On Wednesday, June 24th, I’ll be one of the guests interviewed on Primal Body-Primal Mind, an internet radio show hosted by Nora Gedgaudas.  We’ll be talking about the link between carbohydrate addiction and alcoholism. 

It’s a great show, and I encourage you to listen to all the episodes.

UPDATE:  The show is now available on this page for streaming or downloading.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Share/Bookmark
6 Responses to “On Primal Body-Primal Mind Radio”
  1. Willa Jean says:

    I remember when I first read about that carb/alcohol connection. I haven’t had a drink since 1985, and I’m just not willing to test that theory out, but I think there’s probably something to it. I know that if it’s around, I’ll eat chocolate like I used to drink. If there’s cookie dough in the house, I’ll finish it. Probably in one sitting. Eating low carb makes life a lot easier for me, because I just don’t keep that stuff in the house.

    If an immigrant waiter handn’t given me a real beer by accident, I might not have tested the theory either. Alcohol certainly isn’t an essential nutrient.

    I’ve also noticed that on the very rare occasions when I’ve drank more than I should have in the past few years, it was after indulging in carb-heavy food.

  2. dulcimerpete says:

    This makes me a *little* nervous …

    Background – I’ve been sober 18 years. I am convinced of the benefit of a low-carb, high fat diet – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve recognized the fact than many of the folks I know from meetings have had “issues” with sugar since they were children. There is a continuum of people’s relationships with alcohol, from teetotalers, to “normal” drinkers, to “problem drinkers”, to alcoholics.

    I seemed to remember something about an alcoholic not being able to metabolize ethyl alcohol in the same way that a non-alcoholic can. So I did a quick Google and …

    Quoting from http://www.samhouston.army.mil/hra/asap/docs/THIQ.doc

    “When the normal adult drinker takes in alcohol it’s processed at about one drink per hour. The body first converts the alcohol into something called acetaldehyde (a very toxic substance that if accumulated would make one very sick or could be fatal). The body is designed, via biological processes, to quickly rid itself of this toxic acetaldehyde. It is changed into acetic acid (vinegar), and then into carbon dioxide and water, which is dispelled through the kidneys and lungs. That’s what happens in a “normal” drinker. It also happens with the alcoholic drinker, but there is a “P.S.”.

    “As was discovered by Virginia Davis, in the alcoholic, a very small amount of acetaldehyde is not eliminated. Instead, it goes to the brain where, through a very complex biochemical process, it is transformed into THIQ.” …

    “First, THIQ is created in the brain, and it only occurs in the brain of the alcoholic drinker; it does not and cannot happen in the brain of the social drinker. Second, THIQ has been found to be highly addictive. It was used experimentally with animals during WWII when doctors were looking for a pain killer less addictive than morphine. THIQ turned out to be an excellent pain killer but its addictive qualities far exceed that of morphine. The third fascinating item about THIQ also has to do with addiction. An experiment using alcohol averting rats and THIQ was conducted. These rats, when put into a cage with a very weak solution of vodka and water, will refuse to drink it to the point where they will thirst to death. Take the same rat and inject a minute quantity of THIQ into its brain and the animal will immediately develop an intense preference for alcohol over water. So, with one small injection of THIQ, the rat bred to refuse alcohol, had become an alcoholic rat.”

    (more information at the link)

    So, I didn’t heard you or Nora address this issue. Has more recent research refuted this?

    Do NOT misunderstand me. I’m grateful that you interrupted what was a problem in your life. I clearly heard YOU say that you weren’t recommending your experience as a model for others to follow, but Nora seems very comfortable making such a recommendation.

    I have NO doubt that alcoholics should investigate a low-carb high-fat diet for themselves so that they can reduce their risk of developing the many chronic “diseases of civilization” that plague our time. But if the THIQ theory as the basis for alcoholism is valid, I fail to see how reducing our carbohydrate intake will reverse this biochemical deficiency.

    Your thoughts?

    Pete

    Truth is, this topic makes me a bit nervous too. I haven’t written or spoken about it until recently, because I don’t want to encourage alcoholics to try drinking again, since there may in fact be people who can never drink normally, no matter what … as I made sure to emphasize on Nora’s show.

    I decided to share my experience because I doubt I’m unique. While there’s the risk of giving a recovering alcoholic an excuse to try drinking again, there’s also the benefit of perhaps helping problem drinkers get over the sugar addiction, which would produce many benefits, including sobriety. If I’d known back in the day what I know now, I could’ve avoided quite a few drunken evenings.

    To answer your specific question, I don’t know if the THIQ theory has been refuted. I suppose it’s possible that a human brain conditioned to burning glucose may produce THIQ, while a brain primarily burning ketones may not; i.e., a sugar-burner may process alcohol differently than a fat-burner does.

    This could be a very interesting field for further study. I really did crave alcohol back in the day. I would tell myself to limit it to one or two, but end up drinking eight or ten or twelve (or seventeen, which inspired me to attend my first AA meeting, after counting the empty bottles as I threw them in the trash.) Was that THIQ in action, or merely a sugar addiction? My body and brain clearly weren’t processing alcohol normally, not like the bodies and brains of my friends who easily stopped after a couple of beers.

    Unfortunately, most researchers seem to think living without starch is so unnatural, it doesn’t deserve studying. They’ll study the effects of whole grains versus white flour, but not include a no-grains cohort in the study. So it’s unlikely that studies of alcoholics have ever examined the effects of a no-sugar, no-starch diet.

  3. “I clearly heard YOU say that you weren’t recommending your experience as a model for others to follow, but Nora seems very comfortable making such a recommendation.”

    EEEGAD–I certainly hope I did not come across as advocating a return to alcohol consumption with the type of dietary changes I advocate. I most certainly don’t. Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth. I have never had an issue with alcohol but it is something I only rarely consume. Even if you can have a drink without it causing problems it is still insulin provoking, free-radical producing and very glycating. My whole point is that I see alcoholism as primarily an issue of glucose dysregulation and carbohydrate addiction. Conventional rehab programs get the person to stop drinking but often entirely fail to address the underlying problem (carb addiction), which is what makes it a “one day at a time” exercise in endurance from there.

    As for the THIQ issue, who knows where this comes from? It would be interesting to see if such a biochemical marker was otherwise inherent in those most prone to carbohydrate addiction and dysglycemia, as opposed to being solely associated with alcohol. Markers such as this support the idea of a “disease” underlying things…and although it is controversial to say so, I think this misses the point.

    All in all I think we had a great show and I’m grateful for Tom coming on and talking about his experiences. I like to think we did some good in the world with it …and that the point wasn’t missed by listeners. I hope everyone got the right takeaway message—the one that looks at the foundational reasons behind alcohol addiction in the first place and sheds some light on the real source of the problem.

    ~Nora

    You stated specifically that you don’t advocate alcoholics start drinking again.

    After listening to the show, my wife pointed out that I had three bottles of Guinness “taking up space” in the fridge. I bought that sixpack two weeks ago. Back in the day, I never let beer sit in the fridge (if there was any left to refrigerate). So, trying to be a helpful husband, I drank one bottle while watching The Goode Family on TiVo. After the one, I felt too full to have another. So for me, at least, there’s something to the carb addiction theory. I never used to feel full — or stop — after one Guinness.

    I enjoyed the interview very much, so thanks for having me on your show. Let’s do another one someday.

  4. Brian says:

    Good stuff. You’re a great guest too. It takes a while (like 6 months) for me to forget how bad beer makes me feel – just like you described, stuffed!

    You simply don’t switch that quickly. I’m sure that by now you are well-adapted to fat metabolism. So when you consume bad carbohydrates, your body responds by making you feel bad (or stuffed in the case of beer).

    It’s the same thing when dependent on glucose, when the fuel gets low, you get cravings or depression or some maniacal behavior. And when you’re trying to convert to fat metabolism, it can manifest itself with addictive qualities. I’m currently working with an individual that is 6′ tall and weighs about 340. He is experiencing headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, you name it, he’s got it. Give him a slice of bread, and poof, it all disappears. Sounds like a carbohydrate addiction to me.

    That “huge desire” would have come back. Two or three (or more) beers per day would have brought it back.

    Brian

    I’m grateful for that full feeling. It’s nice to be able to drink a glass of wine or two when I’m out for dinner, or a good imported beer now and then.

    My wife, who can eat pretty much anything without gaining weight, rarely eats desserts anymore because she’s lost her taste for them and she doesn’t feel so great afterwards. I guess if you avoid sugar and starch most of the time, the self-regulation mechanisms work.

    My wife also noticed that my four-year-old turned down candy at a party yesterday. We don’t forbid our girls from eating the stuff — I don’t want it to take on the appeal of forbidden fruit — but I’m happy to know they don’t have much of a taste for it.

  5. Laurie says:

    Right this moment on Oprah, (5 pm EST) friday June 26 she is conducting an ‘extraordinary intervention of overweight teens’. Just looking at these kids makes me feel that, yes they have emotional problems from the stigma of being overweight, but their body and brain cells are screaming for fatty fuel! This is just like AA. And counseling- only for depression. Just talk about the problem but offer no real help.

    Unfortunately, she’s bought into the whole idea that over-eating is the result of being unhappy or depressed. That may be true in rare cases, but I think we’re looking at another case of mistaking an association with a cause. The wrong kind of fuel can make you fat, and it can make you feel depressed.

  6. Leslie Worthington says:

    Just a curious thought?? Do you think that being a carbohydrate addict can lead to or make a person more suseptable to becoming an alcoholic? I have a friend who’s son is addicted to carbohydrates and now that he is in college, he is drinking heavily and often. He is completely on his own to make decisions about food and based on his history, i am certain he’s choosing the empty calories and high sugar foods. Do you know if there’s any research done on this?

    I’m not aware of any research specifically on that theory. I can attest from my own experiences that alcoholics tend to be sugar addicts; but I’ve also known sugar addicts who don’t care for alcohol. In my case, giving up sugar and starch vastly reduced the craving for alcohol.

  7.  
Leave a Reply