Sugar cravings is a very common problem that I see a lot in my holistic nutrition practice especially with weight loss clients. Most people think cravings are normal and unavoidable but actually this is not true. Cravings are an indication that you have a nutritional or biochemical imbalance.
Nutrition research has proven that carbohydrates including sugar stimulate the release of the “feel-good” brain chemical serotonin. Over time our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids that are triggered by sugar consumption. Cravings can be a way that your body is telling you something. It is important to honour your cravings by getting to the root cause of it, and finding out what your body really needs.
What is the difference between a sugar craving and an addiction?
A craving is the urge to have something sweet as chocolate or sugar. When this urge becomes constant and eating these foods becomes an obsession that is an addiction.
It is said that food addiction is more difficult to alter than drug addiction. This is because food is required for survival and cannot be avoided. Compulsive eaters are typically not feeding their bodies, the addiction is typically an attempt at filling an inner emptiness in order to achieve completeness or escape from emotional pain or trauma. Altering addictive behaviors is difficult because most addictions are deeply anchored into our psyche. It is necessary to investigate the origin or cause of the addiction before stopping destructive behaviors.
Why do we crave sugar?
Here are 8 possible causes for your sugar cravings
a. Low blood sugar
Cravings for sugar or refined carbohydrates are typically due to a drop in blood sugar. Signs of low blood sugar include intense hunger, a strong desire to eat carbohydrates (especially a sugary food or soda), sudden fatigue, lack of concentration, mood swings, headaches and nausea for up to three hours after eating.
b. Yin/Yang Imbalance
According to oriental medicine, we can put all our foods along the yin/yang spectrum. Yin foods are the ones that are cool and expanding in nature, while yang foods are ones that are hot or warm, and contracting in nature. The idea of “cool” or “warm”, in this context, has nothing to do with the temperature at which the foods are served.
When we eat too many yang foods, such as red meat, salt and egg, our body will want yin foods to restore balance. Sugar and alcohol are extreme yin foods that our body would usually crave.
Stressful situations cause a rise in the hormone cortisol and a fall in serotonin, also known as the body’s “feel good” brain chemical. When serotonin levels get low, we tend to crave foods that will help release serotonin in the brain, like refined carbohydrates and sweets. Serotonin also helps in regulating the sleep cycle (circadian rhythm). This explains why some people crave carbohydrates before bed.
d. Nutrient Deficiency
Cravings can be a sign of nutrient deficiency. Cravings for different flavours or textures can translate to a lack of various nutrients. Sugar cravings can be our body’s way of telling us that we need certain nutrients besides protein. These nutrients include chromium, carbon, phosphorous, sulphur, and the amino acid tryptophan.
Cravings can be caused by dehydration. Our body often misinterprets the sensation of thirst as hunger. Next time you feel a craving coming on, drink a glass of water and wait fifteen minutes; then see if you are still hungry.
Cravings can be caused by yeast infections. The giant yeast infection thrives on sugar. If you have candida infection or imbalanced colon flora you can be craving sugar all the time. Working with a nutritionist can help you find out if you are suffering from yeast overgrowth or intestinal bacterial imbalance.
g. Food Allergies/sensitivities
Cravings can be an indication of hidden food allergies or sensitivities – some people crave foods that they are allergic or sensitive to. The most common allergenic foods are to dairy, sugar, wheat, soy, peanuts, eggs and tomatoes. Your nutritionist can work with you on an elimination diet or ask for testing to detect suspected food allergies or sensitivities.
h. Soul Nourishment
Cravings can also be caused by non-physiological factors such as boredom, loneliness, or need for comfort. In this case, you will have to look outside of food and nutrition for coping strategies.
Think about these possible causes and which ones would apply to you. I think the easiest cause to start working on right now is dehydration. Make sure to drink at least 6-8 cups of pure water daily to keep your body well hydrated. Adding hydrating vegetables and fruits as cucumbers and melons is also a great way to increase your water intake. In part II I will discuss how to get over your cravings and offer you some helpful solutions and tips.
If you need help with your health and nutrition, CALL Healthy U Turn at 416 876 4634 to book an appointment OR Sign up for a FREE Clarity Session with holistic nutritionist, Dr Maha Nasr to discuss your health concerns and learn more about how we can help.