Your food addiction might be due to leaky gut
I'm interested in getting some feedback especially from those of you with some type of bio/chemical background.
I have a lifelong history of binge-eating, which has completely disappeared. I'm not suppressing it, I'm not 12-stepping it, it's just plain gone. I eat because I have to for survival, but eating doesn't bring pleasure or joy. I don't think about food when I'm not eating. Nor do I have any desire to eat 'comfort food' when I'm stressed. My whole response to food is that of another person.
I've been trying to figure out why this drastic change took place.
For a while, I was thinking that my food addiction had been 100% due to psychological reasons. But I'm starting to think differently. Here's where I need some people with a deep understanding of physiology to give me some feedback.
Most of us know something about 'leaky gut', it's not news (for those of you who don't, it's when the integrity of the intestinal mucosal lining is damaged, which allows partially digested food to escape the digestive system into the bloodstream.). And most of us know a little something about why dairy and gluten can be problematic for many people. For people with autism, as well as autoimmune and other disorders, gluten and dairy seem to play a major role. But while gluten and dairy have been linked with many health disorders, for other people, there seems to be no problem at all. How could they cause so many problems for some people, and none at all for others? My idea is that it has to do with the integrity of the digestive system.
Here's my hypothesis:
When a person develops 'leaky gut', meaning that the mucosal lining of the intestines is abnormally permeable, partially digested food escapes the digestive system into the blood stream. If the partially digested food happens to contain gluten or casein, that means there is an influx of exorphins (endorphins created from an external source and which function as opioid-peptides) in the blood, which bind to opioid receptors in the brain and function in the same way that endorphins created by the body would function.
Since endorphins are known to control motivation, emotion, attachment behavior, stress-response and control of food intake, it would make sense that the person develops an 'addiction' to food containing gluten/dairy to continue this cycle, much as an addict would seek drugs or alcohol. Since gluten and dairy are commonly coupled with sugar, many people mistakenly assume they are addicted to sugar.
If/when that person was able to heal their leaky gut, the undigested food would no longer be escaping into the bloodstream, which means that s/he could theoretically eat whatever type of food that used to be problematic but no longer have an 'addiction' response because there were no more exorphins being released into the bloodstream during digestion.
If this hypothesis holds any water, it would explain why I went from being food addicted to having zero reaction from food, which happened to coincide with me healing my leaky gut and curing my IBS.
Okay, experts, rip me a new one. (Nicely, if possible!)
Here are a few links to some of the stuff I've been reading on this topic:
Last edited by BestBetter; 01-12-2013 at 10:44 AM.
I work in public health, and I regularly nerd out about this kind of thing, but I don't spend time in a lab.
To round out your hypothesis: the neuronal system in the gut is so complex that some researchers call it our second brain, so it may not even take a leaky gut for food to profoundly affect the brain. This article mentions that between the brain and gut brain, the gut brain may actually be the dominant communicator:
Think Twice: How the Gut's "Second Brain" Influences Mood and Well-Being: Scientific American
Other interesting reads:
Your Backup Brain | Psychology Today
Another related fascinating thing: Naloxone (brand name: Narcan), the opiate reversal drug, has been shown in human trials to improve various aspects of binge-eating (time spent, amount of high-fat sweets consumed, etc.). I suppose, to the brain, it's all tripping the reward center's trigger, you know?
Anecdote: When I am spot-on with the WOE, my hunger/satiation signals get VERY clear and defined. No wandering around nibbling, unsure if I'm hungry, no "Oh, I could eat." I get a STOP signal in my head when I've had enough. No clean-plate anxiety. I just put the leftovers away and go do something else. I'm not forcing or arguing with myself. I'm just rather suddenly perfectly fine without another bite.