Q. Food seems to rule my life: it I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it. Am I obsessive?

A. Food obsession can take many forms, including what you describe. Some people might wish they could just eat and not worry about food quality or quantity, but instead they fuss about whether food fits into their pattern, e.g. if asked out to lunch, they call the restaurant ahead to find out what it serves. When they do eat, they practise portion control. They may even regard themselves as a paragon of healthy eating and wonder why other people can't see that what they eat is harm them!

Certain foods and eating habits may help by providing key nutrients and regulating certain body chemicals, but it’s important to understand this is highly individual. Wholemeal, high-fibre, low-GI foods, pulses and legumes and whole fruit all blunt insulin, regulate leptin and increase levels of the B-complex vitamin inositol. Eating between 50-100 grams of good fats daily helps regulate dopamine levels. Nutrient-dense foods, perhaps boosted with organic green powders, send a chemical message to your brain that your system has an abundance of nutrients.

Eating small, regular meals helps avoid hunger and reduces the temptation to binge. Avoid trigger foods: in clinical practice, I've found this means a bland diet: salad, protein, no high-fat or high-sugar foods. Tryptophan-containing foods are beneficial as they produce serotonin: oats, dried dates, milk, yoghurt, cheese, fish, poultry, eggs, red meat, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, almonds, chickpeas, peanuts, spirulina and bananas. Supplements such as GABA, inositol, vitamin B12, n-acetyl cysteine, glycine, l-theanine, St Mary's thistle and St John’s wort may help, but there's little research around this - they’re possibilities based purely on the fact that they help people with OCD and some types of eating disorders. Seek expert assistance from a qualified natural therapist.

ATMS member Teresa Mitchell-Paterson BHSc (CompSci) MHSc (HumNut) AdvDipNat is a member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society.