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    Food For Thought: Addiction, compulsive eating and fish.


 When your brain releases dopamine you feel good, happy, content and motivated. Finding ways to stimulate the dopamine pathway is what drives addicts to substance abuse. and drives us to choose coffee and cigarettes. From illegal drugs, to smoking or plain old coffee – dopamine stimulation is what we are looking for. It is this brain chemistry that leads to addiction, compulsive eating and stimulant use.

It seems comfort eating is also involved in the same neuronal pathway. The same can be said for comfort eating. The same regions of the brain are stimulated in individuals with emotional eating as those craving drugs. Both will stimulate the reward system in the brain, over stimulation of this pathway – through too much of the wrong foods, smoking or drugs will lead to reward deficiency syndrome. This is when you have less dopamine receptors and they are less sensitive to stimuli. This means you need more of your chosen substance to get the same effect. Over time reward deficiency syndrome will lead to either being addicted or over weight – take your choice.

Particular foods, like sugar, can promote further changes in brain function as well as distorting the hormonal mechanisms we rely on to tell us we’ve had enough food. To further compound the problem of emotional eating, when we are stressed, the reward value of food is increased through cortisol release. This means we are more likely to feel some comfort from food when we are stressed and women may be more susceptible to this than men. However, the over stimulation in time will lessen the effect – requiring more food to gain that pleasurable feeling.

There is a simple dietary choice you can make to help your brain receptors function properly again. The modern diet is laced with too many omega 6 fatty acids, from vegetable oils, margarine, processed foods and is way too light on the omega 3 fatty acids that we can only get from oily fish. This imbalance affects neuronal signalling it increases our preference for sweet tastes and it increases the tendency to overeat by decreasing those ‘reward’ receptors.

A deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids relative to omega 6 will in time reduce your brains capacity to regulate it’s signalling pathways and lead to addiction to drugs (legal or illegal) or obesity. You need more fish!

Author: Sarah Hanratty

Sarah is a specialist practitioner at the Brain Food Clinic. She has a degree in Nutritional Medicine and is a certified Gut and Psychology Syndrome Practitioner. Sarah helps people to overcome physical and mental health issues using bespoke nutritional protocols.

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