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Food addiction – causes, symptoms and other risk factors

Food, and not food addiction is very important part our wellness and it is essential to human survival. Also this term means enjoyment and pleasure. It can add the needed substances in our bodies. But also there are some people who get addicted to food which is similar to people who are addictive to drugs. People who are addicted from foods often want to eat foods that are rich with sugar, salt and fat. These kinds of foods can trigger chemical reactions in our brains which induce feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. This addiction has similar response to addiction of other substances because they activate the same brain reward center. People who are food addicted are having good feelings when they are consuming food and they need to eat food all the time even when they are not hungry. People are constantly eating foods because of their addictions and they even do not choose if it is healthy for them. This can lead to many serious problems such as isolation, depression, low – self esteem, obesity, heart disease and digestive issues. When we are addicted to food, then we do not care about the bad behavior and we constantly are in search for food which can gives us pleasurable feelings. If you suffer from this condition, then you must take some professional help because you can serious problems with your health which you sure do not want to experience. [1,2]

Signs and symptoms of food addiction

There are many signs and symptom of the food addiction. Here are some symptoms of the food addiction:

  • Suicidal ideations
  • Digestive disorders
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep disorders such as oversleeping and insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased energy
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Spending significant amount of money on buying certain foods for bingeing purposes
  • Difficulty functioning in a career or job due to decreased efficiency
  • Avoiding social interactions, relationships or functions to spend time eating certain foods
  • Eating in secret, isolation
  • Continuing to eat certain foods even if no longer hungry
  • Going out of your way to obtain certain foods
  • Eating to the point of feeling ill
  • Gorging in more food than one can physically tolerate

If you are experiencing some of the mentioned symptoms, then you must seek for professional help as soon as possible because it can make you serious side effects.

Food addiction

Causes of food addiction

There are many factors which lead to food addiction. People can develop food addiction as result of social, psychological or biological reasons. If you have food addiction that is caused by biological reasons, then this condition can develop from having members with food addiction issues, side effects from the use of certain medications, abnormalities in various brain structures and hormonal imbalances. If your food addiction is caused by psychological factors, then they can be some of the next factors: experiencing grief or loss, chronic low – self esteem, having an inability to healthily cope with negative situations, being a victim or survivor of a traumatic event and emotional or sexual abuse. These factors can lead to food addiction because people are trying to eat food as much as possible because in this way they find a relief from the mentioned causes. Also there are social causes that can lead to food addiction such as stressful life events, lack of social support, child abuse, social isolation, pressure from peers or society and disturbances in family function. Also there are other causes that can lead to food addiction such as substance abuse or eating disorders. This is a complex mental health which can make you serious complications if you do not treat this condition.

Food addiction effects:

  1. Physical effects: If you have food addiction, then you can experience some of the mentioned physical effects [3,4,5]:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Stroke
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Sleep disorders [3]
  • Chronic pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Obesity
  • Malnutrition
  • Digestive problems
  • Diabetes [4]
  • Heart disease
  1. Psychological effects: If you have food addiction, then it can cause you some psychological effects such as [5,6]
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Emotional detachment or numbness
  • Increased irritability, especially if access to desired food is restricted
  • Feeling sad, hopeless or in despair
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Low self – esteem


[1] Fletcher PC, Kenny PJ. Food addiction: a valid concept? Neuropsychopharmacology. 2018;43:2506-13.

[2] Gordon EL, Ariel-Donges AH, Bauman V, Merlo LJ. What is the evidence for “food addiction?” A systematic review. Nutrients. 2018;10(4):477.

[3] Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nature Communications. 2013;4:2259. doi:10.1038/ncomms3259

[4] Yang F, Liu A, Li Y, et al. Food addiction in patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes in Northeast China. Frontiers in Endocrinology. 2017;8:218.

[5] Lerma-Cabrera JM, Carvajal F, Lopez-Legarrea P. Food addiction as a new piece of the obesity framework. Nutrition Journal. 2015.

[6] Rogers PJ. Food and drug addictions: Similarities and differences.
Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 2017;153:182-90.

Dr. Emil Sarsath (aka) Vijila, a licensed naturopathic doctor (BSMS) who always ensures his patients receive compassionate, and individualized care. He has extensive experience in primary care, digestive health, mental health, nervous system disorder and more.Area of Expertise – Naturopathic Medicine, Whole Foods-based Nutrition, Siddha, Panchakarma.She is always available through [email protected]


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