We’re all guilty of it from time to time, eating beyond hunger especially on a high stress day. So why is that?
One reason is that our bodies need a neurotransmitter called dopamine
Dopamine gives us that “Ahhhhh….” feeling of happiness and satiety. It’s made in the brain but the hormones in our gut determine how it is expressed.
So what are the sources of dopamine?
- High fat and high sugar foods – any foods made with lots of fat and sugar such as baked goods or candy bars
2. Alcohol, elicit drugs
4. Shopping addiction and any other addiction we maybe involved in will release dopamine.
When we image the brains of individuals with addiction to drugs, alcohol or food we notice that the dopamine receptors do not stimulate well. They are ‘burned out’ in a sense and don’t work as they are supposed to.
So what’s this person to do? They engage in more of the activity to try to get more dopamine. And it works! Temporarily… And then the amount of drug, alcohol or food needed becomes higher to get the same “Ahhh….” feeling from the dopamine.
What’s really a shame is that the more we engage in unhealthy ways of getting our dopamine fix specifically from food is that we create more free radicles from the high fat, high sugar and usually high white flour foods and then the free radicles attack neurons in the brain that tell us we’re full!
And there’s more. When we see stress as a threat we feel inadequate that we have any resources to cope and this leads to feelings of distress. So we eat more high fat and high sugar foods BUT this just suppresses stress, it does not fix the stressor. Now, eating that high fat high sugar food at times of stress becomes a habit – especially if we aren’t routinely releasing our stress. When eating high fat high sugar foods becomes a habit our bellies get big and this ultimately decreases the dopamine in the brain so we go back to the beginning of where we need to eat high fat and high sugar foods to suppress stress and it continues…
It’s a unbelievable vicious cycle, so what do we need to do?
Dump your stress routinely! We need to be certain that we are not at our tipping points from daily stress and getting our dopamine from healthy sources. If we are under a pile up of stress with no outlet and another stress comes along combined with low dopamine we will do anything to get that fix.
Become a low reactor to stress, not a high reactor to stress. We all know people who stress at every little thing. Choose to be a low reactor to stress and be sure to have a daily outlet such as deep breathing, meditation, stretching, yoga, guided relaxation or imagery or progressive muscle relaxation. Stay in the moment by paying attention to your senses. What do you see, hear, feel, smell and taste? Chances are the stressor has passed you by but you haven’t let it go.
Eat balanced meals and snacks. Eat breakfast within 1 hour of waking and meals every 4-5 hours with snacks between. Increase your fruit, especially after meals. This sends a satiety signal to your brain.
Be sure you get your dopamine from a healthy source, it appears the only source that’s healthy on the list is exercise so get moving with cardiovascular exercise of any kind.
There’s so much more on this topic so if you struggle with these issues your not alone and your body can increase the level of dopamine if you adopt a generally healthy diet, release stress daily and engage in cardiovascular exercise. When you first make changes the appetite hormones will increase (so unfair – right?) but the hormones will balance and the neurons can rebuild if we give our bodies what it needs to overcome.
Call us today for an individual consultation for more on this topic!