Q:: Hey there! I really struggle with what I feel like are food cravings or addictions… Can you be addicted to gluten and other foods? For 33 years I have/had been able to eat pretty much anything I wanted with the exception of anything dairy (or lactose). I would really love to just jump in sometimes & just eat that twix or twinkie or hot dog, but I know the consequences & that’s when my self control kicks in. I know I should just deal with it but how??
I do think of all the great reasons of why I don’t indulge: because I can live & feel better & enjoy that much more time with my family! I struggle A LOT but definitely keep it to myself so people around me don’t feel so bad about indulging in front of me!
Thanks for the ear!! I’m not sure anyone understands a lot of the frustrations I deal with due to having celiac & being gluten free (for only about 2 years now).
First off Angela, I’m really glad you found your way here to Gluten Free School. As you can already tell, this isn’t a place where everyone has got the gluten-free life down-pat. In fact, I’d say that many people who read this site, take classes here, and subscribe to my newsletter are all in the same boat as you. Even I struggle with these sort of things being gluten-free since 2008. So please stop thinking that you are alone. You’re not… at all.
I grew up in a traditional Italian family, so breaking off from the life filled with homemade pastas, incredible breads and such has been hard. It’s hard to go to Italian feasts and not dream of the days when I used to enjoy fried dough. Or now having to pass up my Aunt Feeny’s homemade biscotti (which are the best I’ve ever had) or to do an about-face when I would go to eat lunch at work when it was pizza day from one of the best pizza shops in town. So can you be addicted to gluten? Yes, yes you can.
Should no one else share their experiences here, let mine stand alone to remind you that I know how you feel. And I’ve had plenty of clients tell me the same thing that you’re sharing. I appreciate your courage to reach out and be honest especially when you spend more time than not hiding how you feel.
Now that we’ve established that we all have and get food cravings (even for the stuff we know we just should not eat), the question of what to do with them arises. Here’s the thing I’d love to impart to you… cravings are NOT bad. The fact that you can identify that you’re getting something… a message in a bottle from your body, so to speak, is good. It means your body is working and trying to do it’s best to keep you feeling well and nourished.
Cravings are a very primitive code that your body uses to communicate with you and because our food supply has changed so much from simpler times, the real message tends to be lost in translation. So for example – what you might be thinking is your body wanting the twix is really it needing more energy. We know that both sugar and chocolate convert into quick energy, so it’s an easy fix, right? Wrong.
Or some people crave greasy foods, so they end up going out for fast food (think pizza, burgers, fries). In reality, there may actually be a need for fat in their body, but not the junky kind found in crappy food. Really, their bodies want healthier fats like Omega-3s. But we get the message for fat and mis-translate it for exactly what’s being overeaten and, sadly, is unhelpful.
I will certainly acknowledge that the physical body can also crave things that it knows will make it sick… just how I used to crave bread and pasta all the time in my pre-gluten-free days. My diet was loaded with everything that was making me sick. I’ve asked a number of medical professionals (including my own father who’s a physician) and no one has a clear answer as to why this actually happens.
When your gut flora gets really out of balance, which for anyone with digestive issues (as with most people here at Gluten Free School, this is a real possibility), can cause you to crave foods that are really bad for you. This situation literally leaves you fighting with yourself over eating something you know you shouldn’t.
The thing is… this struggle you feel is a trick because you’re not fighting with yourself, you’re actually struggling with bad micro-organisms living in your gut who’ve positioned themselves in the perfect spot to mess around with both your digestive and nervous systems (since they’re inextricably linked).
Either way, learning how to properly translate your cravings is going to be key as well as considering how you can re-populate your digestive tract with healthier flora that’s working with you rather than against you. I’d also suggest taking a look at the quality of the food that you’re eating and clean out the junk. If you eat mostly processed gluten-free foods (that come in a box or bag with packaging), then there’s a good chance that you’re cravings for junk food will remain high since processed foods don’t foster a healthy gut environment, nor do they offer much in the way of nutrition.
And if you feel like you need help, then ask! That’s what I’m here for!