Can bread be addictive?

Today we will talk about addiction to bread. Many people consider bread to be a healthy choice and never could even imagine that they are addicted to it. However, our body recognizes white bread as quick sugar or a monosaccharide.

Quite often during the sessions, I hear my clients say: “I love bread… I can’t see myself living without a crusty piece of bread and I am unable to stop eating it even when I am full… I try to convince myself that I am still hungry and it is just a reason to make another crusty toast”. If you recognized yourself, you might also have a bread addiction. But you are not alone, there are up to 80% of people, especially those who are overweight/obese, who have an addiction to bread which is the same as the addiction to other simple carbs (1). Addiction to carbs is a culprit of obesity and Type-2 Diabetes which are doubling and tripling respectively every 5 years.

So, why can a grain-containing natural product, such as bread, be addictive for many people? To start to understand it, please read my article about Carbohydrates.

Why is bread so addictive?

Some people may say, that they are tolerant to sweets, but can’t live without bread, pasta, biscuits and crackers etc. But we already found out, that white bread gives you the same blood sugar spike as sweets, with all the negative consequences to your body, and eventually, it leads to chronic disease.

We discovered how the Sugar Craving Cycle works and how negatively it can affect you. Right now, we will learn about two other reasons that can cause people to develop an addiction to bread.

One of them can be the microbiome of your gut. When your body demands bread or sugar, it also may indicate that your colon is overloaded with unhealthy bacteria and they want to be fed with sugar to proliferate (2, 3). Sure, now you have a good excuse to blame your bread addiction on your gut’s microbiosis. But at the end of the day, it is your choice, who will inhabit your intestines, isn’t it?

Another reason can be a protein, called gluten, which is made up of two compounds – gliadin and glutenin. When gluten breaks down, gliadin stimulates opioid receptors in the brain. They are the same receptors that are activated by sugar or drugs, like amphetamine, morphine or heroin. Gliadin is strongly associated with Leaky Gut Syndrome, a condition when the gut becomes more permeable. This means that undigested food particles, proteins like gliadin and bacterial endotoxins, that are all supposed to stay in the intestines, pass into the bloodstream. They then make their way into the brain causing a leaky blood-brain barrier. In turn, gluten may cause neurological symptoms, up to psychiatric complications (not in everyone) (4). But it is a theme for another article.

Individuals having an opioid sensitivity may experience severe withdrawal symptoms if they go gluten- or sugar-free. They can feel mood swings, depression, abnormal bowel activity, cravings, fatigue, irritability, headaches, and nausea etc. This can last anywhere from several days up to several months. But, then, suddenly you start to feel better and brighter than ever, free of cravings, pain and afternoon slumps. Reaching withdrawal point clearly shows your desire to make big changes and increases your motivation. With nutrient-dense foods, you will be able to restore your biochemical balance and overcome cravings for white bread, sugar and other carbs and these cravings will cease to exist.

 What is the recommended daily intake of sugar?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the intake of free (added) sugar should not be more than 5% of the total energy from drink and food you get every day. It is approximately 25 grams or 6 teaspoons.

The natural sugar in fruits, vegetables, and milk does not count as free sugar, but it is included in the daily intake of “total sugar”. However, the sugar that naturally occurs in honey, nectars or syrups, juices, and smoothies is considered as free/added sugar, together with sugar found in yogurt and desserts.

How to break up with bread addiction?

The first and likely the most difficult step is to admit that you have a problem, which should be solved. This is the hardest part of starting your journey to a healthier life. I am sure, you already understand that when we speak about white bread addiction we bear in mind all refined carbs including sugar.
Breaking a bread or carb addiction can be challenging and it does not have a quick fix, but you have to be persistent. Try to concentrate on the health benefits you could reap which will improve the quality of your life. Each day gradually continue to limit refined carbs, e.g. replace white bread and white rice with whole-grain products.

Your Nutritional Needs

If your body doesn’t get essential nutrients, it will send you the signals to eat more. Many people think that they are craving carbs, but in fact, they crave nutrients which are crucial for their body. Well-balanced meals may have a huge impact on a reduction of your carb cravings.
Another way to start breaking carb cravings you should increase your consumption of fibre. According to UK health department guidelines, intake of fibre should be 30g a day. Replace white bread with whole-grain bread, where the content of fibre is not less than 10% per 100g. If you will choose whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits, you can easily follow that recommendation. Besides fibre, you will provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients. However, if in case you have some digestive problem, e.g. diverticulitis, please, discuss with your health professional or Nutritional Therapist what type of fibre would be suitable for you, because the wrong type may worsen the problem rather improve it. In order to get the most benefit from your food, spread your daily amount of proteins, complex carbs and healthy fat throughout the day.

Nutrition Labels

Next time you go to the grocery store read the food labels to stay away from the hidden sugar. You should be aware that about 80% of packaged foods contain added sugars. Sugar can be in bread, bacon, peanut butter, processed cheese slices, chips, crackers, protein and weight loss energy bars, sports drinks, cereals, ketchup, salad dressings, juices, and ready food etc. The more you eat this food the easier it will be to go over your daily allowance with your sugar intake, and the more you will get sugar cravings.
Nutrition information on some packages is at the front. The labels use red, amber and green colour coding, which means a high, medium or low amount of sugars:

? red = high ( ˃ 22.5g of sugar per 100g)
? amber = medium ( ˃ 5g ≤ 22.5g of sugar per 100g)
? green = low ( ≤ 5g of sugar per 100g)

But I still would highly recommend that you minimize or even completely eliminate any products with added sugar, as eating natural food with natural sugar in it such as honey, may easily cover your total daily intake of sugar.

Be Persistent

Setting a goal is the first step to success, never underestimate it. Plan your healthy meals for the next day. Your brain will have enough time “to adopt” your meal option and the next day, you will find out that it is much easier to make the right choices.
Every meal will move you towards your goals or… away from them. Sometimes you will find yourself struggling with building up your healthy habits, but never blame yourself, it is a part of the new changes. Your brain will need time to create new neural pathways in response to new lifestyle changes and eating patterns. Just be persistent and keep going creating a healthier life filled with nutrient-dense foods. It may take up to 21- 45 days to form new healthy eating habits. And remember that every moment you’re becoming stronger and healthier.

Cheat Meal

Once a week you can plan a cheat meal which may have a positive effect on your carb addiction. It can be suitable for people who can handle the occasional planned cheat meal, while for other people it can cause a negative spiral and keep them from attaining their goals. If you are from the first group, then a well-planned cheat meal can be very psychologically satisfying for you and helps you stay strict on your diet days and get motivated. But do not get carried away!

Drink enough water

When you think you are hungry, drink water first. It can be that your body is thirsty and needs water to function. Water helps to suppress appetite, flush toxins, maintain electrolyte balance, lubricate joints, regulate body temperature and digestion. Include water-rich fruits and vegetables, they are refreshing, filled with nutrients, low in calories and will provide you with “structured water”. I hope, you remember that fruit juice is not our choice, always choose whole fruit over juice.

Move more

British researchers suggest that physical activity can reduce the desire for unhealthy food. Instead of going with your friends to a coffee shop or restaurant, a long walk together would be a good idea. Every movement will help. Use stairs instead of the elevator or park your car further from your destination, which helps you to move more.

Should I give up bread entirely or can I choose a healthier option?

Now we know that white bread, like sugar and any other processed food, can cause a spike of insulin, also known as the “hunger hormone”, as it stimulates appetite, making you crave high-carb foods and you eat much more than you need.
Our body is designed and programmed for carbohydrates, as they are a basic and healthful food for us but it is important to choose carbohydrates wisely. Talking about bread, you have to remember that not all bread is created equal. Make sure you check the label on your bread to see the amount of fibre it contains. The best choice would be whole grain bread, maybe with seeds and at least 2,5g fibre per slice (40g per serve). It will help you to slow your digestion process, keeping your blood glucose levels steady and you will feel fuller for longer. On top of that, fibre will feed the good bacteria in your gut, which is essential to strengthen your immune system.

Should I choose gluten-free bread?

People with celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy should choose bread from gluten-free grain flour, such as brown rice, teff, quinoa, buckwheat, also, sprouted corn flour, coconut & cassava flour. Gluten-free bread may be found in almost any grocery store. While avoiding gluten, you should remember that many other products may contain it. They are frozen vegetables in sauces, some foods made with “natural flavorings”, beer, ketchup, ice cream, some medications and supplements, and even toothpaste. All this can make a gluten-free diet challenging. But this is the only way to avoid gluten-related symptoms. However, a gluten-free diet has become very popular among people without any reaction to this protein, thinking, that it is a healthier option. But it is not. These foods may contain more sugar and fat to make gluten-free food taste better and you can miss out some nutrients by avoiding whole grains in your diet. Thus, if you are healthy and don’t have any specific symptoms associated with gluten, it is wiser to choose whole grain bread with higher fibre content.

If you would like to be free of pain and make your life more enjoyable, you can contact me to book a Skype consultation via my “contact” page.

I wish you great health and happiness!
Yours ever Alla_Nutrition

If you have experienced withdrawal symptoms after cutting gluten from your diet, please, feel free to share in the comments section. Your experience would be invaluable for other people who are on their way to overcoming carb addiction.

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2 Comments to Can bread be addictive?

  1. Jackeline Strazisar says:

    This blog helped me with my grandmother’s diabetes issues

  2. Junita Husul says:

    I like this site very much so much good info .

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