I'd like to circle back to finishing our conversation about Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS). If you don't have food addiction, eating normally leads to release of enough dopamine in the brain so that you feel a sense of pleasure and you feel satisfied. You may remember from my previous email that food addiction can be partly explained by RDS.
Understanding the causes of RDS can help you feel less guilty about your eating habits and begin to see how to overcome your addiction.
You may have been born with low levels of receptors, or you may have experienced childhood trauma, neglect, or abuse that decreased the number of dopamine receptors as your brain was developing. Listed below are some of the causes of RDS:
- Genetic predisposition that may have been passed down from parents with similar impulsive, compulsive, and addictive issues. If you carry the gene for RDS, you won’t experience as much pleasure from eating highly palatable foods and will be more likely to gain weight.
- Prenatal conditions—mothers using alcohol and drugs, malnutrition in the prenatal period, abuse of drugs or alcohol while pregnant.
- Malnutrition—poor diet due to poverty, low-calorie dieting, food allergies, or food sensitivities that disrupt your ability to absorb nutrients
- Severe or ongoing stress. Both prenatal stress and early life stress can increase the risk of developing an eating disorder or substance use disorder.
- Heavy and prolonged use of drugs of alcohol
- Childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect
Growing up in a home in which other family members have RDS can make you more prone to food addiction.
Your family’s approach to food and eating can have a huge effect on your own eating pat- terns. For example, having family dinners with your children just three times a week can lower their vulnerability to obesity by 12-35%.
Another very important predictor of overeating is your mother or primary caregiver’s atti- tude about feeding you. If your mother tended to tell you not to eat certain foods, offered you food when you got upset, restricted your food and fat intake based on your weight, or made lots of negative comments about food, you would be more likely to engage in emotional eating, to overeat, and to gain weight
There is a genetic component, and there are also many environmental factors that can turn your RDS genes on or off. When you put the entire picture together, it should help you feel less guilty, embarrassed, or ashamed about your behaviors, your cravings, and your urges.
All the best,