Tag Archives: dopamine

The Science Behind Overeating

Many of my clients and readers who are seeking treatment for Binge Eating Disorder, Obesity, or Bulimia ask the question “Why do I overeat?” There are numerous factors that drive us to overeat. But first let’s identify the five main types of overeating; compulsive overeating, impulsive overeating, impulsive-compulsive overeating, anxious overeating and emotional overeating.  The following are possible causes, and ways to decrease the tendency to overeat.

The Science Behind Overeating

Compulsive Overeating

Compulsive Overeaters tend to obsess over food and are compelled to eat with very little self-control.  The condition characterized by low serotonin in the brain, which causes the portion of the brain known as the Anterior Cingulate Gyrus to overwork. The Anterior Cingulate Gyrus is the portion of the brain that is responsible for allowing us to move from thought to thought, co-operate, and see errors; it’s the brain’s gear-shifter. An overactive anterior cingulate gyrus can be caused by genetics, emotional trauma, or poor diet.

Your serotonin levels may be too low if you get thoughts stuck in your head, you worry excessively, you are easily upset, you obsess over food, or you tend to be a night time eater. Serotonin can be raised through aerobic exercise, and supplements (5HTP, saffron, inositol, vitamin B6).

Impulsive Overeating

Impulsive Overeaters often have good intentions when it comes to eating good foods, but have a hard time controlling urges when they see a not-so-healthy food.

Impulsive Overeating is characterized by low dopamine in the brain. Low dopamine decreases the function of the portion of the brain known as Pre-Frontal Cortex. The Pre-Frontal Cortex is the front third of the brain, responsible for allowing us to focus, control impulses, to be emotional organizers and planners, be empathetic and insightful, and to learn from our mistakes. You can think of it as the “then what?” part of your brain; if I eat this, then what will happen? If I say this, then what will happen?

When the function of the Pre-Frontal Cortex is decreased (either through injury or a condition like ADD), it makes it very difficult to think ahead, to focus, etc. Functionality of the Pre-Frontal Cortex is improved by raising dopamine levels. Dopamine may be raised through aerobic exercise and supplements (L-tyrosine, green tea extract, ginseng, rhodiola).

Impulsive-Compulsive Overeating

Impulsive-Compulsive Overeaters constantly think about food and have a difficult time controlling themselves around food.  This condition is characterized by low dopamine and serotonin.  Impulsive-Compulsive Overeating is commonly seen in those suffering from eating disorders, as well as children and grandchildren of alcoholics.

Impulsive-Compulsive Overeating can be improved by increasing both dopamine and serotonin. This can be accomplished through aerobic exercise and supplements (5HTP and L-Tyrosine in the right proportions).

Anxious Overeating

Anxious Overeaters typically use food in an attempt to alleviate feelings of anxiety and fear.

Anxious Overeating is common in those with overactive Basal Ganglia. The Basal Ganglia is a large collection of cells that are located deep within the brain. It’s the portion of the brain that integrates thought with movement; clapping our hands when we’re excited, jumping when we’re frightened.

Symptoms of overactive Basal Ganglia include anxiety, nervousness, tension, the tendency to predict the worst, the tendency to use food as a way to medicate, and physical symptoms of stress (headaches, stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome etc). Functionality of the Basal Ganglia can be improved through hypnosis, meditation, learning to correct negative thinking patterns, limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption, assertiveness training, and supplements (gaba and magnesium).

Emotional Overeating

Emotional Overeaters tend to use food to alleviate feelings of negativity and hopelessness.

Emotional Overeating is characterized by low levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain. Low levels of these neurotransmitters cause the Deep Limbic System to become overactive. The Deep Limbic System sets our emotional tone; when it’s working at a normal level we tend to be more hopeful and positive.

You may have low levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine if you experience a lot of negative thoughts, are sad or depressed, have trouble sleeping, and/or experience a lack of motivation.  These neurotransmitters can be increased though aerobic exercise, learning to replace automatic negative thoughts with healing, rational thinking, and supplements (fish oil, DHEA, S-adenosyl methionine aka SAMe).

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible.

Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. http://edpro.wpengine.com’

Sources:

KNOW YOUR BRAIN: One Size Does Not Fit Everyone — Targeted Interventions Just For You

Amen, D. G., & M.D., F. (2012). Change your brain, change your body, use your brain to get and keep the body you have always wanted. Three Rivers Press.

Neuroendocrine System Changes: Anorexia vs. Normal Starvation

Whether a person experiences normal starvation or starvation through anorexia, the neuroendocrine system tries to adapt. Below is a comparison of the changes to cholecystokin, leptin, serotonin, dopamine, neuropeptide YY, ghrelin, galanin, and norepinephrine in normal starvation, anorexia, and in post-recovery from anorexia.

Neuroendocrine Changes - Anorexia, Normal Starvation

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. http://edpro.wpengine.com’

Source:

Guisinger, Shan (2009). Is Anorexia Addictive? [powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.shanguisinger.org/2009/08/is-anorexia-addictive-hbes-berlin/

Anorexia, Addiction and the Three-Part Brain Model

The Three-Part Brain Model

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”

To understand addiction, it is important to understand the three-part brain model. The first and most important part of the brain is the lower part of the brain, the brain stem. The brain stem regulates life sustaining activities such as telling us to breath, getting our digestion going and regulating heart rate.

The next most important part of the brain is the middle part of the brain, the limbic system. The limbic system is responsible for emotional, instinctual, and motivational-based functions. It gets us to do things that will keep us alive. The middle part of the brain is the non-thinking part of the brain that instinctually and reactively gets us away from pain or draws us toward pleasure (such as sex, food, sleep, exercise etc) which is a life-sustaining principle.

The third and final part of the brain is top part of the brain, the cortex. The cortex is the thinking part of the brain. It gives the ability to appreciate art, literature and other people. Additionally, it is responsible for our social skills, judgment, insight, and other executive functions of the brain. The cortex also moderates emotions and instincts which are there to keep our lives going.

In a perfect system, all three parts of the brain will work together in balance. When a problem occurs, such as addiction or an eating disorder the limbic system becomes manipulated or overbalanced. What was initially a perfect system actually begins to work against us; the middle part of the brain overpowers the top part of the brain. When the middle part of the brain becomes aroused by feelings such as hunger, anger, loneliness, or tiredness we lose our sense of willpower and reasonable thinking; which resides in the front part of the brain.

The middle part of the brain is home to the nucleus accumbens. The nucleus accumbens is the reward pathway of the brain; anything that makes us feel good involves the nucleus accumbens. Three of the neurochemicals that pass through the nucleus accumbens include dopamine, serotonin, and endorphin. Dopamine is the neurochemical that makes us want or desire something; serotonin is the neurochemical makes us feel relaxed and satisfied; endorphin is the neurochemical that protect us from feeling physical or emotional pain.

I recently spoke to addictions specialist Dr. Vera Tarman who described how this relates to the brain of an individual with anorexia. When an individual is suffering from anorexia they experience a dopaminergic euphoria. He or she experiences a ‘high’, as they obsess about food; similar to how a drug addict would experience over their drug of choice.  When the anorexic becomes increasingly hungry, the limbic system produces extra dopamine. As the person becomes hungrier, the reward value of food heightens. This is the body’s attempt to entice the person to eat, to nourish itself. The anorexic does not eat food, but as he or she gets hungrier, she instead anticipates food – in the food preparation, in the food obsessions, in how she or he ‘plays’ (but does not eat) the food. As the anorexic individual becomes more and more hungry, the dopamine high builds and builds. It’s important to note that as soon as the anorexic does eat, the high stops completely. Anorexics resist food the same way as the drug addict resists withdrawal from their drug.

Sources:

Human Brain and Skeleton Photo from office.microsoft.com Clip Art and Image Library (Under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License) Source: knol.google.com

American Society of Addiction Medicine. (April 19 2011). Definition of Addiction. American Society of Addiction Medicine. Retrieved July 18 2012, from http://www.asam.org/for-the-public/definition-of-addiction.

Dr. Vera Tarman (personal communication, July 11, 2012)

Croxton, S. (Host) (2012, May 23). Understanding Food Addiction with Dr. Vera Tarman [Podcast]. Underground Wellness. California: Blog Talk Radio. Retrieved May 24 2012, from http://www.blogtalkradio.com/undergroundwellness/2012/05/23/understanding-food-addiction-w-dr-vera-tarman

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. http://edpro.wpengine.com’

Amino Acid Therapy

Recently I listened to an interview with Dr. Kalish, a pioneer in the concept of amino acid therapy. During the interview he discussed the use of amino acid therapy for depression that doesn’t require hospitalization and in which the individual isn’t a risk to self or others. The information presented below is a summary of the interview.

The two most common underlying causes of weight gain, fatigue and depression include neurotransmitter dysfunction and HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis)  dysfunction. Neurotransmitter dysfunction leads to cravings for carbs and compulsive overeating, forcing people into a downward spiral of weight gain and depression.”

The two main neurotransmitters that affect our mood are serotonin and dopamine. Think of them as the master neurotransmitters. They control nearly all of the other 180 neurotransmitters in the brain. When deficiencies of serotonin or dopamine are present, all the other neurotransmitters in the brain become unbalanced.

Nutritional deficiencies, neurotoxicity, head injury, and genetics can all cause serotonin and dopamine deficiencies. Their metabolism, synthesis, and uptake pathways are intertwined, so that damage to one affects the other.

That said, their bioavailability is different, in that Serotonin is made available by the amino acids tryptophan and 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), whereas dopamine is synthesized from the amino acids tyrosine and L-Dopa. When one of these neurotransmitter precursors is out of balance, however, the metabolism, synthesis, and uptake of either neurotransmitter can be impaired, resulting in disturbances in mood and cognitive functioning. Serotonin and dopamine also regulate things such as appetite, libido, and the circulatory system.

The most logical method to restore serotonin and dopamine would be to take them in a pill form. Unfortunately, this would not be effective since serotonin and dopamine are unable to pass through the Blood-Brain barrier (BBB), so the medication would never enter the brain. The pharmaceutical solution has been to create an SSRI (Serotonin Reuptake) antidepressant.  SSRI’s work at the cellular level in the brain by blocking the re-uptake of serotonin after it is released from a cell.

Normally, the brain cell releases a small amount of serotonin which does it’s job by stimulating another cell to release an electrical charge.  Once it’s job is done, it is reabsorbed into the original cell.  In other words, to get the desired effect, it must hit the target cell again and again in order to cause a sufficient amount of electrical charge to effect mood. For the individual taking an SSRI, the medication block’s the reuptake of serotonin so that it remains outside of the cell.  The result is that it has more time to do it’s job.

Two things happen when the serotonin remains outside of the cell: first it continues to hit the neighboring brain cell repeatedly, causing it to fire, which is what makes the individual feel better. Secondly, enzymes within the brain eventually break down the serotonin. Over time this break down results in the additional depletion of the serotonin.

At some point, the brain is too depleted of serotonin for the SSRI drugs to work and the individual must turn to the class of drugs that affect dopamine, one of which are atypical antipsychotics. Unfortunately, long-term use of these drugs eventually results in a dopamine deficiency.  In addition to which, atypical antipsychotics have significant side effects including weight gain, type II diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia, myocarditis, sexual dysfunction, extrapyramidal side effects and cataracts.

According to Dr. Kalish, there are two main amino acids that have the ability to pass through the BBB, 5-HTP and tyrosine; 5-HTP affects serotonin, while tyrosine affects dopamine. When the correct ratio of 5-HTP and tyrosine and several other co-factors are taken (usually cysteine, calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6) the brain can generate the appropriate amount of serotonin and dopamine. It is critical that 5-HTP and tyrosine are taken together. If either are used on their own, the opposite neurotransmitter will eventually be depleted; taking 5-HTP on it’s own would result in a dopamine deficiency, taking tyrosine on it’s own would result in a serotonin deficiency. Also, if there isn’t enough of each of the co-factors available in the brain (most importantly vitamin B6), 5-HTP will not convert to serotonin and tyrosine will not convert to dopamine.

As amino acid therapy progresses, the brain begins to heal and repair itself; there is an increase in neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters also begin to operate at a normal level forcing a growth of new connections. Oftentimes, the individual can eventually stop taking the 5-HTP and tyrosine and continue to experience the benefits they received while utilizing amino acid therapy.

Typically, lab tests are required to determine the correct dosage of 5-HTP and tyrosine, since the ideal dose will vary from person to person. An example starting dose is usually 1000 mg of tyrosine (3 times per day, maximum dose of 3000 mg per day) and 100 mg of 5-HTP (3 times per day, maximum dose of 300 mg per day). Any dose higher than this needs to be supervised by a physician or specialist like Dr. Kalish. Even the starting dose should be discussed with your physician, especially if you are taking other medications.

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. http://edpro.wpengine.com’

News You Can Use July 1 – 8

News You Can Use

“As an Eating Disorder Professional, I know that many of my clients that are in treatment for Anorexia, Bulimia, Bulimarexia, Binge Eating Disorder or Obesity are overwhelmed by all the information in the news about our health. In hopes of relieving some of the stress this can inflict on both my patients and readers, I’ve highlighted some of the weekly health news that was of particular interest to all of us at The Norton Center for Eating Disorders and Obesity. From my eating disorder and obesity treatment center in Cincinnati, here is your weekly news update for the week of July 1-8 2012!”

Anti-obesity vaccine shot offers false promise of staying slim even on a junk food diet

Addicted to coffee? You may be dopamine deficient

Proof That GMOs Really Are Unhealthy

As Schools Fight Obesity, Physical Education Is Cut

Should We Sleep More to Lose Weight?

Were there any news articles that you saw this week that really grabbed your attention? Leave a comment with a link. If the article helped you, it will likely help some of my other readers!

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Medical Advice Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a physician-patient relationship.

© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. http://edpro.wpengine.com’