Endorphins, Sugar and Instant Gratification

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Some days we might get severe carbohydrate cravings which can really screw up our moods, along with those of everyone around us when we can not feed our faces. This is where serotonin comes into play. It helps in managing our mood and our cravings for sweet treats. This becomes evident when people feel an instant calming sensation when they give in to their food cravings. Oddly, it takes about an hour for the serotonin to go into effect, so there must be other chemical reactions coming into play when we have those cookies, chips or any other goodie we decide to gobble down.

Our cravings are also fueled by our addictions to pleasure. Much like getting a runners high, feeling great after intense exercise, having a good laugh or listening to music we enjoy, a euphoric or calming effect is produced by certain foods that release morphine like brain chemicals called endorphins. While it takes a little time for the serotonin to kick in after enjoying our sweet treats, the mere taste of sugar on our tongue produces an instant endorphin rush. This is why you feel good immediately after eating a doughnut. You are experiencing a subtle high from the endorphins released and then you get lingering good feelings from the slower acting increase of serotonin to make those feelings last a little longer. Yet those good feelings never last long enough, especially when the inevitable crash comes and it dawns on us that we just threw our own rear ends right under the bus again with our appetite.

Barbara Smith, PH.D, professor of psychology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has researched the calming effects of sugar on newborns. “Healthy infants generally stop crying rather quickly when given small amounts of a diluted sugar solution, and the calming effect lasts over time, even when the sugar is removed. It is thought, the endorphins likely enhance the pleasurable response to eating, they make eating sweet foods fun and reassuring, which can have a negative effect on your will power.

How often have we watched someone, totally cave in to a carb caving even when they might already have a health issue such as diabetes?

This happens every day, we might even see this characteristic in ourselves.

Who do we hurt besides ourselves?

News flash, we hurt each friend and loved one in our lives when we go off the rails with unhealthy eating. Someone might have to take you to doctors appointments when you can no longer drive. Someone might have to wash your back side once you can no longer reach around to do it your self.  And someone is definitely going to have to make your final arrangements for a cremation or burial. Remember, how you live your life is never just about you in the end.

Endorphins provide an example of the cyclical manner in which our brain chemistry affects our eating, which then affects our brain chemistry in a vicious circle. We eat sugary sweet treats and sweet creamy foods, and the endorphins are then released to do their job of bringing us pleasure. Inject a rat with endorphins and the critter will heartily devour, sweets, fats and protein. Inject that same rat with the endorphin blocking drug naloxone and his snack attack diminishes. You can see how endorphins play a huge role in regulating when and what we want to eat. Note that when you lose weight too fast, the release of fatty acids from your fat tissue also causes an endorphin rush which can send you rummaging the refrigerator or pantry for a sweet treat to cure that “hangry” feeling. A healthy rate of fat loss is only 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you are attempting to lose more than that, you are only sabotaging yourself. Over 2 pounds per week being an unsustainable rate, you are not going to have permanent success.

The sugar-endorphin theory provides an interesting link between sweet cravings and several health issues. For example, ladies with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), bulimia, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) have more frequent cravings for sweets than is normal and report immediate relief from depression, tension or fatigue after giving in to the cravings. The snacks are often consumed in order to “calm myself”. They provide a temporary quick fix because of the endorphins. Because of this, in the long run, addictions to this effect are strengthened and the cravings will become worse over time. Like how chronic pain never goes truly while on pain meds, as long as you feed the cravings, you are causing that which has made you overweight and miserable in the first place. You are perpetuating the addictive properties of sugar in your body.

While simple carbohydrates, jelly doughnuts, ice cream and cookies, contribute to this problem, complex and minimally processed carbohydrates are part of the cure. Nutrient dense whole grain breads, cereals, crackers, brown rice and starch vegetables do not aggravate endorphin levels or your blood sugar, but they do satisfy serotonin needs. We need complex carbohydrate in our diets, but we do not need simple carbs like refined sugar at all. A well rounded diet which provides all of your nutritional needs will greatly reduce your cravings and soothe your moods, especially when combined with regular exercise.

Following David’s Way, you will consume a high protein diet which will keep you satiated longer than a low protein diet and you will enjoy a healthy mix of fats and complex carbs to curb your cravings and keep your mood stable through not eating sugar or other simple carbohydrates other than fruit. With David’s Way, you will have a stable level of serotonin without the rush of endorphins which can throw you off the rails away from a healthy body fat percentage for an improved life style and sense of well being. We are not a diet. We will not tell you what to eat, or the exact portions. This will all be dependent on your individual basal metabolic rate needs. We want and encourage you to consume a well rounded diet and to get your heart rate up through vigorous exercise. Exercise which is vigorous for you as an individual. We do not encourage anyone to set a goal weight number on the scale, rather we encourage you to choose a healthy body fat percentage for your age, gender and level of fitness. David’s Way is not a diet, we are a lifestyle of healthy living through proper nutrition and physical fitness.

Give my methodology an honest try, I guarantee you will be pleased with your results.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Brenda Sue says:

    This is a great article, David. It dissolves the mystery surrounding cravings. Good word!

  2. Thanks for sharing

    1. davidyochim says:

      You are most welcome. I hope you enjoy my blog my friend.

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    1. davidyochim says:

      Thank you kindly Will. My co-author and I are working hard to help others.
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