Must. Have. Cheese.
Cheese addiction is a common phenomenon.
Cheese on your burger. Cheese on your turkey sandwich. Cheese on your pizza. Cheese in your omelet. Cheese with your wine. Cheese as a snack. Cheese melted on your veggies. Cheese quesadillas. Cheese-flavored crackers.
Some people just can’t get enough cheese. And, there’s a reason why: Cheese is addicting to both your brain and gut.
Confessions of a Cheese Addict
Cheese was a staple food in my diet growing up.
Most days, I didn’t go without some form of cheese, and even in my eating disorder days, I turned to fat-free string cheese, shredded cheese and cheese substitutes to fill my need for the gooey, savory, creamy deliciousness of cheese (even plastic-textured fake fat-free cheese).
Long story short: I was addicted.
Along with the deliciousness of my addiction though, my cheese addiction was also coupled with some pretty odd side effects:
- IBS and loose stools
- Stomach cramps
- Skin breakouts
- Brain fog
And, often times, simply not feeling “100-percent”
However, in my mind, I justified— It couldn’t be the cheese. After all, cheese was so delicious, made everything taste better and it was…addicting.
The Science Behind Cheese Addition
Turns out there’s a reason behind our cravings.
Cheese contains casein (a protein from milk), as well as casein fragments called “casomorphins”—a morphine-like compound from the casein itself.
If you know anything about morphines (i.e pain killing drugs), you know they are addicting to the brain.
In short: dairy protein has opiate-like molecules (drug like molecules) built in. When we eat them, these fragments attach to the same brain receptors that other drugs, like heroin and narcotics attach to.
Enter: Your brain on cheese.
“(Casomorphins) are not strong enough to get you arrested, but they are just strong enough to keep you coming back for more…” Dr. Neal Barnard, author of The Cheese Trap, writes.
While all dairy products we consume contain casein, cheese is arguably the most addicting because it contains the highest amount.
For context, a cup of milk or plain yogurt contains about 8 grams of protein, and 80-percent of that protein from casein.
When converted to cheese, however (with the liquid removed and strained entirely), the protein content multiplies 7-fold, to 56 grams for a cup of cheese.
In other words: It’s the most concentrated form of casein of any dairy food in the grocery store.
(If milk is the “gateway drug”—like tobacco or weed, then cheese is cocaine or heroine).
Hello cheese addiction!
The Cheese-Gut Connection
In addition to the opiate-like addictive nature of cheese, (some) cheese is also addicting to your gut microbiome—specifically unhealthy gut bacteria.
Studies have shown that diets