October 31, 2012
There are many reasons why an individual might become addicted to food. Food addiction and cravings often stem from neurochemical triggers and hormonal imbalances. For example, carbohydrate cravings often correlate with low levels of serotonin, a hormone that causes feelings of pleasure and relaxation. When the body is experiencing low serotonin levels it can crave carbohydrates since carbs supply the body with tryptophan, which helps to increase serotonin levels.
Food cravings can also be caused by dieting. Sometimes when individuals restrict certain foods they end up craving the foods that they are avoiding. This restriction can sometimes lead to an individual bingeing on those foods. This is especially true of individuals with compulsive overeating disorder or binge eating disorder. After a binge, feelings of shame and guilt are common. Individuals with eating disorders often seek to temporarily relieve these unpleasant feelings through more binges and thus fall into an unhealthy cycle.
There are also various psychological causes of binge eating as well. Everyone has heard the term "comfort foods." It’s quite common for certain foods (usually foods high in sugar, carbs or fat) to be used as a coping mechanism for food addicts. A favorite brand of chocolate or a plate of mashed potatoes and gravy can sometimes briefly makes problems seem distant. However, these favorite "comfort foods" can then become eating disorder triggers, leading to dangerous binges. If you notice yourself eating certain foods to combat feelings of sadness, anxiety or frustration, you might be struggling with food addiction.
Various mental associations can have the effect of triggering food cravings. The smell of a doughnut shop or a TV commercial for a fast food restaurant can easily trigger desires to binge on certain foods. Advertisers consciously try to trigger these cravings. It can therefore be difficult to escape food cravings when advertisements for food are omnipresent.
Without proper treatment that gets to the root of the
triggers for food addiction, it can be difficult to even recognize the various
binge eating triggers. With proper medical and psychological care it’s possible
to identify these triggers and find healthy ways to manage cravings.