Many women experience compulsive eating patterns at some point in their lives – whether it be comfort/ emotional eating, overeating because of cravings, hormonal eating or stress-related eating. Sometimes the driving factor is stress and emotion, sometimes it is more about a chemical imbalance in the individual that they are trying to self medicate. I have found five ways to help curb compulsive eating that have helped people in many different situations.
1. Addressing Candida
Candida is a yeast that is naturally-occurring in the intestines, but it can and frequently does get overgrown. Being a yeast it feeds on sugar. So if you have a Candida overgrowth, you’re very likely to deal with sugar cravings too. The yeast itself wants the sugar for food. Some alcohol cravings are related to Candida as well since alcohol typically contains both sugar and yeast. There are prescription antifungal medications such as Nystatin, but there are also great natural anti-fungal herbs and supplements. Common ones include garlic, pau d’arco, caprylic acid, goldenseal, olive leaf, grapefruit seed extract and oregano, to name just a few. Taking a good-quality probiotic is also key for getting the gut flora back in balance. I wrote about a good binder blend that can help overcome Candida problems here.
2. Identifying food intolerances
It has become clear to me having run hundreds if not thousands of food sensitivity panels over the years, that people tend to crave the foods they have intolerances too. Poeple with dairy intolerances might crave ice cream and overeat ice cream, whereas they could look at bread all day long and not really care for it. Others with gluten intolerance may not be able to stop at anything less than half a loaf of bread (that used to be me!). If you tend to overeat or eat compulsively, it’s probably worth taking a look at this. Food sensitivity testing in my view is the quickest, easiest way to figure out your intolerances (make sure it’s IgG not IgE testing); if you can’t access that, then you can do an elimination and challenge diet, where you cut out all suspects (the typical ones are gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, citrus) for at least 21 days, then reintroduce one by one, every three days, to guage your response to them. It can be pretty challenging though, so I typically recommend the blood test for better compliance.
3. Balancing neurotransmitters
Sometimes cravings occur because our brain chemistry is out of whack. This is especially true for women pre-menstrually, as serotonin levels change during that time of the month, and sugar cravings tend to kick up. Balancing neurotransmitters might mean that you take some 5-HTP for the week leading up to your period and the first couple of days of it. If anxiety kicks up you might choose some GABA. Both of these can be taken short term, they’re not going to foster any dependence. Glutamine has also been used for helping curb cravings. I wrote a post about amino acid therapy that you might want to go back and read. I also love Julia Ross’s book, The Diet Cure, where she discusses amino acid therapy at length.
4. Using minerals and supplements to balance blood sugar
Most processes in the body are dependent on different vitamins and minerals to help them along. Vitamins and minerals are often co-factors in chemical reactions, so even if that particular metabolic pathway doesn’t appear to have too much to do with vitamin B or magnesium, for example, a lack of those very nutrients can slow down the pathway. Whenever there are food cravings going on, it is important to make sure basic levels of all nutrients are coming into the body. There are also specific ones that can help – chromium picolinate is one I have seen make a radical difference in sugar cravings and blood sugar imbalance in general.
I have also used essential oils to balance blood sugar – there’s a particular metabolic blend that contains oils such as cinnamon, that has been fantastic for helping to regulate blood sugar.
5. Use techniques such as “tapping” or Emotional Freedom Technique.
This can help clear emotions quickly and easily in a few minutes, which could in turn prevent overeating because of them. If you are feeling anxious or stressed out, and are about to eat a huge slice of chocolate cake, doing a few rounds of tapping might just give you the reset you need, and take the edge off the situation. The same is true for alcohol – if you’re stressed and upset, instead of pouring a glass of wine (which often turns into two, or three, with their accompanying calories), do some tapping first and then reassess how you’re feeling. It’s surprising how many times those pent up emotions are significantly reduced. I wrote a post about tapping here.
If emotional and compulsive eating are an ongoing problem, then it is important to seek professional help to understand why it is happening, and to work through the triggers or underlying emotional elements that are driving it. The suggestions I made can be helpful for preventing more of the physiological factors, but often compulsive eating has much more deep-seated origins. Nevertheless, it might be worth trying the above strategies and see what difference they can make for you.