By far, the two most common types of foods people tend to have cravings for are sugar and high fat foods.
“sugar”, I’m talking about all the foods and drinks that convert to sugar in our bloodstream very quickly, not just the obvious things like baked goods, sweets, and candy.
It’s also things like refined grains (many would argue that it’s “all” grains that are the problem), starchy carbs like bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, bagels, donuts, muffins, pizza, pretzels, granola bars, sports drinks, energy drinks, juice drinks, alcohol, mixes for alcohol, flavored coffee creamers, and so on. The list is rather enormous!
No, the solution is not to substitute with artificial sweeteners, by the way. That’s a whole other level of toxicity.
Salty foods are consistently high on the cravings list, too.
So why the cravings?
1) Chronic stress
Stress can come from the predictable emotional or mental sources, but it can also come from toxicity in our nutrition or other chemical sources; chronic fatigue; chronic pain; trauma; injury; a lack of proprioception (from movement); environmental issues; medications; illness; autoimmune conditions, etc.
When we are exposed to stress, the brain signals our adrenal glands to release stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline. This is a normal response and is perfectly welcome in the short-term fight or flight response. However, many folks are under chronic stress, so the body is burning through major stress hormones on a regular basis.
Two of the main constituents of stress hormones are sugar and fat.
If you’re not addressing the source of the stress, the body will continue to do its best to supply you with stress hormones to get you through. In order to do this, it will “demand” that you supply more ingredients for the stress hormones – sugar and fat.
Address the stress, ditch the cravings.
By the way, those adrenals that respond and adapt to stress? When those puppies are over-taxed, that’s when we tend to crave salt. If you regularly have salt cravings, check your chronic exposure to stress, your sources of stress, and your response to stress.
2) Bad bugs
If you regularly experience gas and bloating, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue along with those sugar cravings, it’s an indication that unhealthy bacteria have taken over too much of your gut. which is actually quite common considering how vulnerable your gut bacteria are to environmental insults.
The more advances that are made in science and health research, the more the critical importance of the gut is revealed. It’s not “sexy” to talk about the gut, but it’s of the utmost importance if you want to live a long, healthy life.
The “gut” comprises vital organs and systems like the stomach, large and small intestines, liver, and gall bladder. Rather significant in the scheme of things, yes?
The human body is truly amazing in its ability to adapt to the toxic abuse we often toss its way, but there are consequences to this abuse, whether we see or feel the effects of it now or not. This proliferation and over-growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut is actually quite common, considering how vulnerable gut bacteria are to environmental assaults.
The healthy bacteria of our gut need to be there. They are a vital component of our health on many levels. They keep the overall “flora” of the gut in check. “Bad” bacteria will always find a way there, too. It’s when it’s out of balance that we’ve got a problem.
Our lifestyle choices influence our gut flora on a daily basis. In particular, our gut is very sensitive to: antibiotics, chlorinated and fluoridated water, pesticides and other agricultural toxins, antibacterial soaps and cleaners, poor diet, and much more.
It may be a challenge to have direct control of your community’s water supply or what’s being sprayed on crops in your county, but you certainly have control over many components of your diet.
These unhealthy, pathogenic bacteria, and yeast, and fungi love a steady supply of sugar. In fact, it nourishes them. This proliferation of bacteria and yeast has been described by some doctors as actually causing more harm than elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance, which are very serious problems.
Yeast is a normal and natural part of our bodies when it’s in a state of balance.
When yeast grows out of control, it’s referred to as Candida or Candidiasis. Candidiasis is notorious for causing sugar cravings. Why? Because it feeds on sugar!
Remember that list of foods that convert to sugar very quickly in our bodies? Sigh. Those are the enemy, especially if you have yeast/Candida issues.
Typically, by temporarily removing sugar from the diet for a few weeks to a few months, most people can restore a healthy balance of yeast. (Often, they also need to incorporate #3 below to have lasting success.)
Again, until the source of the problem is addressed, it’s hard to battle those cravings with just your determination and will.
Stop feeding the Candida, ditch the cravings.
3) Gut permeability issues
This component is huge. It’s also very closely related to the first two reasons. Funny how the body works like that!
Here’s the really simple, nutshell version of what’s going on:
The lining of the intestines forms a life-saving barrier for us. When this lining is damaged, we end up with intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”. Now, food particles that are far too large are passing through the barrier right into our bloodstream. This is definitely not good.
The immune system does it’s thing, goes on the attack and responds to this invader. If the gut is not repaired properly, then the heightened immune response continues. In some cases, an autoimmune response is created – where the immune system attacks the body’s own tissue.
Again, until the cause is addressed, the problem will continue.
When the gut lining has been damaged (due to the typical North American lifestyle – poor diet, toxicity, chronic stress, drugs/medication, environmental factors like mold, pesticides, heavy metals like mercury in dental fillings and vaccines, etc.), the body doesn’t receive the nutrients it needs.
The vast majority of nutrient assimilation takes place in the small intestines. If it’s damaged, the body won’t get what it needs.
Hence, the potential for cravings.
Heal the gut, ditch the cravings.
When you diligently work to repair gut issues in the proper way, along with removing the source(s) of toxicity and eating a “proper diet” that continues to nourish and heal (that includes traditionally fermented foods known to help heal the gut lining), not only should cravings subside, but overall health and vitality will dramatically improve.
4) Hormonal Imbalance
This is too large of a topic to fully dive into here, but I’ll give you a taste.
Hormones are little chemical messengers – they’re like little cars traveling throughout our bodies, carrying various messages for every function in the body. They need a place to park. The hormone receptors (garages for the cars, if you will) line the cell membranes of every single cell in our body.
In order for healthy function to unfold, the cars need to park in the garages so that the messages can be transferred to the cell.
When cells become “congested” due to many of the same factors that interfere with a healthy gut (listed in #2 and #3), the garages are blocked or altered so that the cars can’t deliver the message. In addition to throwing physiological function off in a major way, this resulting “hormonal imbalance” can cause food cravings.
We can try to artificially add more hormones (cars) to the mix, but that’s generally not the problem. The problem is the garage doors (cell membrane and hormone receptors). This is true for all hormones – whether we’re talking reproductive hormones, or thyroid hormones, or anything in between.
Fix the cell membrane, detoxify the cell, ditch the cravings.
Again, the simplified version: excitotoxins are food additives that are considered “neurotoxins”, meaning they are toxic to our brain and nervous system. You know, the “Master System” of our body. Cleary, it’s not a good idea to harm these cells in particular.
Some of the common excitotoxins you may recognize are MSG (monosodium glutamate), aspartame, hydrolyzed proteins, and autolyzed yeast, as well as ingredients listed as “natural flavors” and “spices”.
These additives “enhance” the taste of foods, making us crave these new, “exciting” flavors, rather than the old, boring ones that real foods provide. They change the expectations of our taste buds!
Eat real food without all the additives, ditch the cravings.
I have come to learn in our practice experience that, when things just are just plain wacky with a patient, when their symptoms are all over the place, breaking all the rules, oftentimes it’s due to their medications. The pharmaceuticals that people take now are a new, disturbing breed, causing a dizzying array of side effects.
One of these side effects can be food cravings. (Honestly, it’s probably the least of your concerns with the dangerous side effects that these drugs could be causing!)
Talk to your prescribing doctor(s) about an exit strategy for all drugs that are not currently keeping you alive! In the overwhelming majority of cases, you should not “have to” take a drug for life. That would mean that the drug is not fixing anything, right?
Make the changes necessary to sustain your own life, as well as your health.