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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

At SunCloud Health, we understand that not all foods fit for all people, all of the time. That’s why we take a unique approach to treating food addiction. We are one of the few places in the country that distinguishes 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. Reach out today for food addiction help that is truly customized to your unique needs.

VIDEO: LISTEN TO DR. KIM ON THE FOOD JUNKIES PODCAST

Dr. Kim discusses the medical treatments for food addiction and obesity – exploring the various options and their efficacy.

What Is Food Addiction (FA)?

“Addiction” is defined 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 [this case food as substance] and other behaviors.”

Addiction is characterized by the 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. It is associated with high negative urgency, high reward dependence, and a lack of premeditation.

Food Addiction is, therefore, “addiction involving certain foods types or food substances.” Food addiction is often linked to emotional suppression and 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).

A significant segment of the American population can, and does, consume all different types of specific 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 or experiencing food addiction symptoms experience loss of control when eating foods with high amounts of refined sugar, white flour, salt and/or fat.

Certain food types in persons with a predisposition to addiction lead to dopamine spikes, or quick onset and quick transit through blood brain barrier (sugar, refined grains, fats, salt, high Glycemic Index foods).

Thus, common themes of food addiction may include high-sweet unhealthy foods and high-savory/salty foods.

What Food Addiction Is Not:

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

Learn More about Food Addiction

For more resources, information, and in-depth looks at the SunCloud Health approach to treating food addiction and other mental health conditions, see our video series here.

How Do We Identify Food Addiction?

Food addiction is not “all this” or “all that” – our genetic variabilities, early childhood experiences, eating habits, and other adverse life experiences all factor into identifying FA.

Under the leadership of Dr. Kim Dennis, SunCloud Health has the expertise to identify Food Addiction signs when they exist and treat the condition accordingly, as well as identifying when a diagnosed food addiction might be the eating disorder talking.

This process may include determining when and how out-of-control eating behaviors began as well as looking at other risk factors, such as:

  • History of Substance Use Disorder
  • Family history of addiction
  • Inability to maintain recovery through meal plans
  • Binging or compulsive overeating behaviors, or certain trigger foods

Once food addiction is identified, a mental health treatment plan can be created. This plan is highly individualized due to the complexity of how we process taste/food experiences along with one’s biodiversity.

How Is Food Addiction Treated?

  • Stabilization of the body and brain
  • Varied and flexible meal/food plan eliminating foods that trigger dopamine spikes
  • Abstinence from trigger foods (specific food items, types, or ingredients)

It’s also vital to distinguish “fear foods” from trigger foods. Fear foods are foods feared for reasons relating to an eating disorder. 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.

Treatment for Food Addiction at SunCloud Health

SunCloud Health is not a food addiction treatment center that treats every client as if they have FA. Instead, we provide individualized treatment plans based on the medical diagnosis of the client, be it anorexia, bulimia, or food addiction. Every patient we see has a unique biology, unique genes, and a unique set of co-occurring disorders, even when behavioral symptoms might look alike.

We know that many “eating disorder programs” at substance abuse recovery facilities inappropriately treat patients with restrictive eating habits and disorders (including anorexia and binge eating disorder) or classic ED, classic BN, or BED without food addiction under a food addiction model, and this is harmful to those patients. SunCloud Health does not do that.

We are fully aligned with the Health at Every Size (HAES) model. Food addiction treatment is not about perpetuating weight loss or diet culture, but restoring sanity and health in physical, emotional, social, spiritual domains, and restoring manageability.

What Comes after Food Addiction Treatment at SunCloud Health?

As an outpatient and residential treatment center for food addiction, eating disorders, and other mental health conditions, 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 support groups – or you may want to continue seeing one of our individual therapists.

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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>>>

 

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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