I know people who get into trouble by eating one piece of candy. Just a teeny taste leads to constant food cravings that can’t be satisfied. For the next 3-4 days, the thought of candy is haunting. And there's a strong desire for other foods too so a cycle of overeating starts that can last for weeks, packing on pounds and guilt.
What I’m referring to goes beyond craving. For a lot of people who don’t have a ‘take it or leave it’ relationship with candy, this is a real addiction.
The customary way to fix an addiction is to remove the substance and tough it out till the symptoms go away. I think this is mostly right, but the problem can be more than willpower.
Some people have more trouble with candy addiction than others. The underlying food problem may be in their genetics.
When we experience emotional pleasure from food, biochemically we’re stimulating neurotransmitters that are considered ‘excitatory.' These neurotransmitters make us feel good, but in excess, they can damage the brain, so they need to be balanced. Our bodies come equipped with genes that break down these excitatory neurotransmitters.
Some people inherit slow-working genes for breaking down neurotransmitters. These inefficient genes may never be a problem. The important factor is the workload required of the genes.
Candy can start a chain reaction of brain symptoms that include craving, headaches, moodiness, depression, anxiety, and brain fog. Candy contains sugar, flavoring, coloring, and additives, each with the potential to stimulate neurotransmitters. Slow-working genes may already be overwhelmed; candy can be the tipping point.
The same genes for breaking down neurotransmitters are also needed to break down histamines. So eating candy can trigger reactions to food and the environment. Seasonal allergies, rashes, hives, asthma, bloating, diarrhea, constipation can become worse after eating candy.
What I do at Holistic Nutrition Center: identify genes and metabolism through lab testing. Instead of just removing candy from the diet, I see more value in reducing the overall workload of overwhelmed genes. Diet and lifestyle can often fix genetic metabolism, and symptoms tend to self-correct.
When genes aren't overwhelmed, holiday candy treats are less likely to cause cravings and other reactions.