Archive for tag: neurology

Food for Thought

Surely you've heard the phrase: "Eat to live, not live to eat." It seems that our relationship with food is extremely complicated. It turns out, it's not just our mindset right now, but also every attitude that we've had about food from our childhood that affects how, what and why we eat. Did you ever make cookies with your grandmother, or have a special birthday dinner? Was there some treat that you only had on special occasions? Did you go trick-or-treating for Halloween? Unless we've somehow managed to avoid all of those things, food has become a reward and measure of comfort in our lives.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with this. But we have to be aware of it. As we go through our lives running crazy, working ourselves ridiculous hours, studying, going from obligation to obligation, taking on way too much, it's really easy to seek consolation in our food.

2014-06-11_brain

Of course, there's more to it than that. Eating these things ignites reward chemistry in our brains. Dopamine is produced leading to the sensation of pleasure. Serotonin, which most people recognize as the hormone affecting depression, is dramatically affected. In fact about 95% of the serotonin is produced in the gut. This not only regulates how much food we eat, but how we feel about how much food we eat. It has direct impact on our mood about food.

There are other, seemingly less interesting, hormones involved with food intake. Leptin, produced in adipose tissue, regulates food intake and fat storage. Deficits or defects in it lead to overeating. Another hormone, CCK, which is released from the small intestine while you eat, provides negative feedback about the quantity of food. Deficits in it (or damage to the small intestine) lead to overeating. Ghrelin, insulin, cortisol, and glucagon are also involved. *Whew!*

You see, we treat food as medicine, not just because of the hormones it induces, but because of the nutrients it provides. We can use food to medicate or nourish our bodies.

We need those nutrients to live. They provide the building blocks of everything that we are, the chemicals that sustain us, and the energy that keeps us going.

I've been doing some reading (in all my spare time) about the psychology of eating. It turns out there's a whole Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I've been exploring the ideas of why people eat; how much food we really need to live; and how we can nourish ourselves body/mind/spirit without overindulging. The topic itself is absolutely fascinating, and challenging in ways beyond all of the science.

It's food for thought.

Everybody have an amazing week!

For more information on the psychology of eating and hormonal control of eating, check out: