Back then, we were highly attuned to our senses. Especially our sense of smell and taste when it came to potential items to eat. Remember, we didn’t evolve in a supermarket. Food was scattered all over the place, and some of it could even run away! We had to go out and get it, otherwise we’d starve. So we were given a great gift to help us: our brains. Our brains are connected to our sense of smell and taste. When we taste something that our brain wants (sweet, oily, salty, etc..), our brain rewards us with chemicals so that we feel good and have a little extra energy in case we have to do some extra work to get that food. Here is where dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin, adrenaline and the other feel good chemicals are released into our bloodstream. We feel very good when we eat that sweet fruit, that salty vegetable, or that fatty piece of meat. But our brains are even craftier than that! Not only do they reward us, but they remember EVERYTHING we saw, did, and felt that day when we discovered that nutritious meal. So the next time our brain noticed us seeing something similar, feeling the same way we felt that day, or doing what we did that day, it gives us a little chemical snack to keep us doing that behavior. Just a couple drops of dopamine here for getting up before the sun. A couple drops of adrenaline for picking up that bow and arrow quiver. A little taste of seratonin for noticing that animal track, and a little oxytocin for spotting that fig tree over on that hill. Then when we sank our teeth into that antelope, juicy fig, or bowl of seaweed, our brains gave us a hearty dose and let us swim in those feel good chemicals. The chemicals reinforced the desired behavior – work, movement, awareness, hunting, gathering, and creating community to do it better and to do it safer.
Fast forward a few hundred thousand years and there is a great deal MORE sugar in those figs. We even found a way to get the sugar into our bloodstreams faster by processing and refining it! There is MORE fat on our animals. We can add salt, sugar, and fat to anything we want. There are even man made chemicals added to our food to release those chemicals from our brains! So now when we have a fig newton, a bite of steak, or some potato chips, our bodies are literally flooded with these chemicals like never before (ancestrally speaking). We’ve basically turned our food into drugs, and surrounded ourselves with refrigerators, coolers, stores and advertisements to keep us coming back to the dealers again and again. And we wonder why we struggle so hard to eat healthier.
In addition, when we are constantly over-stimulated by these drug like foods, the receptors on our cells begin to down regulate to adapt to the overstimulation. When we eat a natural food, where the sugar is bound to fiber, the fat is minimal, and there is no added salt, we don’t get the same reaction from our brain and our cells feel deprived. The healthy food doesn’t “taste” as good any more, and our bodies crave the unhealthy food. But when we get in our car, our brains give us a little taste of those chemicals that signal our cells that “food” is on it’s way. When we see the supermarket, or the golden arches, hear a familiar advertising jingle, our brains release a little more. When we smell those french fries, see that bag of fig newtons, have that late night snack, or lift that salt shaker, our brains give us more. We get excited, energized, and we feel great! Until we’re done eating.
After we have satisfied (or over-satisfied) our hunger, our bodies realize that they’ve been tricked again. They go into survival mode. We need more insulin! Too much sugar in the blood! Hold that water! swell up! We have too much salt and can’t get food into the cells! Store that fat! There’s some weird stuff in here! Alert the immune system! Call the liver, we’ve got toxins! Increase the blood pressure!
Shortly after, we feel tired, fatigued, maybe even inflamed, as our bodies try desperately to come back to a state of balance after being thrown out of wack by these drug-foods. In my case, my body takes all that late night food, turns it into fat and packs it around my abdominal organs.
— Dr. Troy Anthony Smith, DC