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Addictive Foods and their Harmful Consequences

Most of us have a guilty secret pick me up, a product that has the effect of a stimulant to help us get through the day. Mine is coke, from a can but they can include, fizzy drinks, sports drinks, coffee and even alcohol. Further afield, people consume tobacco, betel nut and leaf and ma huang, an ephedrine-like compound consumed in China.

Before we understand you why we shouldn’t consume these products, first we need to understand why we do in the first place.

Most of us should know that products like these, consumed in excess, can severely harm our bodies. Yet, we still find them hard to resist. The need to eat stimulant food is a simple human weakness that has existed for ages, humans (and many animals) have always indulged in foods that give a sort of emotional high. In clinical terms, this means rapid heart beat, a little sweating, dilation or constriction of the pupils of the eye, a warm flush on the face, and a sense of greater sensitivity, concentration and perception.

These sensations of ‘high’ die down within a few hours, and we are left feeling listless and low. This leads to a craving for that food again, to experience the high one more time. And there we are going round and round in a vicious circle.

The physiology of addictions is as follows

When you eat an addictive food, it stimulates the hormone like substances found at the end of your nerves, which triggers an avalanche of similar stimulatory substances and you experience a high. As the substances near the nerves are depleted, you get into the low phase, which leads you to crave that food again. This yo-yo phase of nerve stimulation and depletion leads to a pattern of addiction.

Consuming addictive foods is one of the oldest unhealthy food practices and, despite a revolution in health consciousness, it shows no signs of dying out.

Below are some side effects of certain addictive foods.

Alcohol Addiction Erosion of stomach and intestinal lining, liver damage, nutritional deficiency.

Tobacco Erosion of gum and tongue can lead to cancer of the buccal mucosa.

Betel nut Leads to the discoloration of teeth, erosion of the lining of the mouth, and cancer of the mouth and upper tract. It also leads to heart problems among people who already have a weak heart.

Ma huang contains ephedrine and leads to heart problems.

Aerated drinks High doses of caffeine.

Caffeine and xanthine Found in tea, coffee. These become harmful only in very high doses, avoid consuming more than five cups a day.

Mixed drug reactions People who consume medications for the heart, hypertension and asthma have to be very careful about the interactions of the drugs with stimulant foods, as mixing the two can be fatal.

Addictions are clearly hard to break and most of us will have seen the effects somewhere in our lives. With every addiction and the impacts being different, if you really cannot break the cycle, then at least you should practice moderation.

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