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We notice similar patterns of addictive behavior with food, alcohol and drugs. Alcoholics and drug abusers frequently have atrocious dietary habits. So many of them grew up dysphoric with bad chemicals in their food and environment.
Heroin Addicts often report they first felt well when they had their first drink or injected the initial dose of heroin. Opiates, like other molecules, are effective but temporary remedies for dysfunctional body-mind states. The drive to maintain an opiate level is less to "get high" and more to feel "normal" and mostly to avoid the terrible experience of withdrawal.
The digestion of food proteins can produce substances having opiate or narcotic properties. There are a number of regulatory peptides created in the digestive tract that feedback to brain control centers to form the brain-gut axis. A stop signal to the brain when enough food is eaten is important for appetite control and may be defective in compulsive eaters.
Pieces of milk and wheat proteins (peptides) can act like the body's own narcotics, the endorphins, and were described by Zioudro, Streaty and Klee as "exorphins" in 1979. Other food proteins, such as gluten, results in the production of substances having opiate- (narcotic) like activity. These substances have been termed "exorphins." Hydrolyzed wheat gluten, for example, was found to prolong intestinal transit time and this effect was reversed by concomitant administration of naloxone, a narcotic-blocking drug. Digests of milk proteins also are opioid peptides. The brain effects of exorphins may contribute to the mental disturbances and appetite disorders which routinely accompany food-related illness. The possibility that exorphins are addictive in some people is a fascinating lead which needs further exploration.
Another mechanism, similar to dependency on food-derived neuroactive peptides such as exorphins, would be a dependency on gastrointestinal peptides, released from the bowel during digestion. Deficiencies in the bowel production of regulatory addictive peptides, such as endorphins, would likely be associated with cravings and compulsions to increase food ingestion. Eugenio Paroli reviewed the peptide research, especially the link between food and schizophrenia. He suggested: "The discovery that opioid peptides are released by the digestion of certain food has followed a line of research that assumes pathogenic connections between schizophrenic psychosis and diet."
Eat Lettuce and Be Happy
Milk and wheat proteins have been studied and shown to yield active peptides. These substances may be numerous in the digestive tract after a meal and several effects could occur in sequence. The absorption of larger peptides may be irregular, with variation in symptom production after meals, making the interpretation of milk and wheat disease difficult. Other foods are likely to yield similar peptides.
From our basic understanding of protein digestion, we should predict that there will be regular traffic of peptide information passing from food digests into the body. Ingestion of normal food may result in information-molecules streaming into our bloodstream from stomach or small intestine with all the impact of narcotic drugs! A "Gluten Stimulatory Peptide" is also described with narcotic (opiate) antagonist properties. It has been suggested that gluten hydrolysates, digests of wheat protein, have mixed opiate agonist-antagonist activity and, like two drugs with mixed narcotic activating and blocking actions (nalorphine and cyclazocine), produce dysphoria and even psychotic symptoms. Loukas and colleagues have derived the structure of cow's milk-derived exorphins: Opioid activities and structures of casein-derived exorphins. These two peptides carry information by finding and binding to brain receptors which ordinarily respond to endorphins. The message is go to sleep, feel bad, but go back for more.
Chocolate is an interesting psychoactive food. Chocolate and romance have been inseparable. Chocolate artistry is one of the truly admirable pursuits in food preparation. If nature had been more kindly disposed to us, chocolate confections would be an authentic pleasure, free of any penalty. Chocolate begins as the cacao bean of South American origin. The botanical name, Cacao Theobroma, means "food of the Gods". One of the medically useful methylxanthine drugs, theobromine, is found in chocolate as well as coffee and tea. Theobromine is related to caffeine and is useful as a treatment of asthma.
The cacao tree produces melon-sized pods full of beans. The pod is split and the beans removed and fermented until they turn the characteristic deep brown color. Dried beans are then roasted and processed by grinding and heating. The powdered fraction is the water soluble cocoa powder. The bean fat is separated as cocoa butter. Chocolate candies are all based on some combination of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, milk, sugar, and diverse other ingredients. Drugs in the cocoa powder make chocolate addicting. Chocolate enthusiasts often admit they are addicts and find it difficult to resist cravings and binge with unpleasant consequences. Chocolate confections are complex mixtures of milk, sugars, nuts, flavors, including cinnamon and other spices; they present drug and allergenic effects simultaneously. Post chocolate symptoms include anxiety, angry outbursts, migraine headaches, abdominal pain, joint pain, mental agitation and depression. Chocolate addiction is more socially acceptable than it is healthy. Some chocolate eaters become quite ill and quite obese.
Women often report chocolate cravings in the premenstrual week. Chocolate also serves as a surrogate for companionship or affection. The addictive molecules in chocolate include caffeine and another speed-like drug, phenyethylamine (PEA). PEA is related to our own catecholamine neurotransmitters and their amino acid precursors, tyrosine and phenylalanine. PEA has arousal properties similar to catecholamines and may be one of the pleasure substances in the brain. PEA has been called the "love drug". Most PEA absorbed from the bowel is destroyed in the blood or liver by the enzyme MAO-B.
Coffee and Tea
Coffee makes us speedy, irritable, sleepless, and often causes heartburn or ulcers. The removal of caffeine is supposed to reduce some of these undesirable effects. Coffee is an addicting beverage. If you consume more than 3 cups per day, you are likely to experience unpleasant withdrawal if you stop. The minimal suffering includes a headache, irritability, and fatigue. The popular idea that the bad effects of coffee are caused by one chemical, caffeine, is misleading. The 500 or so other chemicals in coffee include aromatic or phenolic chemicals and many are probably neurotoxic; other chemicals are allergenic. Coffee is also a crop with high pesticide residues. Coffee is definitely allergenic and makes some people obviously sick. Chlorogenic acid is one of the allergens which coffee shares with oranges.
Black Tea and coffee have chemicals in common, although they different plant products from different geographic zones. Tea contains caffeine and other members of the drug family, methylxanthines. Tea also contains tannin, a good tanning agent. The caffeine dose in a cup of coffee ranges from 100 to 160 mg. A cup of tea has 20-60 mg per cup and 12 ounces of regular Coca Cola has 45 mg of caffeine. The symptom complex produced by tea parallels coffee, although overall, tea is milder and better tolerated. Green teas are the mildest of the caffeine drinks and have beneficial phytochemicals which make their use more attractive.
Daily coffee ingestion induces a 24 hour cyclic disturbance with morning arousal, irritability, difficulty concentrating, subtle levels of disorganization, clumsiness, and forgetfulness. As the day progresses, 3 or more cups later, a heavy fatigue sets in by mid to late afternoon. Further coffee doses may rouse one a bit, but then further collapse is inevitable by evening. Irritability may evolve into disproportionate or inappropriate angry outbursts, pleasure-loss, absence of good-feelings, or empathy anesthesia.
It is likely that the subtle pyschopathology of moderate to heavy coffee consumption contributes to the production of unnecessary conflict and dysphoria. The subtle cognitive and memory deficits which appear after coffee intake should alarm employers who expect their employees to think, remember, or carry out skilled, coordinated acts. It may be that coffee facilitates dull, routine, rote tasks where thinking, skill and initiative are unimportant.
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