What Does It Mean When You Have Cravings?

There is any number of reasons that you might have food cravings and quite often it really has little to do with the actual type of food. It could be a simple reason you can easily remedy, or it could be something serious that you should not ignore.

Here are some reasons for cravings and what you can do about it.

Physical Reasons for Your Cravings

Hormonal imbalance is a common physical cause of cravings. When your “hunger hormones,” ghrelin and leptin, are not balanced it can cause overeating and cravings. Lack of sleep, even low-level sleep deprivation, has been linked to overeating, cravings, and obesity in several studies. Poor gut health and an overall unhealthy diet can also be the culprit.

Women may experience cravings during pregnancy, PMS, and during their menstrual cycle. This is typically caused by hormonal changes in the body.

Psychological Reasons for Your Cravings

Stress is a huge cause of cravings, along with other eating problems. When you experience stress, your body begins producing cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, it can trigger cravings and overeating. Your mood can also cause cravings. For instance, if you are sad, angry, anxious, or feeling worried, you may turn to comfort foods.

If you have the urge to grab some popcorn when you watch a movie or eat while watching TV, your brain may be creating links between certain foods and certain activities. This is called eating context. It is possible to rewire your brain. Don’t eat anywhere else but at the table, but if you must snack while watching TV, choose fresh fruits and vegetables.

Health Reasons for Your Cravings

Some cravings can signal an underlying health condition. If you notice any of these cravings, talk to your doctor because they could be warning signs that you shouldn’t ignore.

Water. If you crave water it could be an early warning sign of diabetes. Excessive thirst coupled with excessive urination should be addressed with your doctor.

Ice. Craving water in its frozen form could point to another serious health concern – an iron deficiency. Bloodflow to the brain is increased when you chew ice which gets rid of the sluggishness that an iron deficiency causes.

Fries. Craving high fat foods like fries could be a signal that you aren’t getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Put down the fries and pick up some avocados, olive oil, seeds, salmon, or nuts for a healthier option.

Salt. There is a common misconception that people crave salt because they need the sodium or iodine that is found in iodized salt. The truth is, there’s no merit to that. However, extreme salt cravings could indicate Addison’s disease and that could be a problem.

Chocolate. If you crave chocolate there could be a reason other than you just love chocolate. It could be that you have a B vitamin or magnesium deficiency.

Sugar. If you crave sugar, you might be dehydrated. Sugar cravings have been linked to low-level dehydration so instead of picking up that sugary treat, grab a glass or two of water.

Do You have a Food Addiction?

Food addiction is very real. It is possible to be addicted to a certain type of food like fat, sugar, or salt, but compulsive overeating may not focus on just one thing. However, people who are addicted to food get the same “high” as people on heroin and cocaine. For them, food triggers the same pleasure and reward centers in the brain that drugs do. If you think you might have a food addiction, talk to your doctor.

Maybe You’re Just Plain Hungry!

At the end of the day, food cravings could be just that – food cravings. Maybe you’re just hungry. While it is worth taking a minute to analyze your craving, also assess your situation. Have you eaten today? When did you last eat? How much did you eat? Is it possible that it’s time for another meal or snack? If the answer is yes, then choose something healthy and carry on.