Roberta Foss* says that Americans suffer from “Overconsumptive Undernutrition.” I wish I had come up with this phrase as I think it is very apt. There are three conditions on the rise in the U.S. that can be shown to be directly related to Food Pollution (FP) that are good examples of this researchers work:
Leaky Gut Syndrome (LGS), Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD), and Metabolic Syndrome. Of the three conditions, Leaky Gut is the most difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and often goes undetected until it causes other more serious conditions. All three begin with dis-ruption, (for example high blood sugar levels due to too much High Fructose Corn Syrup) progress to dys-regulation (of the endocrine system in many cases) and end in dis-ease (such as Type 2 Diabetes). But most importantly, all three may be driving eating disorders. Certainly, they drive obesity, but they may also be driving bulimia, binge and emotional eating disorders.
In general, the medical community sees these conditions as the result of eating too much. So they get the overconsumption piece, but they are generally missing the part about the deadly undernutrition caused by food pollution. With Leaky Gut, for example, the body is often unable to use the nutrients in the food, and the individual feels “hungry” all of the time. Some patients report feeling as if they are starving. What do we eat when we are starving? Carbs, something processed because it is quick, or worst of all, we go for the fast food. Of course, these are the same foods that cause the Leaky Gut in the first place. This is why I recommend abstaining from “polluted” foods and relying upon 100% grass-fed protein sources, organic fruits and vegetables and healthy fats such as coconut oil. No lo-fat, lo-cal anything! It should have come off of a tree, not out of a bag or it should have had a mama 🙂
The hunger one experiences with Leaky Gut drives disordered eating, in as much as the polluted ingredients that abound in the U.S. food supply are often highly addicting as well as fattening. I believe that this is what is driving the complications that are on the rise in my patient population. Polluted foods directly impact the endocrine system, which in turn results in damage to the liver, pancreas, gall bladder, and adrenal glands. In addition the endocrine system also regulates mood, which means that damage can lead to anxiety and depression.
diagram used under a creative commons license
How does food pollution lead to disordered eating? Well if you are eating food you assume to be safe, and it isn’t, you will continue to eat it even when you develop symptoms as you will not associate the symptoms with the safety of your food. You will likely assume that you are eating too much, and that the negative consequences are your fault. Because you are blaming yourself, you will feel bad and eat more!
I believe that many people suffering from eating disorders such as binge eating disorder (BED), bulimia, bulimarexia and emotional eating** are individuals who find themselves eating too much and panic. Because they are unaware of the impact that food pollution is having on the way they eat, they use unhealthy ways of managing their calorie intake, i.e. they restrict, binge and purge or yo-yo diet. This increases the three syndromes mentioned above and leads to more disordered eating. A very vicious cycle.
In the eating disorder treatment field, it is considered anathema to suggest that an Anorexic or Bulimic patient abstain from eating anything, no matter how bad it is for you. Refeeding strategies, which are designed to restore the patient to a “normal” weight as quickly as possible, espouse that we should be able to eat anything as long as we eat it in moderation. I could not disagree more. We should absolutely not eat polluted food. There are over 2000 food additives on the market today and more all the time. Many of them are genetically engineered from the DNA of aborted fetuses.
Instead, we need to seek out the “clean” alternative, whenever and wherever possible, and we should encourage those we love to do the same. Treatment outcomes in the eating disorder treatment field are abysmal, often as low as 30% success. Eating clean works much better. The recovery rates I see with my patients are a testament to the success of this approach. However, it is not for everyone. As with any treatment, there are potential side-effects. It is possible to get triggered while trying to eat clean. I make that clear from the get-go and work with my patients, whether they need to lose weight, gain weight or stop bingeing and purging, to build that expectation into their treatment and manage it proactively.
How Do We Become Addicted?
One of the drivers of disordered eating is food addiction. Humans are hard-wired to become addicted to processed free glutamate (MSG), damaged proteins, sweeteners and hyper-hybridized (HH) grains. The biotech, agribusiness and food industries leverage this part of our neurochemistry to sell more product. What scientists and watchdog groups have known for many years, i.e. our food supply contains ingredients that are neurotoxic, autogenic, carcinogenic, obesogenic and most importantly, addictive, is only now breaking into the American consciousness.
Although Leaky Gut Syndrome, Metabolic Syndrome and GERD are more common among obese individuals, one does not have to be obese to have any of them. The disorders are also rising at alarming rates among those suffering from Anorexia, Bulimia, Bulimarexia, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and “emotional eating”**. They are driven in many cases by food addictions, which in turn are the result of the excitatory neurotoxins that abound in processed (polluted) foods.
Dr. J. Renae Norton is a clinical psychologist, specializing in the outpatient treatment of obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, bulimarexia, and binge eating disorder (BED) and the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the Director of The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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*Roberta Foss-Morgan, D.O. – September 5, 2010
** I do not accept the diagnosis emotional eating, and see it as a symptom of food addiction.