The familiar urge to indulge cravings is not inherently addictive, but the issue arises when this instant gratification replaces long-term fulfillment. Why are we at risk of falling into this cycle? The science behind cravings and addiction might surprise you.
The urge that we love to hate.
If only we craved foods that were as good for our bodies as they are for our taste buds. As someone with a history of restricted eating due to health concerns, acting on my cravings could mean facing side effects even more detrimental than sluggishness or unwanted body fat.
So why do we tend to crave things that are not good for us?
The simple answer is that it is not totally true that our cravings are not “good”! Like anything in life, they serve a purpose and meet an immediate need or desire that we have. When we lean into our cravings, we meet our psychological need for instant gratification. The issue arises when we rely on this desire for instant gratification so much that we opt to experience these fleeting moments consistently over time rather than for doing what’s necessary to enhance our experiences in the long haul.
This is where cravings turn into addiction.
How do we know where our cravings and addiction come from? Is it emotional, is it a brain addiction, is it coming from our microbiome, is it coming from something else?
Dr. Mark Hyman addresses these questions in episode 7 of his podcast The Doctor’s Farmacy. The answer is more straightforward than you may think.
It’s the pleasure center of our neurosystems, and it is stimulated by substances like alcohol and sugar. All of our brains have dopamine receptors, but some brains need more stimulation. For those who have a tendency toward addiction, the challenge will be to learn how to avoid triggers for sudden dopamine hits. At the same time, there are those who have a diet high in certain substances such as wheat, which contains gluten, that can be digested into morphine-like compounds. These substances then bind to the opioid connection in the brain and stimulate addiction.
The starch found in wheat and sugar render them especially addictive foods. And as you know, our bodies do not fare well when given a surplus of these substances. A double whammy.
These foods are staples in the American diet — the average American consumes a whopping 150 lbs of sugar and 130 lbs of flour each year! By consuming large amounts of these foods, we are constantly stimulating the brain receptors that trigger cravings and addiction. Fast carbs make our adrenaline, cortisol, and insulin spike. As our cravings increase, we eat more of these carbs, and the brain’s center for addiction lights up. This is the biology behind our food addictions.
I hope that you find solace in knowing that your food cravings and addictions are backed by science. It’s not just you — it’s evolution.
At the same time, you are not alone in your journey to overcome cravings and break addictions that may be standing in the way between where you are now and where you want to be.
Fullove Foods is here to help you replace those cravings for gluten and sugar with delicious breads that are full of the healthy carbs that your body needs to thrive. Available at an Erewhon Market near your Southern California location.
And yes, our bread-alternative loaves taste as good as the real thing! 😉