why do we have cravings? part one

**This is a two-part blog post. Part Two will be posted next week. Stay tuned!

A member of my body wisdom facebook group asked me about the science of cravings this week.

What a fabulous question! All of us experience cravings & urges frequently. I’ve talked before about what you might DO in response to these cravings, but today I want to talk a little bit about WHY we may be experiencing them.

What signal is your body sending you with this craving? Our body always wants to seek equilibrium and balance. When something it is out of whack, the body looks for ways to restore that balance. (One of my paradigms is that the body always has a positive intention for us.) Frequently when we have a craving, something is out of balance and the body is signaling for us to restore balance — whether that is physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

Physiological Reasons for Cravings
Cravings for certain foods may be an indication that there is an underlying problem or issue that needs to be addressed. Pay attention! If the craving is consistently urgent, ask your doctor or functional medicine practitioner. They may be able to run tests to pinpoint the issue.

Need to Mix it Up
If you are eating the same foods day in and day out, you may be missing some key nutrients. Adding more variety to your diet may be able to bring in that missing nutrient.

One reason you may experience cravings is a need for more variety in your diet.

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Signal of a Deeper Problem
Be sure you see your health care provider if you suspect that something physiological is going on.

  • Diabetes or pre-diabetes can be signaled by excessive thirst.
  • If you crave chewing on ice cubes, you may have an iron deficiency.
  • You may not be able to process a certain nutrient effectively. For instance, a friend’s son craved leafy greens and salad (I know — weird, right?) and it turned out that he could not process folate properly. His doctor helped him supplement in a form that worked with his body and the cravings stopped.

Other Signals
Get some rest: You may be sleep-deprived! Again — the body is seeking balance. When we are tired, our body craves energy. And easy energy comes from sugar, simple carbs, and caffeine. If you are craving these foods, you may want to look at how much quality sleep you are getting at night.

Drink some water: You might also be dehydrated! Thirst often feels like hunger or craving for specific food. If you think you may be hungry, try drinking a glass of water — not to fool yourself into thinking you are full, but to experiment to see whether or not you were really just thirsty and need water to get back into balance.

Polarity -- Opposite Extremes on the Spectrum

Energetic Qualities of Food
One of the most interesting concepts I learned during my health coach training was the idea of the "polarity of food.” I had heard the term polarity before but never in relation to food. Every concept has to opposing “poles”— like the north and south pole of the earth.

Good/bad.
Light/dark.
Heavy/light.
Day/night.

Each of these ideas exists along a spectrum and the extremes are at the ends of the two poles.

This same concept applies to food and the “energetic" qualities that different foods possess. On one end of the spectrum there is expansive, blissful food like:

  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy

On the other end of the spectrum, there are grounding, contracting foods such as:

  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Salt

When we eat too many foods on one extreme of the spectrum, again we get out of balance and our body seeks for equilibrium. We will crave the foods on the opposite end of the spectrum in order to find balance again. The time I most notice this is that whenever I eat a burger and fries, I always crave a Diet Coke! Always!

Think about where you feel this "pull" back into balance when you experience cravings. Tune into your body's wisdom -- the messages your unique body is trying to send you with these helpful messages we call "cravings."

Next Week
In my next post, I’ll talk more about hormones and how they play an active role in our cravings, as well as the psychological role that our thoughts and feelings can play in the type and strength of cravings we experience.

Have a fabulous week!

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There is only one more spot available at our May retreat! Sign up for this fabulous getaway before it's too late.

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