Understanding food cravings!
A food craving is an intense desire to consume a specific food, stronger than simply normal hunger.
Most of us have had food cravings at some stage in our life. Pregnant woman often crave strange food combinations like ice-cream and gherkins, as their bodies nutritional needs change. But it’s not just pregnant ladies that have cravings – you may have experienced a food craving yourself and wondered why.
As I covered in the blog post about Candida, a craving for sweet food can be a sign of an overgrowth of Candida in the body. Find out here if you could be suffering from an overgrowth of Candida.
And if Candida is not a problem for you there may be other reasons why you crave certain foods, including:
- Hormonal imbalance (especially in woman)
- Eating processed foods (they have addictive chemicals in them)
- Being stressed (you burn through your nutrients faster)
- Incomplete broken down gluten protein in your bowels (see below)
- Nutritional imbalance (the most common one)
Why do I crave foods like bread and cake??
Gluten is a protein commonly found in grains like wheat. Gliadorphins are incompletely broken down pieces of gluten that have been shown to react with opiate-receptors in the brain. They can mimic the effects of opiate drugs such as heroin and morphine, giving gluten addictive properties. Just like these drugs, when gluten binds to your brain opiate-receptors you can experience momentary positive effects like mood elevation, confidence and calm. This can lead to an emotional attachment to bread that can verge on addiction in some people. Long term, excessive gluten consumption can lead to low moods, bowel disturbances and even anxiety or depression in sensitive individuals.
How does a nutritional imbalance affect me?
If you have a nutritional imbalance then your body is not getting the right kind of nutrition to function properly. It will crave the minerals and vitamins that it needs to function. This is a very common problem nowadays. For this reason, eating certain foods rarely leaves us feeling satisfied because your body knows that it is still missing the right kind of nutrients.
Ben Warren, a nutritionist and owner of “Be Pure” in Havelock North, New Zealand says that cravings for sugar are really your body’s cry for nutrition.
“To understand this you need to know a little about soil agronomy and nature,” says Ben. “In plants, sugar content and nutrition are highly correlated; this simply means that the sweeter the apple the more nutrition is present in the apple. Our bodies are designed/evolved to hunt sugar because where sugar is found in nature, so is nutrition.”
“The problem comes when we extract sugar from the nutritionally rich food it came in (molasses is a by-product of processing raw sugar is actually highly nutritious), so we end up eating too much sugar and not getting the nutritional value that nature had intended.”
“As our bodies become deficient in nutrients we instinctively go on the hunt to find more sugar in our diet in an attempt to find the nutrients we need. Therefore, if you want to rid yourself of your sugar cravings you must increase the nutritional value of your diet.”
What is the solution?
- Eat the freshest food you can
- Eat nutrient dense foods
- Eat sweet fruits and vegetables
- Avoid supplying sugar without nutrition e.g. empty calories in cakes, biscuits etc.
- Avoid gluten most days – it should be an occasional treat.
As you can see the solution to food cravings is to recognise what your body is trying to tell you and respond by giving your body some good nutritious food. Eat lots of vegetables including green leafy vegetables, salads, fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains instead of cake and biscuits.
If you want to find out what your body craves and needs so you can give it the right kind of nutrients, check out this chart.
If changing your diet seems like a big task then here is some good advice on how to add healthy food and make better choices slowly by Steven Ehrlich, ND, an Arizona Naturopathic physician.
What about a supplement?
Giving your body some much needed vitamins and minerals through a good supplement is very helpful. “Good green stuff” powder from Nuzest, femme or male essentials multi vitamin and minerals from Metagenics are good options. Please contact me if you like some more information.
Be well, stay well!