Compulsive Eating, Trigger Foods and Opioids
We notice similar patterns of addictive behavior with food, alcohol and drugs. Alcoholics and drug abusers frequently have atrocious dietary habits. So many of them grew up dysphoric with bad chemicals in their food and environment.
Addicts often report they first felt well when they had their first drink or injected the initial dose of heroin. Opiates, like other molecules, are effective but temporary remedies for dysfunctional body-mind states. The drive to maintain an opiate level is less to "get high" and more to feel "normal" and mostly to avoid the terrible experience of withdrawal.
The digestion of food proteins may produce substances having opiate or narcotic properties. There are also a number of regulatory peptides feeding back to brain control centers to form the brain-gut axis. A stop signal to the brain when enough food is eaten is important for appetite control and may be defective in compulsive eaters.
Pieces of milk and wheat proteins (peptides) can act like the body's own narcotics, the endorphins, and were described by Zioudro, Streaty and Klee as "exorphins" in 1979. Other food proteins, such as gluten, results in the production of substances having opiate- (narcotic) like activity. These substances have been termed "exorphins." Hydrolyzed wheat gluten, for example, was found to prolong intestinal transit time and this effect was reversed by concomitant administration of naloxone, a narcotic-blocking drug. Digests of milk proteins also are opioid peptides. The brain effects of exorphins may contribute to the mental disturbances and appetite disorders which routinely accompany food-related illness. The possibility that exorphins are addictive in some people is a fascinating lead which needs further exploration.