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by Glen Depke, Traditional Naturopath
So what types of cravings do you experience on a regular basis? Sugar, chips, ice cream, breads, salt, chocolate, alcohol and the list goes on… While most of us crave foods with some regularity, very few understand all of the mechanisms behind these cravings. Understanding this may assist you in curbing your cravings, so here we go. We’ll start with one of the most obvious and that is cravings based on the consumption of high glycemic foods. You know, foods sugar as sugary treats, sodas, processed carbohydrates, alcohol, fruit juices and fruit especially without the skin. When we consume these high glycemic foods, especially without added fat, these drive up glucose which in turn leads to a spike in insulin levels. When insulin levels spike so quickly, this will often send your blood sugar plummeting. As a result you have what…cravings. Often this is for more high glycemic foods also and round and round we go. So to get off the high glycemic/craving cycle, do what?  How about stopping the consumption of high glycemic foods? OK, so that was too easy of an answer and a bit of a smart (you know what) comment. It is a good idea though to consume high glycemic foods sparingly or only prior to times of physical exertion. What do you do when you simply want to enjoy one of these foods but you are not going to have the opportunity to burn off this sugar with exercise? The answer to this is to eat these foods at the end of your meal and always with added fat. Examples are:
  • Apple with nut butter
  • Wine with cheese
  • Bread with olive oil
 * I am necessarily condoning all of these choices as healthy but I wanted to give you some real life examples. A significant reason for cravings would be emotions. When we get stressed out what to so many people reach for to sooth their feelings? As mentioned earlier sugar, chips, ice cream, breads, salt, chocolate, alcohol and the list goes on… Another factor that deals with emotions as tied into sweets is when we feel as if we are missing our own personal “sweetness” of life. So often we get caught up in a life of “doing” rather than a life of “being” and this leads to self soothing again and so often with sweets. Based on our discussion earlier, you now understand what dynamics are occurring when you are self soothing with these sweets. There is one more craving definitely built into the challenges with emotions. When we are too ramped up, frustrated, irritated and angry we often crave processed carbohydrates such as breads. These choices actually have a sedating or depressing effect on your body to calm you down. Think about, how do you feel after a meal high in processed carbohydrates? You likely feel like hitting the couch and completely chilling. Unfortunately this is not the best way to achieve this due to the effect that this has on further cravings. If you really want to do something to satisfy your emotions, try some deep belly breathing. Take a deep breath through your nose for a count of 7 while expanding your stomach and breath all the way down to your belly button. Hold that breath for a count of 4 and then forcefully blow this out through your mouth while contracting your stomach muscles to push every ounce of that breath out of your lungs. Actually, try this right now and see how you feel. So why do I recommend the deep belly breathing? Because you cannot be under stress and take a deep belly breath at the same time. This are two opposing aspects of your nervous system function that will not exist at the same time. Take 3-5 of these breaths once per hour during your waking hours would be so helpful for curtailing these cravings and absolutely use this during acute stress. One more significant factor for cravings is a lack of proper digestion. You know, you are not what you eat, rather you are what you absorb and assimilate. So what does this have to do with cravings?  First understand that you are not hungry to fill your stomach, you are hungry so your body can produce energy. When you make quality nutritional choices and digest these foods properly, your body will produce the energy needed and your trigger for hunger will be cut off. It truly is that simple. So what happens if you digestive system is not working properly? This leads to a lack of proper absorption and assimilation, thus leading to a desire for more food. Once the stomach if full though, your trigger for hunger will subside even if you did not reach the desired energy production. Here’s the kicker though. If your hunger went away and your stomach is full, you WILL have a craving to follow this meal. The bigger challenge is that this craving will almost definitely be for something sweet because sugar is a definite “quick fix” for energy and we have all had sugar enough for our body to recognize this. Think about it. How often does this happen? You go out and eat a big meal, fill your belly, yet you still cannot make a move until you get some type of sweet in on top of this. This happens more often that not and most often this is due to poor digestion. So how do your improve your digestion? First off, the recommendation of the deep breathing above is definitely a benefit just prior to eating a meal. When you deep belly breath and get your body in a relaxed state prior to eating, this will assist your digestive system. There are also some basic supplements to use for proper digestion to assist in aleviating cravings.
  • Probiotics
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Stomach acid
These are the basics that Dawn and I use personally and typical recommendations for my clients. As a matter of fact, I refer to this trio as the Depke Wellness 1, 2, 3 of Digestion. If you would like to learn more about the 1, 2, 3 of Digestion visit this link provided So now you know three of the biggest factors for you cravings, so when you think of cravings now, “uggg” does not have to follow.