UNDERSTANDING FOOD CRAVINGS
Everyone must have experienced the feeling of wanting to “snack” on some chocolate or chips or … during the day- and especially at night – much after dinner . Ice Creams are also a favorite among many late at night - Many have a craving to eat something sweet after each meal !! These feelings are often impossible to resist. These cravings which many people experience are directly a result of the many changes in the kind and type of food that have happened over the past decades- what with changing lifestyles and the availability of “ fast food” and sugar laden snacks and drinks. Unfortunately, these are the very foods that cause metabolic disorders and weight gain. Many people would like to lose weight and some actually know how to do it—Science acknowledges that to lose weight we need to eliminate those foods that elevate insulin— the sweets, snacks and fried stuff . But many find it impossible to do so, due to their compelling food cravings.
THE BRAIN CONNECTION
Cravings can be caused by many things and they come from the signals our brains emit. The Brain signals and regulates one’s thoughts and obsessions about food. A typical ‘symptom” would be the need to open the refrigerator and stare into it thinking about what to eat, even though one is not really hungry. The brain is just sending a command telling you that you need something now, and you can’t resist the impulse. And you lose control! There has a lot been said , researched , discussed and written about AMINO ACIDS recently and the way amino acids can affect cravings and moods. One of the amino acids called – Phenylalanine- works as an appetite suppressant when one gets the –“ CRAVINGS” attack . Along with a regulation of meal timings- there is a marked and significant improvement in the “CRAVINGS” attack leading to significant improvements in the regulated food intake and consequently in the overall metabolic efficiency . A lot of people who suffer from such pangs of hunger at odd times- and -cravings- also feel fatigued in general . This fatigue is a common fall out of a –‘perceived’ dissatisfied feeling even after a sumptuous meal.
MOOD AND AMINO ACIDS
AMINO ACIDS are the building blocks that make up proteins. The central nervous system cannot function without AMINO ACIDS, which act as neurotransmitters or as precursors to the neurotransmitters. They are necessary for the brain to receive and send messages. All the amino acids must be present together or something may go wrong with the transmission of the message. If there is a protein shortage due to a diet deficiency or the inability to digest proteins, disorders can arise. These may be cravings, ADD, anxiety, depression or many other mental disorders. If one is low in amino acids or if they are not functioning properly in your body, you can crave foods. Low levels of the amino acid L-tryptophan, which is needed to produce Serotonin,( along with Vit B6), may induce afternoon cravings for carbohydrates, alcohol or drugs. If one is low in endorphins, he or she may crave comforting or numbing treats or “love” certain foods, drugs or alcohol. The amino acid Phenylalanine will often eliminate comfort-food cravings, and cravings will come down with remarkable effect- over a very short period of time- if taken regularly.
GLUTEN AND THE GUT-BRAIN CONNECTION
Some grains (wheat, barley etc.) contain a protein called gluten, which is very difficult to digest. Foods made from gluten grains are comfort foods and many people crave them. They can become addictive. Part of this comfort comes from our inability to digest fully some parts of the grain. Undigested partial proteins, or peptides, found in gluten cereals have morphine-like properties, becoming potent drugs once they enter the blood stream. Many people develop cravings due to the pleasant feelings these causes. Glutens drive the GUT BRAIN CONNECTION – strongly and when these are undigested can cause havoc with a strong message to the brain – signaling in turn a very addictive behavior manifested in several ways- for different individuals. “CRAVINGS” – for sugary or fried snacks- is one of them.
BAD BACTERIA, AND CANDIDA OVERGROWTH
“ YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT “!! - “DISEASE BEGINS IN THE COLON .”
When a person eats processed refined foods,( Noodles, Pasta, etc. – check the shelves in your food store !, they are packed with “White Foods”!) which are difficult to digest, he develops an overgrowth of yeasts, fungi and bad bacteria, which proliferate because of these lifeless foods. In addition, if one has taken antibiotics, he has probably killed a lot of the good bacteria whose job is to keep levels of all bacteria in balance. These good bacteria assist with digestion and absorption of nutrients in living foods. By contrast, the unfriendly bad bacteria want a continuous supply of starchy carbohydrates and sugar to eat ,- like the processed fast foods - and food “CRAVINGS” result .A good Probiotic is no more of an option in today’s modern times with processed foods! It has become a necessity! One of the good Probiotics is – BACILLLUS CALUSII and this helps in recolonizing you’re in testiness with friendly bacteria and even works in cases of severe AAD( Antibiotic Administered Diarrhea syndrome) . One of the great benefits of regular colon colonization with friendly bacteria is in the effective management of Autistic disorders – so rampant in children! Research and growing evidence worldwide and including in India point to the benefits of probiotics for a host of health benefits.
Food for thought??
Candida overgrowth can cause very strong sugar “CRAVINGS”. Yeasts and candida live on sugar and seem to urge you to feed them all the time. “A craving for sweet and starchy foods is typical for all people with abnormal bodily flora, particularly with candida overgrowth. Further, when the body pH becomes acidic with the intake of these sugar rich fast foods or with a lot of sweets and sugar intake , you are encouraging abnormal growth of yeast in your body.
HEAVY METALS AND CHEMICALS
Metals can be a root cause of cravings and of serious health problems. We can accumulate metals from vaccinations, mercury fillings in our teeth, pesticides, air pollutants, and many other sources. They can be passed on to our children in utero. Toxins in the body are very hard to get rid of because they drain energy, even at the cellular level. Cadmium, lead, aluminum, mercury , arsenic are some of the most popular metals that people accumulate in their bodies- and detoxifying is very important. PROBIOTICS along with AMINO ACIDS help in the detoxification process- by helping the body system eliminate them gradually and with no discomfort. Detoxification processes can cause a lot of discomfort to people and it is here that these two vital supplements play a very important role in the detoxification process by eliminating the heavy metals and other chemical pollutants with little or no discomfort in a gentle manner. There are many other natural detoxification methods that one can employ over a period of time- to rid the body of these metals.
LOW-SATURATED FAT DIET
One of the many problems of a Low Saturated Fat diet ( which unfortunately has become a fad !!) is that one can feel hungry – even after a good meal -! Our bodies need saturated fats for the proper functioning of nerves, brain, hormones, immune system and metabolism. Also, saturated fats create SATIATION. In other words, they make us feel full and satisfied. By feeding your body the healthy fats it needs—fats found in butter, cream, nuts, meats and eggs—your body produces a hormone in the stomach that signals that you have eaten enough. As a good rule it is always wise to eat up to 80% of your levels of hunger at all times! It is never a good idea to overeat even if you find your favorite foods on the table!
Research has it that our brain is specifically designed to sense the fat content of our food and to tell us to stop eating when the proper amount of fat has been ingested. When the need for fats and the nutrients they contain is satisfied, we stop eating. The body’s requirement for fats is so great, and the appetite that spurs the body to obtain those fats is so strong, that binge eating is likely to occur if fats are omitted from regular meals.”
LOW B VITAMIN LEVELS
The need for FERMENTED FOODS- which are prepared traditionally by soaking and fermenting is poorly understood- The Japanese traditionally eat a lot of foods that are-“ FERMENTED” and as a result are quite healthy-Even in India in our bygone days every region had its own fermented food preparations! From the idlies to the raitas to the panthabaths, lassies and butter milks ( and not forgetting the power of fermented and sun kissed and sun dried foods in almost every region ) we had it all- In our modern times we have lost all of these dietary habits with modern processed foods!
Eating refined foods, especially grains that are not traditionally prepared by soaking or fermenting, will lead to a lot of undigested waste in the intestinal tract along with too many hostile bacteria and not enough beneficial bacteria. This can make it difficult for the intestines to make B vitamins. The brain must have B6 to make serotonin, an important neurotransmitter. Serotonin makes one feel happy, contented and satisfied. A good supplement contains the B vitamins as a complete Complex along with Alfa Lipoic Acid will help address this problem of food inadequacies and get your neurotransmitters kicking again !
SUGAR HABIT, LOW BLOOD SUGAR
If you eat a lot of sugar and starch (which turns to sugar), your body and brain become metabolically adapted to burning glucose for fuel, instead of burning fat for fuel. When this happens, the body starts “ CRAVING” for more and more sugar( through processed foods and snacks), if you are adapted to being dependent on glucose as your primary source of fuel.
Processed carbohydrates get absorbed very quickly, producing an unnaturally rapid increase in blood glucose. A rapid increase in blood glucose puts your body in a state of shock, prompting it to pump out lots of insulin very quickly. As a result of overproduction of insulin, soon you have very low blood glucose again. (Insulin is what puts on weight too.) A fluctuating blood sugar level can trigger food cravings, migraines, mood swings, weak spells, drowsiness and much more. Hypoglycemia can result and sugar will only help the HYPOGLYCEMIC CRASH ! The vicious circle continues, and life will go on with a serious implication for one’s health over a period of time!
It has been known that the Food Industry adds addictive chemicals to all packaged food found in stores – with a singular aim of making one addictive to that particular and similar snacks and packaged food. This is also practiced in many restaurants and food chains! This causes one to develop CRAVINGS over a period of time – have we all heard of MSG (or Ajino motto as is known,) ?? This is designed to make the public “ develop” a taste for that food and repeat the same and buy the same or similar products often leading to a big rise in profits for the manufacturers of such products.
Food additives affect the brain. Sometimes a diet change is all it takes to resolve the problem of “ CRAVINGS” “Many of the junk foods and processed foods contain certain types of preservatives and other harsh chemicals-, that can damage the manufacture of your brain neurotransmitters. Nutrient-dense whole foods are necessary for our brain neurotransmitters to be produced and function properly. Recent research finds that toxins in foods and other chemicals in the environment do more than just cause cravings—they also affect our hormonal balance and our own innate slimming mechanism.
It is well known that microwaves, power lines, computers and cell phones all create electromagnetic pollution that makes people sick and tired—and put on weight. The effects can cause fat retention, fatigue, insomnia, depression, hormone disruption and more, They disrupt vital cell- to- cell communication that underlies all of the body’s functions, including maintaining energy and natural slimming mechanisms like detoxifying, balancing blood sugar and regulating appetite. A lot of research and detailing has gone into this aspect of EMF pollution over the years- and there is much evidence and science behind the toxic effect that these have in the human body.
In addressing the ill effects that arise from such EM pollution and other heavy metal side effects in our body – it is important that the metabolic regulation of the body is working properly. The mineral Selenium is a key mineral that is needed by your thyroid along with iodine for proper metabolic regulation. Unfortunately with the heavy industrial development the soils have been depleted of these critical minerals due to Mercury toxicity in the soil and hence one needs to supplement with these minerals to offset the attack on our bodies with all the environmental pollution that we face in our everyday lives.
It has long been known that if we are allergic to something, we may crave that very food. A craving for wheat can mean you are allergic to wheat, one of the most common food allergens. The reason this happens, is that when a food allergy causes stress, your body produces endorphins, which comfort you and make you feel good. Unfortunately, you perpetuate exposure to the irritant because you want more of the compensatory good feelings. Again, a vicious circle of effects.
STRESSED ENDOCRINE SYSTEM/ HORMONES
A weakened adrenal can cause cravings for sweets, grains, salt or any combination of these. If you have eaten a low fat diet for a lengthy amount of time, or have poor fat metabolism, you may not be getting enough cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the health of the endocrine system, which of course includes the adrenals and thyroid gland.
Another cause of poor adrenal function can be toxins like mercury.
RETURN TO HEALTH
Although it takes diligence, attention to detail, and time, overcoming food cravings and restoring gut health and mental equilibrium can be done! . Detoxifying and changing your diet are worth the effort. Not only will you be free of your “CRAVINGS”, but you will digest and absorb nutrients better, grow healthier, feel happier, and prevent illness in the future.
- Dangerous Grains- by Dr James Braly MD
- The Mood Cure. – by Julia Ross
- Eat Fat Lose Fat. – by Sally Morel & Dr Mary Enig
- The Gut Brain Connection- by Dr Sreesudha Chepyala