“I am made for more than a vicious cycle of eating, gaining, stressing...”
― Lysa TerKeurst
Do you ever get an itch on the palm of your hand or the bottom of your foot that no amount of scratching soothes? Sometimes I think food cravings are like this. Once the thought gets in your mind, it’s hard to shake. It starts like a little tickle, just a passing thought. You might think you’ve gotten past it and then- there it is again, taking on a life of its own. It can overpower you for a moment or even a full day, subsiding when you rest your head on your pillow, only to rise up the next day.
Where does this “itch” come from? What can you do about it?
The simple answer is that your body is speaking to you, telling you something is missing. “So, when I crave chocolate it means I’m missing chocolate?” Not exactly, but good question. Take a look at the following cravings, the deficiencies associated with them and what you can do about them:
WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING: Chromium Phosphorus, Sulphur, Tryptophan
TRY THIS: Onion, cinnamon, apple, sweet potato, chicken, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, lentils, cranberries, asparagus, garlic, sesame seeds, oatmeal, spinach
WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING: Magnesium
TRY THIS: Whole grains, nuts, seeds, greens, fruits
WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING: Calcium, Iron, Salt, Phosphorus
TRY THIS: Broccoli, spinach, Black cherries, Sea salt, Apple cider vinegar, Chicken,
WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING: Nitrogen
TRY THIS: Meat, fish, beans apples, pears
WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING: Chloride
TRY THIS: Celery, olives, tomatoes
WHAT MIGHT BE MISSING: Essential Fatty Acids
TRY THIS: Flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts
The most common food craving I see in my practice is SUGAR. And while Chromium, Phosphorus, Sulphur or Tryptophan may be at play, it’s just as likely to be caused by something other than a missing nutrient.
Consider the following:
Hypoglycemia: You eat a bunch of sugar, your blood sugar rises and the pancreas releases A LOT insulin. The insulin shuttles sugar into your cells (out of your blood) and your blood sugar drops rapidly (hypoglycemia). You feel anxious, shaky, light headed and sugar is just what you “need” to make it all go away. The cycle then begins all over again.
What to do: Keep your blood sugar stable. Increase healthy fats (including nuts, seeds, avocados), start your day with protein, increase fiber.
Stress: Your body is always seeking balance. High amounts of stress in your life cause your cortisol levels to remain elevated. Think fight or flight. You may crave sugar as it makes Serotonin (the calming chemical) more available, thus balancing out the agitated fight or flight response.
What to do: Work on stress reduction/unclutter your life, prepare for things in advance, give yourself down time and extra time for getting places, confide in someone who will listen to you.
Lack of sleep: Poor sleep can increase ghrelin (the hormone that tells you you’re hungry) and decrease leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full), leading to sugar cravings and overeating in general.
What to do: Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. No screens 2 hours before bed, finish all eating 3 hours before bed, sleep in a dark room or wear a sleep mask.
Dehydration: Not getting enough water can make it hard for you to metabolize glycogen (stored glucose) for energy, so you crave sugar for a quick source of energy.
What to do: Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water per day. Not thirsty? Set a timer on your phone to drink regularly.
So what’s your “itch”?