Serotonin Diet - Binge Eating and the Never Ending Cycle

By Tess Thompson

Independent studies have established that binge eating can be attributed to an inability to handle emotions. It is hard to believe, but there is evidence that sometimes people indulge in binge eating to get a 'high' just as they do with alcohol and drugs. Managing emotions --like anger, sadness, worry or stress-- is important if one wants to stay clear of aspects like binge eating, depression, and other emotional disorders.

Certain foods contain refined carbohydrates that increase the production of 'feel good' chemicals (neurotransmitters) like serotonin and endorphins in the body. High levels of serotonin give rise to a feeling of calmness and sedation, since the compound can regulate sleep and mood patterns. Endorphin is another natural neurotransmitter in the body that has analgesic properties. A diet that is rich in simple carbohydrates (like sugar and glucose) can increase the production of serotonin, and a diet high on sugar and fat can boost endorphins.

Binge eating that involves foods like ice cream, chocolate, doughnuts, cakes, pies, white breads, sodas, chips, candy and pastries can become addictive, since the 'feel good' factor creates a desirable effect on the body. However, this feeling of calmness and well-being does not last too long, and soon the craving begins for the same foods to return to the 'good' feeling. Such a cycle never ends unless there is some external intervention, because stress cannot actually be cured by binge eating.

High consumption of sugars can also lead to the disastrous sugar cycle. The cycle operates in the following manner:

  • The pancreas tries to manage the increase in blood sugar levels by increasing the production of insulin.
  • Heavy insulin production results in a sudden drop in sugar levels in the blood.
  • The brain realizes that there is a drop in the blood sugar levels and creates a signal for more eating to restore sugar levels to normal.
  • This signal from the brain leads to another binge eating spree without really being physically hungry.

Dieting (as in denying food) in an effort to reduce weight is another factor why people indulge in binge eating. With long periods of abstinence from delicious and indulgent foods, the natural desire and craving for food increases and becomes difficult to control. The transient effect of calmness and sedation as soon as one binges is provided by increased levels of serotonin and endorphins. Such binges normally lead to a surge of emotions like guilt, shame and self-condemnation (a disorder known as bulimia mostly seen in young women). This, in turn, leads to a progressive drop in overall emotional wellness, which leads to further cravings to binge.

These cycles that repeatedly compel people to eat without feeling hungry form the crux of emotional eating. It is important that you identify the root cause of your emotional state and try and amend the issues leading to compulsive overeating. Natural remedies and treatments work in a holistic manner to manage the symptoms of emotional distress-- as well as address the cause-- to promote overall wellness.


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