Are You Food Addicted?

By Mark Hyman, MD

Detox is big these days. Everybody’s talking about it and trying it—juicing, fasting, cleansing, odd diets, colonics, and more. There are ancient healing systems that teach about detoxification—including ayurveda—and each approach has its pros and cons.

But I think that America needs a very different kind of detox, a medical detox from sugar and flour, the super addictive combo that has hijacked our taste buds, our brain chemistry, and our metabolism. A scientifically designed medical detox program is the only way to regain health for millions of suffering and addicted Americans.

We are a nation of food addicts—not metaphorically, but literally. Americans eat 146 pounds of sugar and 152 pounds of flour every year. That’s almost a pound of sugar and flour combined for every man, woman, and child in America every single day! It has led to an epidemic of unprecedented obesity and disease.

Nearly 70 percent of adults and 40 percent of kids are overweight. One in two Americans has prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, and 90 percent of the people who have this condition—what I call diabesity—have no clue they have it. And that is tragic because diabesity is the single biggest cause of heart disease, many cancers, dementia, and even depression, infertility, and acne. In fact, sugar and flour are the biggest causes of liver damage in America. (Don’t think flour is innocent—it raises blood sugar more than table sugar.) Fatty liver disease now affects 90 million Americans, including little kids who need liver transplants by the time they are teenagers.

Our hyper-processed, hyper-palatable, hyper-addictive, factory-made industrial diet not only makes us fat, it makes us sick in hundreds of ways—and most of us need a detox.

There are three easy ways to know if you need to detox. The first is FLC syndrome—you know you have it if you Feel Like Crap. The second is if you have “diabesity,” and the last is if you are a food addict. Take the following three quizzes to see if you need a detox.

 

Do you have FLC syndrome?

If you have any of these symptoms, you have FLC syndrome:

• Fatigue

• Bloating and fluid retention

• Constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, or  reflux

• Congestion, allergies, asthma, sinus issues

• Brain fog

• Depression, anxiety, trouble focusing

• Headaches

• Insomnia

• Weight gain or trouble losing weight

• Bad skin—acne, eczema, psoriasis

• Joint or muscle pain or aching

• Canker sores

• Autoimmune diseases

• Any chronic disease

If you have any of these symptoms, a detox might help.

 

Do you have diabesity?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you could be at risk. Answer yes to many of these questions and you surely have a problem and would benefit from a sugar detox.

• Do you have a family history of diabetes, heart disease, or obesity?

• Are you of nonwhite ancestry (African, Asian, Native American, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Indian, Middle Eastern)?

• Are you overweight with a body mass index (BMI) over 25? (Go to 10daydetox.com/resources to calculate your BMI based on weight and height.)

• Do you have extra belly fat? Is your waist circum­ference greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men?

• Do you crave sugar and refined carbohydrates?

• Do you have trouble losing weight on a low-fat diet?

• Has your doctor told you that your blood sugar is a  little high (greater than 100 mg/dl) or have you actually been diagnosed with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or diabetes?

• Do you have high levels of triglycerides (over 100 mg/dl) or low HDL cholesterol (less than 50 mg/dl)?

• Do you have heart disease?

• Do you have high blood pressure?

• Are you inactive (less than 30 minutes of exercise four times a week)?

• Do you suffer from infertility, low sex drive, or sexual dysfunction?

• For women: Have you had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome?

 

Are you addicted to food (sugar and flour)?

My friend and colleague Kelly Brownell, PhD, formerly from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, has created a validated food questionnaire to help you determine if you are a food addict. Here are some clues that you may be addicted to sugar, flour, and processed food. The more intensely or more frequently you experience these feelings and behaviors, the more addicted you are:

• You consume certain foods even if you are not hungry because of cravings.

• You worry about cutting down on certain foods.

• You feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.

• You have health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food issues and yet you keep eating the way you do despite negative consequences.

• You have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods instead of spending time in important activities such as time with family, friends, work, or recreation.

• You have had withdrawal symptoms, such as agitation and anxiety, when you cut down on certain foods (do not include caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, and energy drinks in this).

• Your behavior with respect to food and eating causes you significant distress.

• Issues related to food and eating decrease your avail­ability to function effectively (daily routine, job/school, social or family activities, health difficulties).

• You need more and more of the foods you crave to experience any pleasure or to reduce negative emotions.

If any of these statements apply to you, don’t worry—you’re far from alone. Millions of people in every corner of the world have fallen into the food addiction trap. There is a way out!

 

How detox works

The most powerful, simplest, and most delicious detox is available to anyone, anywhere, anytime by eating real, whole, fresh food. I wrote The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet to create a goof-proof, step-by-step plan to end food addiction, reverse diabesity, and heal FLC syndrome all at once. The body has extraordinary healing and reparative systems. They just need to be activated by taking out the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff.

This detox works because it removes all Frankenfoods (food-like substances) and all addictive foods, chemicals, and drugs for 10 days so the body can reboot and reset. Think of it as turning your body back to its original factory settings. When people have FLC syndrome or are addicted to processed foods, sugar, and flour, they need a medically designed detox program. This program is no deprivation—it is about abundance and pleasure. It’s about recognizing that, for most people, simply giving the body a break from junk will result in overcoming cravings, chronic symptoms, and blood sugar imbalances.

What’s “out” is sugar (in any form); gluten and dairy (inflammatory foods); grains; beans; processed, factory-made foods; refined vegetable oils; alcohol; and caffeine.

What’s “in” is real, whole, fresh food. This includes food that boosts liver detox pathways, that reduces inflammation, balances blood sugar, improves gut function, and normalizes gut bacteria (bad bugs in the gut are increasingly linked to weight gain and inflammation). Also “in” are gentle exercise, hydration, journaling, detox supplements (a multivitamin, fish oil, vitamin D, and a special fiber called PGX), deep relaxation, adequate sleep (seven to eight hours), and a balanced daily rhythm.

I led a group of 600 people through this detox. They lost over 4,000 pounds in 10 days and lost an average of two inches from their waists and 1.4 inches from their hips. The average blood sugar dropped 18 points and blood pressure dropped 11 points. But more impor­tantly, it fixed their FLC syndrome!

In just 10 days, all symptoms from all diseases dropped by 62 percent. That list included fatigue, migraines, irritable bowel, reflux, joint and muscle pain, rashes and hives, acne, depression, anxiety, binge eating and cravings, and more—in other words, any symptom of FLC syndrome. There is no drug on the planet that can produce those results!

Is detox safe and  who should do it?

This detox—a simple, whole food, anti-inflammatory healing plan—is good for everyone. Is it safe to eat fruit and vegetables, clean protein, nuts and seeds, and good fats? That’s like asking if it’s safe to drink water or breathe air or take a walk. There are no stringent restrictions on calories, fats, proteins, or carbs—it’s simply eating whole, unprocessed, real food.

If it has a label, don’t eat it. If it was made in a factory, don’t eat it. It should have a very short distance from the field to your fork. The reason this detox is so powerful is that it uses food as medicine. In fact, what you put at the end of your fork is more powerful than anything you will find in a prescription bottle. If you eat the right foods, the body knows what to do, and you can regain your health quickly. You can end FLC syndrome, food addiction, and sugar and carb craving and be on your way to reversing diabesity in just 10 days.

 

Mark Hyman, MD, is a family physician and six-time New York Times best-selling author. His latest book is The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. You can visit him online at drhyman.com. To learn more about the 10-day detox diet you can go to 10daydetox.com and follow him on Twitter @markhy­manmd and on Facebook at facebook.com/drmarkhyman.