Your Body, Your Ally
Our body is our ally. It might seem hard to believe that it is always on our side, especially when we are in pain or feeling ill. However, this is our body’s voice. Our body is extremely intelligent and often knows what we need better than we do. It performs millions of miraculous functions every day without us even having to think about them. Many of us take our health for granted until we are knocked down with an illness or injury.
While our body doesn’t speak our language, it is constantly communicating with us in subtle ways and telling us what it needs. When we are not mindful or connected to our bodies it is easy to overlook a minor pain or illness until our body screams louder that something is not right and we need to fix it. If we become sick with a flu our body is trying to slow us down, force us to rest and take care of ourselves so that it can detoxify. When we are sick our body doesn’t want to waste its energy digesting. It wants to focus on detoxing and healing and so miraculously our appetite disappears in order to give our body a chance to focus its energy on healing.
Cravings and Deficiencies
Deficiencies are one of our body’s primary ways of telling us that we are deficient in something. Of course sometimes cravings can be an ‘addiction’ or attachment to a certain type of food. I don’t think that we should become obsessed with the reason behind every craving because the reality is that we do live in a culture that is addicted to food and so on some level we all are a slave to indulging our taste bugs. However, persistent cravings shouldn’t be completely ignored. A consistent craving for a particular food can signal that there is a long standing deficiency.
Cravings and Allergies
In the next post I will list the most common cravings, the possible deficiencies that they are associated with as well as what to eat to supplement. However, keep in mind that cravings can also occur because of allergies. As strange as it may sound we tend to crave the very food we are allergic to because of the adrenaline rush our body gets when adrenaline is secreted as an auto-immune response to this ‘foreign invader’ that we are eating. For example, I craved popcorn for years and ate it on almost a nightly basis during university. Then I switched to corn chips and started eating that by the bag full. It came as no surprise when I learned from an allergy test that my body has a strong allergic reaction to corn. Eliminating corn from my diet helped to greatly alleviate the IBS symptoms I was experiencing.
Listening to Your Body’s Voice
Either way it is important to know that cravings are not usually random desires that your brain or taste buds invent. Certain cravings such as the desire to chew ice, is often a huge red flag that someone is iron deficient and requires either iron or B12 to help with the absorption of iron. Cravings for sugar can be caused by several factors. Experts are now realizing that sugar is a highly addictive substance—as addictive as cocaine. So while we all may be addicted to sugar, cravings can also indicate deficiencies in some of the nutrients that are listed below. However, sugar cravings that cannot be satisfied by adding the necessary nutrients may indicate a more severe problem like yeast overgrowth.
Check In – Craving Food or Calm?
Craving sugar or other comfort foods can also be caused by a psychological need. Pay attention to your mood and what is going on in your life when you are craving comfort foods whether that is sugar or a pasta dinner. Comfort foods are usually high in carbohydrates which cause your body to release serotonin and creates a feeling of being calm and relaxed. Comfort foods may also be the foods we were rewarded with when we were children. Our brains make strong associations with food and our emotional bonds with food are powerful. If you were rewarded with ice cream when you were a child then you shouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself craving ice cream when you feel the need to treat yourself because of a stressful day at work. Likewise, you may be repulsed by a certain food because of a negative emotional experience around it.
My sixty-four-year-old father still cannot even look at jello to this day because he associates it with being in the hospital for surgery when he was a child. Often times when we crave food, we are not really hungry. We actually have some underlying anxiety or depression—even anger. Turning to food to tune out your emotions, especially if you are not even aware that you are ‘eating your emotions’ can become a destructive habit of compulsive, unconscious overeating which can ultimately lead to obesity and a whole other array of associated health problems.
When you experience a craving, pause for a few minutes to check in with yourself and your body and to see what you are really feeling. In ‘What Are you Hungry For?” Deepak Chopra advises that you put your hand over your stomach and ask:
“How hungry am I? Am I famished? Am I full? Am I comfortable? Am I uncomfortable? Is my stomach empty? Have I digested my previous meal? Am I craving food because I am hungry for something else like attention, affection, appreciation or acceptance?”
Are you stressed, bored, angry, discouraged? Simply acknowledging these emotions can be a huge first step. Rate your hunger and eat only if you are actually hungry—not craving.
If you uncover that your craving is masking another emotion (repressed or not) then consider working through that issue by journaling, talking to a friend or family member, having a good cry or even singing to some positive music. Singing releases all kinds of happy chemicals in your brain! To avoid future cravings and to stop a present craving in its tracks try getting ‘addicted’ to a healthier stress reliever which will still cause your body to relax by releasing that much craved for serotonin and dopamine fix. Exercising is a great way to stimulate the production of these happy chemicals. Try finding an exercise you enjoy such as (yoga, tai chi. Karate, walking or a sport).
Cravings are a part of life and are not something that we can completely eliminate. However, strong, persistent cravings need our attention. They are telling us something. The goal is not to learn how to be strong enough to resist them, but to listen to them, hear what they are saying and decide if they are worth listening to. And sometimes a craving for a piece of chocolate is just that. Indulge and enjoy. No guilt allowed!