Thursday, May 26, 2011

Food Addiction, Food Allergy and Overweight

By Stephen A. Levine, Ph.D.

Have you ever eaten something- a bowl of ice cream, a piece of cheese, an orange- and felt hungrier than before? Do you have urges for a particular food and find it hard to satisfy your craving unless you eat that particular food?

If the answer is “yes” to either of these questions, then you have a food allergy. If you are also fat, then chances are your food allergy is making you fat.

Food sensitivities may cause allergic people to crave those foods to which they are allergic. Just as a drug addict suffers withdrawal symptoms when the drug is withdrawn, allergic people experience discomfort when they lose access to a particular food.

Obese people can testify to the overwhelming power of food allergy addiction. Compulsive eaters crave and continue to eat those allergenic foods to which they are addicted day-after-day. The obese person has no idea that his daily food cravings or eating habits are based on a physiological need to stop withdrawal symptoms caused by food allergy addiction.

The phenomenon of simultaneous allergy and addiction to both foods and chemicals is now well accepted by doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of allergies. These specialists, known as clinical ecologists, believe that many chronic health problems, such as migraine, fatigue, depression, and arthritis are caused by allergies to foods and chemicals and affect approximately one-third of the population living in industrial countries.

It is commonly observed that the same food may cause different reactions among different people. An individual's genetic predisposition to allergies will determine which part of his body will become the vulnerable target organ or tissue. Any major organ may become involved: the symptoms of cerebral allergies include hyperactivity, depression, irritability, headaches, and some forms of schizophrenia: hypoglycemia is a manifestation of pancreatic malfunction frequently caused by allergy; while in other cases, the blood vessels may be the target organ with the resulting signs of vasculitis and edema. The symptoms are compounded and are generally more severe following frequent contact with allergy provoking food.

Water retention, or edema, is particularly common among allergic individuals and is an important contributing factor to obesity. The removal of an offending food will often result in a rapid water loss of five to ten pounds within a week's time, all without the use of a diuretic.

Michael Rosenbaum, M.D. who practices preventive medicine in Mill Valley, California has observed this water-retention phenomenon frequently among patients in his allergy clinic. He found that following the initial water loss, the person tends to lose fat more easily, even without dieting. Rosenbaum states, “Food sensitivities can cause the body to retain both water and fat.” Often, Rosenbaum believes, the big weight loss that occurs when someone follows a low-allergen diet has nothing to do with the quantity of calories in the diet.

The following scenarios by Dr. Rosenbaum illustrate the dramatic weight loss achieved among patients following the elimination of allergy-provoking foods from their diet: “One of my patients who was found to be sensitive to dairy products decided to substitute bread and beer to make up for the removal of milk and cheese from his diet. He was probably consuming even more calories and still managed to lose ten pounds in the first month without even trying. The next time I saw him, his pants were falling off.”

“Another one of my patients, a woman in her early thirties, was undergoing a stressful period when she came to my office. She had sensitivities to wheat and dairy products and adopted a 'what-the-hell type attitude,' continuing to eat these foods regularly. Besides seeing her weight balloon from 140 to 180 pounds, she developed a gnawing depression and irritability.

“Finally, after several months of self-abuse, she stopped eating wheat and dairy products. Her subsequent diet contained the same amount of calories as the diet containing wheat and dairy products. After a few months on the allergen-free diet, she is back to 140 pounds. Her friends have remarked about her wonderful transformation and were amazed at the way the weight had just come off by itself.”

Dr. Rosenbaum believes that food sensitivity exerts its most profound effect on the limbic portion of the brain. This section of the brain houses the control centers of our emotions as well as memory and vegetative functions, including body temperature, sexuality, blood pressure, sleep, hunger and thirst. Food allergies seem to affect most of these vital functions.

This neurophysiological analysis is shared by William Philpott, M.D., a clinical ecologist from Oklahoma City, who has written extensively on the subject. Dr. Philpott speculates that frequent contact with allergenic foods triggers a rise in the brain opioid enkephalin. The enkephalin is a narcotic product produced by the body that is as addictive as externally supplied narcotics.

The primary food allergens are coffee, dairy products, wheat, eggs, and corn. In Oriental countries, rice is a prominent allergen. Among vegetables, white potatoes and lettuce are potent allergens. Marshall Mandell, M.D. of Norwalk, Connecticut and author of Dr. Mandell's 5 Day Allergy Relief System, found that 92.2 percent of hospitalized schizophrenic patients were allergic to one or more common substances. When Dr. Mandell tested a group of patients diagnosed as hard-to-treat neurotics, he found that 88 percent of them were allergic to wheat, 50 percent to corn, and 60 percent to milk.

Charles McGee, M.D., who practices clinical ecology in C'oeur D'Alene, Idaho, and is the author of How to Survive Modern Technology, was asked whether in his opinion, food and chemical allergies could be a major cause of obesity, he replied: “There are so many people who are addicted to all sorts of foods. The ones who are addicted to coffee do not necessarily get fat, but the ones who are addicted to sugar or wheat, they may end up running around with candies or wheat-containing crackers in their pockets to satisfy the craving. What's most important is that it's extremely difficult for these allergic individuals to lose weight unless they ultimately gain control of their food allergies. They must identify the particular allergens, break the craving, and then eliminate the chemical or food.”

To understand both allergic and associated addictive phenomenon we can look at the two conditions, both as aspects of food intolerance. In allergy-addiction, there are three principle stages: the first stage is characterized by an acute allergic reaction to a toxic substance. Recall the first time that you, or someone you know, smoked a cigarette.

Most frequently, the individual will find the smoke distasteful and may even have clinical symptoms such as coughing, sore throat and dizziness.

This acute reaction can be taken as evidence that the cigarette smoke has some toxic effects on the body. After smoking becomes a habit, the symptoms are no longer noticeable. Your body gets used to the smoke and the symptoms are said to be “masked,” or hidden. The masking can be considered an adaptation by the body to tolerate the poison with which it comes in frequent contact. Even though there are no overt symptoms, the adaptation to this obvious toxin takes its toll in terms of chronic body stress.

During this period, the adaptation is so strong that you become dependent on cigarettes, or in other words, “hooked.” You must smoke at regular intervals to avoid withdrawal symptoms. When you try to quit, your body craves the cigarettes: you are addicted in the truest sense of the word and you will experience the addictive aspect of the “allergy-addiction syndrome.”

It is significant that all addictions are similar in this regard- whether cigarettes, coffee, heroin, wheat or milk products. The final stage occurs when the body fails to maintain adaptation and experiences the allergic and addicted symptomatology simultaneously. This is the stage in which chronic symptoms of the disease emerge.

Now just about any clinical symptom can result from the allergy-addiction syndrome. Dr. Ellen Grant reported in the medical journal, Lancet, that 85 percent of migraine sufferers could be rendered symptom-free when they followed a diet excluding the ten most common food allergens. Some of the most provocative agents were cigarettes, coffee and birth control pills. The evidence is also strong for the allergic causation of arthritis, asthma, and diabetes.

The allergic reaction itself can result in a drastic reduction in blood sugar with the accompanying symptomatology: weakness, hunger and irritability. Allergic hunger is pathological in that it does not respond to the normal satiety control center in the brain when food is consumed in normal amounts, so both the addictive and allergic responses to allergy can cause uncontrollable eating behavior.

In one case history a 37-year-old woman who had trouble with many different weight reduction programs, including the HCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin) diet, the drinking man's diet, the Stillman diet, it became evident that after each partially successful episode of weight reduction she would regain her weight.

The reason for this lady's difficulties was later found to be food allergies. In the 6-hour oral glucose tolerance test, we found a marked hypoglycemic curve: the blood sugar dropped from 220 at 1 hour to 45 mg percent at 3 ½ hours. At this time she experienced severe shakiness, giddiness, nausea, and shortness of breath as well as other symptoms. She was assured that once the food allergen was determined and eliminated from her system, the symptoms of hypoglycemia would disappear.

People who are allergic to sugar experience a craving for sweets. One patient ate 50 twinkies a day and although her stomach would hurt, she would keep on eating. When her husband left for work in the morning she would take a tablespoon of sugar as soon as he was out the door, because it would make her feel good.

She would actually get high on sugar. Three or four hours later she would go into a depression and had attempted suicide several times. Her suicide attempts were prompted by withdrawal symptoms. The woman didn't get well until a conscientious physician wrestled with the etiology of her problem, namely food allergy. Now she realizes that she must read all food labels for ingredients.

Patients afflicted with allergy-addictions will usually experience a sense of well-being after a month on an allergen-free diet. Many individuals lose excess water from their tissues and achieve a weight loss from 10 to 15 pounds.

Dr. Rosenbaum, as well as other nutritionally-oriented allergists rely on other methods besides avoidance of the allergenic foods. Vitamin C and mineral bicarbonates are used extensively in allergy clinics throughout the country. The mineral buffers should not include sodium, which is a hypertensive agent and can make a person more prone to edema, but instead the minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. These buffers will neutralize the acidity caused by the allergic reaction and alleviate stress, thereby inducing symptomatic relief.

As little as one teaspoon of this combination of nutrients can totally knock out hunger cravings caused by food allergies as well as eliminate the withdrawal symptoms caused by exclusion of the addictive foods.

This is symptomatic relief, but works dramatically and also gives a clear indication that the symptoms were caused by allergenic phenomenon. If the nutrient combination eliminates your hunger then you can be sure that your hunger was induced by some aspect of the allergy-addiction syndrome.

Functional food and chemical allergies have been largely ignored by most medical doctors. One reason for this is that there has been no miracle drug that can be heavily promoted by the drug companies, so the doctors would not be encouraged to diagnose the disease and then treat it. Until now there has been no simple easy cure for allergies. Nutritional treatment in the form of vitamin, mineral, amino acid and glandular supplements accompanied by avoidance of allergenic foods offer the critical answer to this problem.

Certain aspects of nutritional medicine can fall under the heading of what the author calls, “Nutritional Pharmacology.” The most striking example of this in regard to food allergies and weight reduction is the success achieved in combining buffers of mineral bicarbonates and Vitamin C. Through readjustment of the normal pH balance in the body one can eliminate many of the symptoms of food allergy, especially hunger. The simple test, using a highly buffered Vitamin C solution and observing whether it controls your appetite is an excellent diagnostic procedure for the determination of food allergies. Patients with multiple and severe allergies are well advised to visit a clinical ecologist or nutritionally-oriented allergist.

Steven A. Levine, Ph.D., biochemist from UC Berkeley, co-author of Antioxidant Adaptation.

Visit Dr. Levine's web sites at and

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Hi Folks,

That was a long article, but it made a big impact on me.

Reading this article this morning helped me to set my day straight. So much of this binge eating revolves around denial.

Today, I think i'm definitely a cooked food addict.

I mean, after I ate cooked beans two years ago, everything DID eventually go haywire with my diet. Up until then, I was raw for 3.5 years and maintained my 175 lb weight loss fairly well. The most I ever gained was 50 lbs. And that was when i was eating Rita's waterice (definitely not raw) fairly frequently within my raw vegan diet.

I took that weight off once i went low fat raw vegan again, and dropped the waterice, when i was following, eating 1 banana only, and 1/4 of an avocado a day for fat, with the rest of my diet consisting of low fat / low glycemic raw fruits or veggies and no salt.

I WAS binge eating on gourmet at this time and would gain 25+ lbs repeatedly, but always took them off going back on the 811 regiment. To put it simply, i was managing. At least i felt a measure of control in going BACK to the low fat vegan over and over again. And i must say, my weight was 250's - 270's at this time.

That's when i started to write this blog.

Now i weigh 370ish? I haven't weighed myself but i can tell. My butt is too big for the toilet seat now.

I remember when i turned to cooked beans I intellectually thought they were lower in fat than nuts, so i would be doing myself a favor, since so much of the focus had been on keeping the diet low-fat.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out for me. All of the cues I was taking to incorporate cooked were coming from raw friends who were non-addicts and could eat some cooked and still survive it. Then there's me. The addict.

After I ate beans, i felt like i'd crossed a line. And then everything else was open game. Next came bread and butter. Fish soon came back in. Then it was shellfish. And just within the last few months, chicken, turkey and beef began to lure me again. The McDonalds quarter pounders I had frightened me. I was right back to doing what i'd done to weigh 425 lbs. And true to form, in two years of eating cooked food, i gained back 120 of the 175 lbs i lost.

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After 14 days of raw on this last spell, I went back to cooked, thinking, "maybe i can handle it this time, now that i'm 'clean.'"

Well, that smart idea didn't fair me well. I binge ate the entire past week and laid on the sofa distraught, depressed and utterly hopeless.

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I didn't know how i was going to get myself to work at ARnold's Way this morning. The only way i made it was by God's grace.

I meditated in the morning as I really felt completely hopeless and incredibly depressed. I've hit the bottom many times repeatedly over the last weeks. I asked God to lead me, and I submitted to him in meditation.

But i still couldn't find anything cool to wear that fit me, and my face was big and bloated.

I decided to not look at myself in the mirror and do the best i could with clothes.

At work, i was very uncomfortable, very very bloated, and did a medical intervention of taking some diuretics, which helped me feel better immediately. When i am in so much discomfort from water retention, it seems like the only way to get myself over the hump. I know it's not good. But i can't deny that it helps me get through a day at work after binge eating on cooked.

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I ended up having a wonderful day at work. I felt supported and positive. I was busy and productive. I received lots of positive feedback. I didn't feel ashamed of myself or depressed. i reached out to friends and felt loved by them.

I ate raw all day at work and when i came home, i decided to eat a raw salad, because i'm an addict, and that's what i need to do for today.

There is hope on the horizon.

xoxo michelle joy

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