Food cravings are real! While hunger produces physical sensations such as stomach growling, lightheadedness and weakness that signals your body for the need of fuel, food cravings are an intense desire for a specific food choice. Normal hunger can be satisfied with a variety of foods while a craving can only be satisfied with a specific food, normally a sweet.
With that in mind, could there be a physiological component to cravings? The answer is yes. It is not all about will power. Neurochemicals and hormones play a large part in hunger, cravings, fullness and satiety.
There are over seventy neurochemicals that have been identified that play a role in memory, appetite and mood. A few of them you may have heard of such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. In addition to these neurochemicals, hormones also play an important part in cravings, hunger and satiety. They include insulin, cortisol, and leptin plus many more.
Let take a closer look at insulin. This is a hormone that is produced by the pancreatic cells and is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Since blood sugar is probably the single most important factor controlling appetite and mood, insulin is a key player in causing food cravings.
When we eat carbohydrates they are reduced to simple sugars. These sugars enter our blood stream and trigger an insulin release. The more refined foods containing ‘simple carbohydrates’, such as Dr. Clarks six C’s, lead to a quick release of insulin followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) that triggers an intense need (craving) for more carbohydrates.
To eliminate or minimize this physiological aspect of cravings try:
Controlling your blood sugar swings by eating protein every few hours, at every meal as well as for snacks. Keeping your carbohydrate levels below or equal to your protein levels will help.
Avoiding those crunchy 6 C’s as well as rice, pasta, bread and potato. These can raise your blood sugars fairly quickly.
Carrying protein-based snacks with you at all times. Never let yourself become famished.
Adding the mineral chromium picolinate has shown to be useful in curbing cravings.
Exercise helps get your mind off thinking about foods as well as utilize those excess sugars in your blood stream.
Giving yourself a fifteen minute timeout. Wait about fifteen minutes to see if the craving goes away.