Let's pretend it's lunch time. You're in a meeting and it won't end until 2:00, two hours past the time you're used to eating. How do you feel? Are you experiencing "stomach grumbling, headaches, light-headedness, irritability, fatigue, and inability to focus?"
At 1:00, are you now hoping no one will notice your nervousness, confusion, shaking, and anxiety? Most of us would assume that these uncomfortable symptoms are associated with hunger, since eating relieves the discomfort. Dr. Joel Fuhrman explains in his article that conventional wisdom would agree these are hunger symptoms, but Dr. Fuhrman disagrees. He says, "People are consistently led by these symptoms to consume more calories than they require and this widespread overeating behavior has led to an epidemic of obesity and a continual rise in preventable chronic diseases. Understanding the motivation behind overeating behaviors could be a key factor in reversing these trends."
From Dr. Fuhrman's experience in treating thousands of patients, he has observed his patients' "perception of hunger change after their diets improve — feelings of hunger become less frequent, less uncomfortable, and are mainly felt in the mouth and throat (true hunger) rather than the head and stomach." Dr. Fuhrman has documented and published his results in a medical journal and challenges the medical profession to re-evaluate our definition of human hunger. After transitioning to a high-nutrient diet, uncomfortable "hunger pains" were experienced less often. Additionally, 80% reported that after following a nutrient-dense diet, their experience of hunger had changed. The results of the study concluded, "Enhancing the micronutrient quality of the diet leads to changes in the experience of hunger and a reduction in uncomfortable symptoms associated with hunger despite a lower caloric intake."
Dr. Fuhrman further explains that the light-headedness and shakiness are actually signs of what he calls "toxic hunger." Toxic hunger is a result from consuming the typical American diet, which is deficient in micronutrients and phytochemicals, and rich in high-calorie processed foods, sugar, animal products, and oils.
This type of diet promotes oxidative stress, inflammation, and an accumulation of toxic metabolites. "When digestion is complete," Dr. Fuhrman says, "the body begins to mobilize and eliminate waste products, causing uncomfortable symptoms." By eating rich, nutrient-deficient foods, toxic waste products begin to build up, resulting in unpleasant feelings when our bodies begin to mobilize and remove the toxins. The discomfort felt, Dr. Fuhrman affirms, is actually "detoxification and withdrawal from an unhealthy diet, lacking in crucial micronutrients."
The brain is affected by addictive, unhealthy food much like it is from addictive drugs. In contrast, healthy food does not require detoxification, since it does not produce withdrawal symptoms. This is the key factor in knowing why dieting ends in failure. Calorie counting, portion control, and will power do not resolve the symptoms of toxic hunger and food addictions when the same "disease-causing foods" are still being consumed. Changing to a whole-food, nutrient-rich diet has been shown to be the most effective approach in resolving food addictions, toxic hunger, and permanent weight loss.
For more information regarding "toxic hunger" see: