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Do you ever get a craving for a bacon cheeseburger? Do you say "cheese" even when you are not posing for a photo? And when you went on a vegan diet did you start craving spinach salads?

Meat, Wheat, Milk, and Certain Leafy Greens As Addictive as Opiates

If your answers to any of these questions is "yes," then you may be an addict. The proteins in beef blood, wheat gluten, milk casein, and spinach activate the same receptors in the brain and spinal cord that respond to oxycodone, hydroxycodone, opium, and heroin. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, yeast rolls, cheese, yogurt, and even spinach are literally addictive, as are ketchup and the special sauce on Big Macs.

The way these foods trap our appetites is through their action on specialized sites known as mu-opioid receptors on cells in part of the spinal cord known as the substantia gelatinosa of Rolando (named after a Dr. Rolando who discovered it). This part of the spinal cord transmits poorly localized, vague aches and pains. When these cells are activated, we feel bad, but we don't know why.

Another chemical called ghrelin intensifies this pain until we eat something. We do eat something, just about anything, to relieve the pain, however, our brains release the pleasure chemical dopamine. This is the same chemical released at the climax of sexual intercourse, during skydiving, or when we win big at a slot machine or a poker table.

The rush of happiness we feel after we eat is so strong that our brains start looking for more of the meat (more specifically, beef blood), wheat, milk, or leafy greens that trigger the pain that eating relieves. Food causes vague pain that leads to specific pleasure.

This effect is so strong that eventually simply looking at a photo of cheeseburger or looking at the golden arches of McDonald's is enough to induce the feeling of vague pain that can only be relieved by eating. We tend to eat the very foods that make us hungry customers of fast food. Everything in a Happy Meal creates a new generation of fast food addicts who are literally addicted to this kind of food. So how can you break your addiction to fast food made with beef, wheat, milk, or spinach, not to mention ketchup and special sauce?

It's simple. Just say no to cheeseburgers

And if you can't say no, you can at least say "not so much." If you happen to live in a community where hallal or kosher food is available, avoiding meat with blood in it will make it easier to control your meat addiction and reduce your meat consumption.

If your objective is just to kick your meat addiction and not also to stop using wheat or milk products, you can fill your urges for me with cheese, wheat products including wheat germ (whole grain bread is both more satisfying and more addictive than white bread), dairy products, spinach, and ketchup. Among dairy products, Parmesan cheese contains the greatest amount of the soothing, satisfying chemicals found in meat.

Ketchup, soy sauce, and fish sauce (the watery fermented fish used in Asian cuisine) contain beta-carbolines that help the brain absorb the amino acid tryptophan. The brain uses this amino acid to make serotonin, which can lift mood. Along with dairy, wheat, and leafy greens, these condiments can help anyone keep meat addictions under control.

  • García-Fuster MJ, Ramos-Miguel A, Rivero G, La Harpe R, Meana JJ, García-Sevilla JA (November 2008). "Regulation of the extrinsic and intrinsic apoptotic pathways in the prefrontal cortex of short- and long-term human opiate abusers". Neuroscience 157 (1): 105–19.
  • Photo courtesy of Bryan Bruchman on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/subinev/4118496596/