What causes food cravings?
Most doctors and dietitians agreed that food cravings stem from a complex combination of emotional, hormonal and biochemical factors. One of the greatest factors for cravings is blood sugar imbalance. Emotional and hormonal imbalance also contributes to food cravings.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
A major trigger for food cravings is low blood sugar. This is typically caused by lack of food as a result of going too long between meals/snacks, or following very low calorie diets.
According to some studies, people with cravings often have an underlying blood sugar imbalance in which their blood sugar levels are altered because they eat too much of the wrong type of carbohydrates. These fluctuations in sugar level can cause cravings, water retention, mood swings and excessive thirst.
An enormous percentage of women crave sugar, carbohydrates, or alcohol. In most cases, these food cravings are not true eating disorders, but instead are signs of hormonal imbalance caused by a lack of healthy nutrition.
The fact that the strongest food cravings occur in the week prior to menstruation, or during pregnancy, suggests that hormonal swings have an influence on this type of urge to eat. Also, it's interesting that men - who typically are less affected by hormone imbalance than women - tend to develop fewer cravings.
Stress, depression, and boredom are the most common triggers for food cravings. In severe cases, cravings can lead to binge eating, an eating disorder which consists of episodes on uncontrollable overeating and can be followed by compensatory behavior in which the person purge what he/she ate.
If your emotional issues remain unaddressed, your food craving will remain constant. If your emotional issues change, so will your food cravings. The only parallel between both the constant and the changing food cravings is this: There is some underlying emotional issue crying out for your attention.
“The bottom line is this: As unpleasant as it is to face a negative emotion, the alternative is even more unpleasant. Everyone gets angry, upset, or jealous at some time — there's no question about it. Sometimes life circumstances or our personal choices make it tough to stay centered in peace of mind. In fact, the only question about these emotions is whether we choose to deal with them now or later.” - Doreen Virtue, Ph.D.
Food cravings mean that the body has its signals mixed up. When we are exhausted or blue, we have low blood sugar and/or low serotonin, and the body signals the brain that it needs a pick-me-up. This signal causes a sugar craving or carbohydrate craving.
How to suppress food cravings?
1. Don’t skip meals. If you skip meals your blood sugar level will fall too low, which causes food cravings and binge eating.
2. Too much sugar and too much salt can make the cravings worse.
3. Reduce the intake of drinks that acts as stimulants like coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks. These drinks can cause fluctuations in blood sugar. Drinking a lot of water can help.
4. Avoid artificial sweeteners.
5. Reduce your intake of processed foods that are high in additives.
6. Exercise can help to curb your food cravings. Due to the influence of mood on our eating habits, especially cravings, it is vital to take regular physical exercise on most days. Exercise significantly improves mood by releasing chemicals into the bloodstream, and will definitely help you to control your urge to eat.