for you.

  1. Check out these chapters in my book “The Antianxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help You Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood, and End Cravings”: eat real food, blood sugar balancing and the amazing amino acids.
  2. Stay tuned for the upcoming release of my homestudy program “Amazing Amino Acids for Emotional Eating.” Listen to me present on upcoming calls and tele-summits as I share some of the highlights of this wonderful 6 week program.