It can feel like such a struggle to eat foods that heal rather than harm our bodies. It seems like everything is a pressure to indulge, to crash, to binge even. Advertisements and food companies have the science of junk foods down to…well, a science. And you’re supposed to rise as a solitary figure to say no to these gods of taste? To the average, unsuspecting individual this would be a colossal task. To you, however, knowledge is truly power and perhaps this article will add some tools to your arsenal in your understanding of why you may be wanting those undesirable foods and some actions you can take to regain control of your choices, your money, and your food.
There are a number of possible reasons for cravings.
1. Food Reactivities
Food reactivities are quite common and can play a crucial role in your cravings. Both food allergies and food reactivities are your body’s response to a food that it sees as an invader – it doesn’t tolerate the food as it normally should. When you eat a food your immune system “reacts” to, you activate an inflammatory response every time you eat that food. One result is an adrenaline boost after eating these foods. Upon getting that boost, you feel more energetic and as if you can get life done. Then comes the adrenaline crash and you need to get another fix. This often looks like going to eat more of that food that you react too, getting another adrenaline high, and repeating the cycle. These foods that you react to are often the same ones you eat every day and ones that are inherently inflammatory such as junk foods.
To identify if this is a factor in your life, simply ask yourself which foods you must eat and you may unearth some things you never realized before. However, you can also rely on lab testing to identify specific reactivities. This would be an IgG (immunoglobulin G) panel that looks at reactions to a list of individual foods. Avoiding these foods for a time or possibly permanently can go miles to reducing your dependence on this sort of food addiction.
2. Stress and Fatigue
Who isn’t running around over-taxed, tired, and stressed? When you are stressed and tired, your body and brain chemistry are negatively impacted by stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Chronic stress demands chronic output by the adrenal glands of these hormones and chronic activation of the pituitary gland in the brain to stimulate adrenal function. It’s a nasty loop which can fatigue your brain, create abnormal hormonal patterns in your body, and, again, play a role in that adrenaline addiction mentioned above that pushes you to choose junk foods and sugar. Sugar is not merely addictive, it is the immediate energy your brain thinks you need when you are running on fumes. But eating that sugary treat when you’re trying to cope is harming you on a cellular level by messing with your blood sugar and harming your brain as it struggle to deal with blood sugar swings.
Self care plays a colossal role in combating this source of cravings. Sleep! Sleep is incredibly important in healing from stress and fatigue, regulating you hormones and immune system, and nourishing your brain. And it’s free. Other actionable items are: resting during the day, nourishing healthy relationships, creating habits of gratitude, joy, and contentment, and learning how to ask for help.