7 Things To Know About Food Cravings

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 - 2:31pm

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

Ever feel that you could kill for a piece of chocolate? What about cheese? Cookies? Chips? Are you looking for a salty, sweet or maybe sour flavor? As a naturopathic physician, I always ask people, "What foods do you crave?"

Causes of food cravings

There are many reasons you might crave different foods. Sometimes you crave a particular food for comfort or a means of escape. You also may use food as a way to get quick energy or have become addicted to a food for any number of reasons. However, you may crave what your body most needs. Food cravings can be the body's way of trying to correct a chemical imbalance or point to a lack of vitamins or minerals. Craving some foods may indicate a weakness in certain glands, such as the pancreas, adrenals or thyroid.

#1: Evolution predisposes the body to crave high fat, high sugar foods

When food was scarce, the body wanted food that was packed with calories or food that could be used quickly for energy. Pleasure chemicals, like dopamine, are released in your brain when you eat high fat, high sugar foods. This is why eating chocolate and ice cream actually "feels good." The body responds positively to this chemical release.

#2: Kicking a food habit can be more difficult than kicking cigarettes or drugs

Cutting a food from your diet is not easy-especially because you cannot give up eating. What do you do? Realize you may need to give up your food more than once. Let people know what you are doing to help yourself in avoiding temptation. Substitute other naturally sweet foods. Until refined foods became plentiful, most people satisfied sweet cravings with cooked carrots, a sweet potato, or fruit. Usually sugar cravings diminish in three to five days after elimination. Realize that food cravings do lessen over time.

#3: A craving for sweets may indicate a lack of minerals in the body

Are you craving sweets all the time? Your body may be looking for more minerals. If sweet cravings are especially difficult for you, try adding trace minerals to your diet and see what happens.

#4: People with an overgrowth of yeast in their intestines often crave sugar

Yeast that live in the intestines feed off simple sugars and an acid environment. Eliminating sugar and fruit from the diet and eating more vegetables makes the environment less hospitable for yeast and can decrease sugar cravings.

#5: Hidden ingredients may be the cause of your craving

Read all the ingredients on the label of your favorite "healthy" snack. It may look as if you are getting more energy from all the B vitamins in a product, when the real source is the caffeine listed as an inactive ingredient. Oftentimes sugar, caffeine or other chemicals are added to foods to keep you coming back for more.

#6: Craving salty foods may indicate low adrenal gland function or low thyroid function

Salt regulates water retention in the body through the kidneys and adrenal glands. It is high in iodine, which is a mineral needed for thyroid function If you are craving salt, it may be your body asking for more iodine or potassium, or pointing to a fluid imbalance.

#7: You may crave a food to which you are allergic

Your body often develops a sensitivity to food items you eat everyday for years. Food sensitivities can lead to symptoms similar to some allergies.

Part of optimal health is being free of food cravings and addictions. This does not mean you can never have another piece of chocolate, but it does mean asking yourself: What part of me is craving this food? Why am I craving it? When you eat a food you are craving ask if the craving goes away or get stronger. Who is in control? The food or you?

By the way, this is the second time in two years I've quit coffee. It's been five months and 26 days without coffee so far, but who's counting?