The Science Behind Food Cravings: Exploring the 6 Key Factors

by Dr. Nick Zyrowski July 17, 2023

We know what it’s like. You promise you’re going to start your healthy eating journey tomorrow. Then the next day, you eat a good breakfast, and someone brings donuts to work. It would be rude not to eat them, right? The odd thing is, you felt full and satiated just moments ago. Why are you all of a sudden craving those sugary processed carbs that you know you don’t need? What causes these food cravings and how can you stop them?

If you can relate to the above scenario, the last thing we want to do is make you feel guilty. That’s not at all what this article is about. There are scientific reasons why you crave the wrong kinds of foods. What if we told you those cravings are happening for a reason and that your body is sending you a message? Similarly to the way you feel tired and run down right before you get sick, your body sends you signals to let you know something isn’t quite right. We break these reasons down for food cravings, and give you the tips and strategies you need to overcome them.

You are not alone

Now the first thing you should realize is that you are not alone in this. Food cravings happen to all of us at some point. Even those healthy athletes that appear to be near perfect on the outside will typically admit to the casual junk food binge. (1)

The mistake many people make is trying to control these cravings. They think it’s a mere matter of willpower and may have been told as much by some in the medical profession. When you seek to control the food cravings rather than understand them, you are constantly fighting a battle. We want you to know where they are coming from so you have the power to make healthy changes without the negativity and struggle that often surrounds making better choices. Let’s get into these six food craving causes and what you can do about them.

    1. Nutrient Deficiency

    You know how your parents used to tell you to eat certain foods because they were good for you and you needed them to grow strong and healthy? You might’ve rolled your eyes back then, but guess what? They were right. Your body needs a supply of proper nutrients from food to function well. The three major food groups are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. If you eat foods in the amounts your body needs, you’ll feel satiated and have plenty of energy. (2)

    Take a look at your current diet. Are you eating protein and healthy fats? Is your plate filled with whole foods? Most likely, if you’re not eating this way, your diet is made up of processed foods and sugar. If you begin replacing those fake foods with natural, whole foods that contain vitamins and minerals, you’ll start to feel better, and when your body has what it needs, you’ll notice the cravings slowly melt away. If you’ve been on the wrong path for a while and you need some help naturally shedding a few pounds, berberine is a great supplement to support healthy weight loss. The last option you want to try is a pharmaceutical that has some truly nasty side effects.

    2. Unbalanced Hormones

    You won’t hear much about how hormones affect food cravings, but when your hormones are unbalanced, these cycles can cause you to have food triggers. If you’re female and crave sweets during your menstrual cycle, it could be due to the changes in your estrogen and progesterone levels. Similarly, insulin is an essential hormone produced by your pancreas. When insulin levels are unbalanced, you’re likely to experience food cravings, fatigue, and brain fog. (3) With 1 in 4 people suffering from type 2 diabetes, it’s obvious we are in a health crisis. Balancing your blood sugar is essential to mitigating those food cravings. One way to do that is with an insulin balance supplement that combines the proper nutrients and herbs you need to support healthy glucose metabolism.

    3. Stress and Anxiety

    You probably see this and figure there’s no way around stress. Everyone leads busy lives today, and feeling overwhelmed and anxious seems to be a part of life. Unfortunately, when you get stressed, your body releases cortisol, which is the hormone that can increase your appetite. That means food cravings are soon to follow. (4) Also, you may be like many people and turn to food as a means of comfort. Emotional eating is a real thing, and when you want comfort, often you look to those high-carb, processed foods that make you feel good at first, but worse later. A better way to cope with stress is to find healthy strategies to manage it. Exercise is a fantastic way to feel better and release that stress burden. Try meditation, gratitude journaling, or simply taking a walk in nature.

    4. Inadequate Sleep

    You may be one of those people who think you can live on a few hours of sleep each night. Eventually, that will catch up with you. When you sleep, your body restores itself. If you aren’t getting enough restful sleep, your body will produce another hormone, ghrelin, which increases your hunger. If you find that you’re craving more of those super high-carb foods recently, it may be a lack of sleep causing it. (5) Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Keep your room dark and cool. Make it a sleep haven. If you have trouble falling asleep, try a warm bath before bed or reading a book. Keep the lights dim and begin your winding down ritual about an hour before you go to bed.

    5. You’re Dehydrated

    As odd as this may seem, when you get dehydrated, your body will signal you to increase fluid intake. If you don’t feel thirsty, another signal may be food cravings. (6) It can be hard to decipher which one of the two you’re experiencing, and many people think they’re hungry when they may need a glass of water. We recommend half your body weight in ounces of water per day, as a general rule. One way to achieve this is to start the day with a glass of water before you drink coffee or tea in the morning. Then sip on water throughout the day. Make it convenient so that it’s simple to do.

    6. Bad Habits

    We hesitate to call these bad habits because it has such a negative connotation. When we refer to these habits, we mean those old ones that remind you of certain foods. We all have these cues that make us remember foods or events in our lives. Imagine walking into a fast-food restaurant and remembering when you were a kid and had the best time at a birthday party. Perhaps you enjoy going to the movies, and one of your habits is to get that giant bag of buttery popcorn. These places can become mental cues that you associate with food cravings, and when you visit them, you’ll want those particular foods. (7) Once you’ve identified these triggers, you don’t need to avoid the place but merely prepare yourself ahead of time. Have a nutrient-dense meal before you go or a healthy snack to curb those cravings. You’ll have more control, and those cravings will be minimal if present at all.

    Knowledge is Key

    When you know what causes your food cravings, you have power over them rather than them controlling you. With these tips, you have the tools to practice getting a better handle on those food cravings today. Remember to start with small, actionable steps you can take to make your life healthier. Also, when you focus on a healthy way of eating, you’ll eat less of those processed foods that make you feel bad. Knowledge is the tool that leads to success, and we want to empower you to be the healthiest version of yourself. Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about what we do and how holistic medicine is the key to wellness and longevity.

    References :

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37104278/

    https://nutritionstripped.com/causes-of-food-cravings/

    https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/blog/what-athletes-are-most-likely-to-have-an-eating-disorder

    https://www.livestrong.com/article/444740-how-does-the-food-we-eat-actually-give-us-energy/

    https://www.humnutrition.com/blog/how-blood-sugar-affects-food-cravings/

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3763921/

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat#:~:text=But%20if%20stress%20persists%2C%20it's,including%20the%20motivation%20to%20eat.

    https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/unusual-signs-of-dehydration/

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11070333/

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7399671/

    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00021/full

    Dr. Nick Zyrowski
    Dr. Nick Zyrowski



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