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Expert Help and What You Need to Know about Food Addiction Treatment

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Are you suffering from an addiction to food, such as sugar? Recognizing Food Addiction and How Treatment Works

“Not why the addiction but why the pain.”
― Gabor Maté

SunCloud Health is of the few places in the country that can distinguish between standard Eating Disorders and Eating Disorders with food addiction and treat both populations with individualized approaches under one roof. Food addiction can be a real addiction, similar to an allergy, and we treat it accordingly.

A significant segment of the American population can, and does, consume all different types of foods with seemingly little in the way of adverse consequences. Another segment of the population carries a sensitivity to certain types of foods, typically highly processed, calorie-dense, hyper-palatable foods. Many people who identify as food addicts experience loss of control when eating foods with high amounts of refined sugar, white flour, salt and/or fat.

SunCloud Health is not a food addiction treatment center that treats each client as if they have a food addiction. We provide individualized treatment plans based on the medical diagnosis of the client, be it anorexia, bulimia, or a food addiction. Every patient we see has a unique biology, unique genes and a unique set of cooccurring disorders, even when behavioral symptoms might look alike.  With the leadership of Dr. Kim, SunCloud has the expertise to identify Food Addiction when it exists and treat it accordingly.  We also have the ability to identify when a diagnosed food addiction might actually be the eating disorder talking. Every patient is assessed as an individual and a treatment plan is designed according to their unique needs.

What is Food Addiction (FA)?

Addiction involving certain foods types or food substances.

Addiction is defined as:

“Addiction is 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 [this case food as substance]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.

  • High negative urgency, high reward dependence, lack of premeditation
  • Not all foods fit for ALL people!!
  • Certain food types in persons with predisposition to addiction lead to dopamine spikes, quick onset and quick transit through blood brain barrier (sugar, refined grains, fats, salt, high Glycemic Index foods)

Common foods of addiction include high sweet foods or high savory/salty foods. 

Highly individualized due to complexity of how we process taste/food experiences AND biodiversity.

Food addiction can occur alone (FA) or in combination with an eating disorder (bulimia plus FA, binge eating disorder plus FA, and even AN-BP plus FA).

VIDEO: WHAT IS FOOD ADDICTION AND HOW DOES SUNCLOUD HEALTH APPROACH TREATING FOOD ADDICTION?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Co-Founder and Medical Director at SunCloud Health, defines food addiction and discusses SunCloud’s approach to diagnosing and treating food addiction.

What Food Addiction is Not

  • Not formally recognized by the DSM-5
  • Binge Eating Disorder or Emotional Eating
  • Obesity

What are the Risk Factors of Food Addiction?

  • History of SUD and/or family history
  • Inability to maintain ED recovery through meal plan 
  • Yale Food Addiction Scale 2.0– 35 question survey ranking behaviors from once a month to 6 times a week; resulting in no food addiction to severe food addiction

How is Food Addiction Treated?

  • Stabilize the body and brain
  • Abstinence from foods that contain trigger foods (or “alcohol” foods to use an analogy). For some people sugar and white flour in the first 5 ingredients, for others specific food items or types. Requires experimentation and controlled exposures for “yellow foods”. Can categorize foods into RED, yellow (maybe) and green. 
Must distinguish “fear foods” from trigger foods. Fear foods are foods feared for ED reasons. Trigger foods are foods that elicit a chemical response in the brain’s reward center that renders a person without choice in continuing to eat/binge on food. 

Source: Incorporating food addiction into disordered eating: the disordered eating food addiction nutrition guide (DEFANG); David A Wiss; Timothy D Brewerton.

VIDEO: KIMBERLY DENNIS, MD, CEDS, ON WHY ASSESSING WHO DOES AND WHO DOES NOT HAVE FOOD ADDICTION IS VITAL.

One of the unique instances that SunCloud Health holds is our understanding that sugar, for some individuals, can be an addictive substance. Individuals suffering from eating disorders present to treatment with complex histories in their relationships to food, weight, body image, and exercise.

Teasing out what thoughts constitute the eating disorder and what is the person is a critical process that occurs with each individual and the treatment team.

What Comes After Food Addiction Treatment at SunCloud Health?

As an outpatient and residential treatment center, SunCloud Health is in an ideal position to support you for as long as you agree our services are useful to you. With multiple levels of outpatient care, you may decide to stay connected through one of our aftercare outpatient groups – or you may want to continue seeing one of our individual therapists.  We are here to provide continuous, caring support for your recovery journey.

Though we understand fully that you don’t want to spend your life in treatment, we also know from experience that a lifetime commitment to wellness is the foundation of your well-being over the long term. We will work with you to maintain a healthy outlook, which means achieving balance, honesty, and health — physical, emotional and spiritual. Our goal is to create a care plan that you can take with you forever, wherever you may go.[/su_spoiler]

VIDEO: IF YOU HAVE FOOD ADDICTION AND AN EATING DISORDER, THE STANDARD “ALL FOODS FIT IN MODERATION” TREATMENT MODEL WILL LIKELY MAKE YOU WORSE.

Kimberly Dennis, MD, CEDS, Chief Medical Officer, CEO and Co-founder at SunCloud Health discusses the concept that if you have food addiction and an eating disorder, the standard “all foods fit in moderation” treatment model will likely make you worse.

VIDEO: WHY A PROPER DIAGNOSIS OF FOOD ADDICTION IS CRITICAL?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, discusses the importance of properly diagnosing food addiction for appropriate care.

Food addictions are commonly mistaken as a sugar-cravings or a sweet tooth, but sugar can be very addictive. In the US, our diets and foods are packed with sugar, its everywhere and in many foods, that makes it extremely difficult for those who crave sugar.

VIDEO: WHY DO WE ASK OUR PATIENTS TO BE ABSTINENT WHEN AT SUNCLOUD HEALTH?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, MD, Medical Director, CEO and Co-founder at SunCloud Health, answers the question, why do we ask our patients to be abstinent when at SunCloud Health?

When a treatment program responds to a presentation of the person reporting a history of bingeing on foods with a high concentration of sugar with “that’s you’re eating disorder, you just need to learn to eat these foods in moderation,” there is a disservice taking place.

VIDEO: LOOKING AT EATING DISORDERS THOUGH AN ADDICTION MODEL

Mara Y Schieber, LCSW, CADC, Therapist at SunCloud Health, talks about how looking at an eating disorder through the lens of the 12 Step program can be a benefit.

VIDEO: WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN PEOPLE ASK, IS SUNCLOUD HEALTH A 12-STEP PROGRAM?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, answers the question, is SunCloud Health a 12-step program?

VIDEO: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ABSTINENCE BASED PROGRAM AND A HARM REDUCTION BASED PROGRAM?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, explains the difference between an abstinence based and harm reduction based program.

VIDEO: WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF INDIVIDUALIZED CARE?

Kimberly Dennis, MD, CEDS, on the importance of individualized care.

Though this approach will be effective for some, and even necessary, for many it presents an approach that overtime is not sustainable and actually may sabotage recovery.

It is this knowledge of addiction, our ability to listen, and our expertise that enables us to recognize the addiction process to sugar for certain individuals, that places SunCloud Health as one of the forerunners in eating disorder treatment.

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An excerpt, Dr. Kim’s Blog Food for Thought: A Necessary Paradigm Shift

A significant segment of the American population can, and does, consume all different types of foods with seemingly little in the way of adverse consequences. Another segment of the population carries a sensitivity to certain types of foods, typically highly processed, calorie-dense, hyper-palatable foods. Many people who identify as food addicts experience loss of control when eating foods with high amounts of refined sugar, white flour, salt and/or fat. The analogy from the world of addiction is that the majority of people can drink alcohol and be satisfied with just one drink. Alcoholics, who have a biological reaction to alcohol that renders them unable to stop represent a minority. Ongoing research has been quite useful in debunking the myth that you can’t be addicted to food. However, the eating disorder field is lagging behind the rest of medicine when it comes to the reality that addiction for some individuals can involve food substances (like refined sugar)  just as it can involve alcohol, cocaine or opiates for others. In fact, people with co-morbid ED and substance use disorders (the so-called “double winners”) are more likely to have  food addiction (FA) as part of their eating disorders. READ MORE>>>

 

VIDEO: ARE SOME FOODS ADDICTIVE TO SOME PEOPLE AND NOT OTHERS?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, discusses how some foods can be addictive to some people while not being addictive to others.

VIDEO: WHY ALL FOODS FIT MODEL IS NOT FOR EVERYONE?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, discusses why all foods does not fit for all patients.
 

VIDEO: DO THOSE WITH EATING DISORDERS HAVE FOOD ADDICTION?

Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, Medical Director, CEO and Co-Founder, discusses her belief that a subset of people with an eating disorder, have food addiction and the importance of identifying those patients.

VIDEO: TREATMENT SUMMARY FOR HOW WE TREAT EATING DISORDERS, INCLUDING FOOD ADDICTION AT SUNCLOUD HEALTH.

Kimberly Dennis, MD, CEDS, delivers a Treatment Summary for how we treat eating disorders, including food addiction at SunCloud Health.

VIDEO: IN AND OUT OF TREATMENT SEVERAL TIMES WITH LITTLE SUCCESS?

Emily Long discusses how patients benefit from an integrated treatment approach and how that contributes to a more effective treatment experience at SunCloud Health.

VIDEO: IS THERE HOPE FOR MY RECOVERY?

Dr. Marcia Nickow, Psy.D., CADC, CGP shares her thoughts on hope for recovery at SunCloud Health.
 

VIDEO: DOES ADDICTION TREATMENT WORK?

Chris Stewart, MD. Board Certified Psychiatrist answers, does addiction treatment work?
 
 

The treatment team at SunCloud gets it. They practice what they preach, they are compassionate and they are true professionals.  They all understand what I am going through and they have guided me from a hopeless place of disease to recovery and a life worth living.  Most importantly they have helped me realize that I am worth something and that I don’t have to use in order to cope with life and all that comes with it.  Recovery can be amazing.  Trust me.  The work is not easy and it is totally worth it!   Today I am alive.

~ SCH patient

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