Many of us experience cravings for foods during different periods in life. However sometimes those cravings are your body's way of trying to tell you something - to look a little deeper. Obviously the body is complex but ongoing, chronic cravings are worth paying attention too.
This is by far one of the most popular cravings I see in clinic! Craving for chocolate is more common in women as hormones change, just before & during your period (more on that later). As chocolate contains high concentrations of magnesium (we're talking dark choc, cacao and cocoa), a craving for it may suggest a magnesium deficiency. You may notice yourself reaching for the choc block more when you're feeling overwhelmed - this can definitely be a habitual, emotional thing but may also indicate you are needing magnesium! In periods of intense stress, the body burns through magnesium. It is utilised in over 300 reactions in the body and is also required to help promote and activate GABA (our chill, relaxing neurotransmitter). One 100gram bar of dark chocolate delivers approx. 200mg of magnesium.
Chocolate also contains precursors to dopamine and serotonin which increase those happy feelings and regulate mood. This is why so many of us can identify with reaching for the chocolate when we are feeling depressed.
Salt contains many macro and trace minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium & sodium. A craving for salt may indicate a mineral deficiency. It can also reflect dehydration. You might notice cravings for salty chips during alcohol consumption, as alcohol is a diuretic (meaning it causes you to excrete water rapidly, resulting in dehydration).
Cravings for salty food or salt in general may also suggest under-functioning adrenal glands. The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and produce our stress hormones, including aldosterone. Aldosterone is in charge of regulating our sodium and potassium levels and blood pressure. If aldosterone levels are low, this can induce salt cravings. Often low blood pressure can accompany this, but not always.
Females may notice a craving for sugar shortly before their period. This can be due to a drop in serotonin during the luteal phase (second half of your cycle) and/or alterations to blood sugar levels and cortisol. Making sure you consume adequate sources of protein, in combination with regular meals will help in maintaining blood sugar levels just before your period.
Some clients notice increased cravings for sugar after prolonged antibiotic use. This is because antibiotics can cause an overgrowth in candida. Sugar is the chief nutrient to Candida albicans so lots of sugar consumption feeds candida growth.
On a side note; drinking alcohol can also induce sugar cravings. This is because alcohol causes a drop in blood sugar which leads you craving foods that will elevate your blood sugar- which are usually sweet foods, (and more alcohol).
I also thought it was worth throwing in yeast cravings here (think bread, alcohol, vegemite, cheese). It is a less discussed craving, but can tie in with sugar cravings. Both sugar and yeast promote the growth of Candida albicans so chronic candidiasis can induce cravings for these. Other common symptoms you may notice with candida overgrowth include recurrent thrush, urinary tract infections, itchy ears and altered bowel function.
Research shows that carb cravings can be due to low serotonin. This is because carbs raise serotonin levels. Subjects fed a high carbohydrate meal appeared to have increased serotonin levels in the brain. High levels of serotonin seem to decrease carbohydrate cravings. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and carbohydrates help in driving tryptophan across the blood brain barrier.
Women can also feel hungrier before their period as your metabolism increases and more calories are being burned, causing you to seek out more energy.
Cravings for ice is called Pica. Pica is used to describe the cravings for non food items such as ice, clay etc which have no nutritional value. Ice cravings are most commonly associated with iron-deficiency anaemia.
If any of the above resonates with you, please flick me a message. If you suspect your body is trying to tell you something, don't ignore it - I'd love to help you not only manage any cravings, but treat the underlying drivers . Contact me here x