Trigger Foods and Opioids
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."
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.
Arg-Tyr-Leu-Gly-Tyr-Leu-Glu (exorphin, digested from alpha casein)
Tyr-Pro-Phe-Pro-Gly (exorphin, digested from beta casein)
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
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.