What Your Food Cravings Reveal about Your Health
By Sarah Axtell, ND • July 24, 2014
As a naturopathic doctor, I frequently ask people if they have any food cravings. Food cravings can reveal a lot about your health. Food cravings can be both emotionally based, but they can also tie into your physical health. Like physical symptoms, food cravings give us valuable information as to possible imbalances in the body. Here are some basic interpretations of your food cravings:
1. Chocolate– Can be a sign of magnesium of B vitamin deficiency. If you experience cramps, restless legs and crave chocolate, its likely you are low in the essential mineral, magnesium. If you eat chocolate for a boost of energy and for those feel-good post-chocolate endorphin rush, you could be low in B vitamins.
2. Salt– If you tend to go overboard on salty food, it could be a sign of adrenal fatigue. Your adrenal glands are responsible for producing cortisol (your stress hormone). If you have a high stress level, poor energy and craving salt, your adrenals could be fatigued.
3. Wheat– If you crave carbohydrate-rich wheat products (ie. pasta, bread, crackers, and cookies). you could have a wheat or gluten sensitivity or allergy. Wheat allergies can manifest very differently in each individual. Some people experience gas, bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea and/or constipation while others can have joint pain, foggy-headedness, depression, acne, and ADD symptoms. There are lab tests to identify a wheat or gluten allergy. If you are eating wheat and are in fact sensitive or allergic to it, your body may produce an opiate-like molecule (called exorphin) making you feel good in the short term, thus perpetuating this vicious cycle.
4. Liquids– By the time you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Don’t let your body get to this harmful state of dehydration. Prevent dehydration by drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. If you are incessantly thirsty, this may be one of the first sign sof diabetes, termed polydypsia. If this is the case, contact your physician.
5. Spicy Foods– A hankering for hot peppers and hot sauce can be a sign that you have inflammatory pain. Spicy foods, such as cayenne, cause a molecule called Substance P to be released from nerve endings. When nerve endings have lost all of their substance P, no pain signals can be transmitted to the brain. Topical applications of cayenne are often prescribed for arthritis, bursitis and neuralgia. Perhaps your love of salsa extends beyond your taste buds.
6. Sugar– Sugar cravings can indicate you have a blood sugar imbalance. Sugar provides instant fuel for your body, but it doesn’t last long. When you eat sugar, that causes your pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin then drives the sugar into your cells, leaving your blood at a hypoglycemic level. When blood sugars drop, you are left feeling cranky and irritable with a craving for cheap fuel (ie sugar). To prevent these highs and lows of blood sugar, eat regular meals with protein and good fat (avocados, almonds, olive oil, walnuts) at every meal. Protein and fat help prevent blood sugar from spiking. So if you are going to indulge in a sugary treat, make sure you have a protein or fat source along with it. For instance, try a tablespoon of almond butter with a piece of your dark chocolate or cookie.
7. Dairy – Dairy has a similar effect on your body as wheat does (see above). When you eat dairy and have an allergy or sensitivity to it, your body produces an opiate-like molecule (termed exorphin) to counteract the effect of eating something harmful to your body. So you feel good initially after eating it but then you can crash and start to feel the negative effects it can exert on your body- like immune suppression, allergies, congestion, foggy-headedness, fatigue and insomnia. There are lab tests available to see whether or not you react to dairy.
Our bodies are wise and we must listen to the messages they are giving us.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.