Connecting Food Allergies & Addiction
I’m sure that most of you are aware by now that I have a history of substance abuse. I have also talked a little bit about a few food sensitivities that can cause some pretty unpleasant symptoms if my attention falters. Until recently I thought these two conditions were completely independent. Well, considering how relatively little I know when we consider the entire spectrum of human understanding, it comes as no surprise that addiction and food allergies are inextricably linked and act synergistically to negatively impact our physical and psychological wellbeing.
Food Allergy – Food Addiction
According to Dr. James Braly and Patrick Holford, authors of Hidden Food Allergies, those who suffer from food allergies are increasingly susceptible to food addiction, which has been linked to a predisposition for and perpetuation of substance abuse and a propensity to relapse. Citing the work of Dr. Theron Randolph, Braly and Holford tell us that,
“Food allergic people frequently develop physiological, maladaptive addictions to allergic foods, addictions associated with strong cravings.”
These “physiological, maladaptive addictions” may motivate us to participate in detrimental eating behavior, the consumption of high allergy-addict foods that damage the body, in order to postpone or treat a “hangover” or to simply feel well and functional.
Alcoholism and drug addiction alter the brain chemistry much in a similar way making us highly susceptible to cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. Cravings and withdrawal symptoms then motivate the consumption of high allergen-addictive foods or substances in order to feed abnormal brain chemistry and perpetuate the destructive cycle of addiction.
In essence, certain foods and addictive substances alter brain chemistry to motivate the continued consumption of said foods and substances of any consequences that may exist. This effect is exacerbated by the fact that allergenic foods and substances of abuse are interchangeable in their ability to satisfy cravings and an altered brain’s desire for comfort.
Food allergens and addictive substances work interchangeably in altering neurological function to encourage the perpetuation of food and substance addictions.
It’s weird to compare the consumption of gluten despite an allergy/sensitivity to the consumption of alcohol despite a history of alcoholic behavior, but it appears that it holds some value, especially within the context of addiction treatment.
Probable Allergenic-Addictive Foods
According to the FDA, the eight most allergenic foods include: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp), tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), peanuts, wheat (gluten), and soybeans. Dr. Braly and Mr. Holford also caution people against yeast, cashews, garlic, corn, kiwi, chili peppers, sesame and sunflower seeds.
The list of potential allergy-addiction foods may seem long, but the two most common food allergens for recovering alcoholics are milk and gluten, which may play a causative role in the disease. Therefore, eliminating gluten and dairy may be the best place to start when trying to identify potential food allergies-addictions.
Unfortunately, abstaining from highly allergenic-addictive foods, as well as drugs and alcohol, can create a multiplicity of other symptoms that can make their elimination difficult. Common withdrawal symptoms associated with food addiction, include: headaches, insomnia, irritability, depression, anxiety, shakiness, inability to concentrate, confusion, mental fogginess, and fatigue. If a food allergic-addicted individual gives into their cravings, symptoms generally subside immediately, similar to the effect that drugs and alcohol have upon an individual experiencing symptoms of substance withdrawal.
Disorders of Allergy and Addiction
Individuals prone to food allergies and addiction also share a propensity for many disorders that affect both the mind and body. Concerning the brain, both alcohol and food allergens are known to suppress the production and/or release of serotonin and dopamine, two important neurotransmitters found in the brain that play an integral role in impulsivity, hyperactivity, and the executive functions of the brain. Depression is another common neurological connection between those who suffer from food allergies and addiction. Looking at the body, food allergy-addiction and substance abuse may make an individual more susceptible to leaky gut, nutrient deficiencies, and malnutrition, all of which impair the body’s ability to heal and withstand insult from environmental, chemical and other food irritants.
Food Allergy-Addiction Treatment
The treatment and reversal of food allergies-addictions is possible by following a few simple guidelines:
- Eliminate all food allergens that irritate your system and drive addictive eating behavior.
- Eat 9 servings of vegetables and 1 or 2 servings of fruit daily to heal the gut and other vital organs.
- Eat omega-3 rich fatty fish 2 or 3 times per week and supplement with a high quality cod liver oil in order to heal the brain
- Cut back your consumption of grains and dairy to limit exposure to their potentially detrimental affects, assuming that they don’t already irritate your system.
- Develop a sustainable rotation diet that limits exposure to non-offending high risk food allergens.
- Support gut health through probiotic supplementation and the consumption of foods like bone broth; fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, or kefir; and fermentable fibers like sweet potato, yam, and yucca.
Wow. We (I) learned a LOT today. However, this isn’t really a huge surprise because every day is another opportunity to learn something new. Hope all this information helps and if you need more guidance please feel free to reach out to me anytime.