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Do You Self-Medicate with Carbs?

If you’ve ever “self-medicated” with carbohydrates, what you’re about to read will totally resonate with you.  Carbohydrates indirectly raise the serotonin levels in our brains.  Serotonin is that “feel good” hormone that calms us down and helps us feel more relaxed.  It helps regulate our mood, metabolism and appetite.  If you’ve ever: soothed your anxious brain with a tub of raw cookie dough; crunched out your frustrations with a bag of potato chips; buried your shame with seconds or thirds at dinner; raised your spirits with a box of cereal; drowned your sorrows in a bowl of ice cream; eased your loneliness with a pan of brownies; eased your pain with a plate of pasta or found friendship with a pizza, you know what I’m talking about.  IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD!  We just want to feel better. 

When we consume carbohydrates, the insulin produced in response to the higher blood sugar levels allows more tryptophan, an amino acid, to enter the brain. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, and, once in the brain, nearly all the tryptophan is converted into serotonin.  This is evidenced by the drowsiness that can accompany a carbohydrate binge and it also helps explain why many of my clients say they’d “kill for chocolate” but not for a hard-boiled egg!