Nurture & Nourish
... with words
... with thoughts
... with food
... with words
... with thoughts
... with food
"Sorry I ate the Cake"...
These are the words that come out of my mouth.
And then I feel guilt,
and deep regret.
I ask myself "Why"? Clearly I know how to eat well. I can hear the thought in my heart saying "cake is a bad idea". But there is a deep feeling in my gut and mind that I just can't ignore.
"If I eat the cake, it won't just taste good. I will feel better."
So I take a bite, and the relief is instant.
The above was a common occurrence in my food relationship prior to an understanding of holistic nutrition, gut health, and food psychology.
For most of my life I was plagued with cravings for empty carbs, fried foods, stimulants, and alcohol, all of which left me feeling tired, depressed, anxious, and ultimately very ill.
I grew up with Type 1 diabetes, having been diagnosed at age 12, and from that point on I was on a predominantly low carb diet. I had a dietician so I had no shortage of what the allopathic community considered "real food advice". Insulin options were poor in the 80s and 90s compared to what we have now, and required regimented eating and religious carb counting. The occasional extremely low blood sugar allowed me to indulge in some sugary treats (skittles & fuzzy peaches please), but this was not a norm.
I had always considered myself a strong person, some would say stubborn (pfft). My willpower could certainly prevail! And yet the cravings kept sneaking up on me, and I kept failing myself over and over again, slowly diminishing my physical and mental health even more.
I couldn't get the answers or support I needed to help myself and overcome cravings until I understood what caused them. They weren't just "in my head". I wasn't weak by feeling them. I needed guidance, and a plan. So I did just that and finally at the age of thirty four I began to know what it was like to not be ruled by cravings, I healed myself and I formed a new relationship with food.
My story is not so uncommon.
Most of us have certain foods that we CRAVE.
And sometimes those cravings are very valid and needed.
So let's take a look at what is really going on when you are
Craving the Cake!
For the purpose of understanding I will use the word "Cake" interchangeably with any food or beverage you may be craving.
Craving Scenario #1
BOB MADE ME DO IT!
Who is BOB? I use BOB as an acronym for Bacteria on Board. However, we can also extend the term BOB to cover all of his little friends VIRUSES, YEASTS AND OTHER PATHOGENS.
You see, the human body is actually mostly not ours. Bacteria and viral cells outnumber ours approximately 10:1, meaning that we are in fact hosts to more alien matter than we are our own. Freaky thought right? But the thing is, that is how we are designed. We are in a relationship with these little beings all the time. Our immune system has a master plan and will remove all those who are non-compliant and aggressive if we support it and keep it healthy. But our guts, where most of these other intelligent life forces hang out, are imbalanced by so many "stressors" both internal and external such as:
- emotional stress
- physical injury or illness
- antibiotic consumption (either as medication or through consumption of animal products)
- pollutants (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, heavy metals, and other chemicals)
- drug and alcohol use
- poor diet "(sugars, refined foods, gluten, dairy, etc)
So when we don't have balance in our physical and mental health, and the critters tip the scales, sometimes those cravings are coming from them, not us. They need food too.
Unfortunately bad bacteria and viruses tend to feed on the very food that make up the SAD (Standard American Diet). Sometimes, when we go for so long eating nutrient poor refined foods, and the BOB are so many, we can begin to have aversions to healthy foods (fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, etc). This is when we know we really have a problem.
In order to change these cravings, we need to look at our digestive & gut health, where it is out of balance, and how can we starve the bad guys and begin to
repair & replenish with good guys.
Because we don't want BOB to take over.
Nobody likes messy rude houseguests that overstay their welcome.
WE NEED CAKE!
Ok, so clearly we don't really need the cake. Or do we?
Our bodies need fuel. A specific blend of micro and macro nutrients, each unique to our specific needs.
So how can this make us crave cake, or anything else for that matter?
Well, we can crave cake under these circumstances:
- Our bodies are needing carbohydrates
- Our bodies are needing fats
- Our bodies are needing protein
- We need a hug
- We need to relax
- We need to be revived
- We need to feel
(happy, loved, satiated, gratified)
Our bodies first need for fuel will come from glucose, which is in all sugars and therefore carbohydrates. When we have too much bad bacteria (see above), or can not process glucose effectively (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance) or have insufficient amounts of amylase (an enzyme needed to breakdown sugar found in our saliva and small intestine via the pancreas), we will crave more carbs. Our bodies are simply craving something that it needs. Unfortunately, the refined food choices for carbs (cake, baked goods, refined sugars, alcohol, refined flours or grains) are not supplying the appropriate fuel and are grossly lacking in micronutrients (vitamins & minerals). When our body does not get what it fully needs because we are eating nutrition stripped refined foods instead of whole intact foods, we will keep craving, and keep eating. Ever notice how you can eat more WHITE FOODS (sugar, white breads and baked goods) than whole foods? When our needs are missing, we eat more, but at a cost.
Carbs will also be on our mind when we have difficulty digesting heavy proteins (like meat). If we can not digest the protein sufficiently, we will consume more carbohydrates to meet both our caloric needs, and get adequate amino acids (these are the building blocks that make up protein).
The brain uses glucose as a primary source of fuel and will break down amino acids and fats as needed into glucose to get what it needs. Smart brains huh?
When our bodies are craving fat, is is likely that. We need fat. I am not talking about a fat based diet. The body does not typically crave to be in starvation and ketosis (when we burn fat as fuel). However, our bodies need specific kinds of healthy fats for optimal health. These fats are considered essential fatty acids and include EPA and DHA. There are other healthy fats as well. That said not all fats are created equal. When we crave fats and feed ourselves fried foods, chips, pizza, refined vegetable oils, cheese, etc, we are not feeding our bodies the beneficial fatty acids it truly needs, and likely in far greater amounts than needed, so we may just going to keep craving until we get what we need.
Protein is a different story. Our intelligent bodies can build complete proteins from amino acids. When the body can not digest heavy protein rich foods or meals, it will make us crave the cake (carbs), because protein is simply made of those amino acids which are found in all foods except fat. This kind of protein craving happens when we have a great deal of difficulty digesting it, indicating a lack of function in the pancreas (lack of pepsin or protease), or stomach (either through mechanical function or lack of hydrochloric acid). Sometimes we can crave protein because are low in it, however this is largely unlikely as most people are nowhere near low on protein. North Americans are known for protein excess in the diet. And with protein being the buzz word in most diet culture we tend to think of it as the holy grail.
The simple truth is, nature has provided amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, in all whole foods. If we are digesting well, and eating enough whole foods in variety, we will get enough protein.
We will also crave proteins such as meats or legumes when we are low in iron. This is typically a deficiency of Vitamin B12 and Folate, and lack of iron rich foods (or inability to absorb them, which is a digestive issue). Plant based proteins such as legumes and gluten free whole grains (quinoa, oats, teff, buckwheat), leafy greens, spirulina, nuts and seeds, or fish and poultry, are actually easier for most people to digest.
When the cravings have really gone awry sometimes all we want is foods that fill the void for carbs and fats (ie: cheese and bread or pasta, ice cream, chips, cupcakes and/or ice cream). OR if we are totally turned off by one but not the other (ie: you want cheese but not ice cream, butter but not the bread) then you may be dealing with an imbalance with your hormone receptors and can be either insulin resistant or leptin resistant.
Insulin breaks down sugars. Leptin breaks down fats.
This miscommunication or resistance is something that unfortunately can happen in our bodies over time when our eating or lifestyle habits may have gotten the better of us. And while the body's intent on doing this is to help you to heal, sometimes we don't get that message and the harm continues.
HAPPY TIMES & HUGS
Ok, so there a few different ways this scenario can go.
Remember BOB? Well BOB and your best friends and family have paired up to confuse the crap out of you.
BOB (microbes) may not have their own nervous systems, but they can produce neurotransmitters. More than half of your body’s dopamine and approximately 90-95% of serotonin are produced in your gut, along with about 30 other neurotransmitters.
These neurotransmitters (also considered hormones) are critical for signaling between cells of the nervous system. Dopamine and serotonin have both been shown to be involved in the regulation of eating behavior.
Serotonin is known to help regulate our moods and appetites, alleviates depression and anxiety, and increases feelings of happiness, arousal, and euphoria. The gut will release extra serotonin if you have eaten something harmful to alleviate stress response and immune mediated reactions.
Not so helpful when you are intolerant to the cake.
This can be very confusing to the body as we are often craving the very thing we are intolerant to, and we can even form addictions to foods and beverages that harm us!
Nearly all pleasurable experiences involve the release of dopamine. Once again, this just reinforces the above response from serotonin, further enhancing the craving for the cake.
Let's keep going.....
Next there is oxytocin(aka the love hormone). Imagine the look on the face of a baby right after it finishes up on the breast or bottle. Happy, sleepy, content, milk drunk. Oxytocin gives us the warm and fuzzies, enhancing our feelings of connection and trust.
This is why so many of us have food habits and cravings that we should have outgrown or maybe moved on from. They make us feel safe, loved, secure, hugged and held.
Maybe we crave things because they were a reward or reminder of significant times in our lives:
- Dad would take you out for ice cream when you finished your weekly chores and it still feels like approval when you eat it.
- Auntie gave you a slice of pie every time you visited and it still feels like the happy times and hugs she gave.
- On your birthday every year you got to go out for pizza and pop and eat and drink as much as you wanted that night, and 30 years later you need to feel that important again and so you eat that meal again when you do. But the hype in your head doesn't live up to the memory in your body anymore, and you just feel let down.
- Grandma always gave you a handful of candy and a freshly cinnamon bun, and just the smell of peppermints and warm yeast still makes you sigh in relief.
- You always had hot chocolate and hot dogs when you went camping, and to this day it feels like fun and adventure.
- You used to give yourself a glass of wine on the weekends because you kicked ass that week and deserved a reward, only now every day feels like an ass kicking and you go through a bottle or more a week.
- Your mom was strict and dismissive and you crave milk products because it reminds your body of the time when she held you and gave you a bottle.
You get where I am going with this.
All of the above hormones/neurotransmitters can tell us a lot about our cravings and our habits around them if we pay attention.
Memories and patterns are funny things. Sometimes we do (in this case eat) the same things over and over again because we need some kind of response to be fulfilled. This is an emotional response that over time has formed a well beaten neural pathway in our brains. Basically, in order to feel the way we think we need to feel, we are eating the food that we associate with an emotional response that produces these neurotransmitters that help us feel that way, momentarily.
Stressed humans need relief, and in today's day and age all humans seem stressed. One of the easiest ways to address these stresses is to eat or drink our way to a solution. The problem is that this is never a long term solution, because we need to keep eating or drinking these things, even if they harm us, in order to achieve the emotional response we need.
The way around this is to find new and healthier ways to fill the emotional need, practice and sustain them.
There are healthier foods that can give us the same neurotransmitters and hormones, but the memory association is not there. So we are forced to create new recipes, new memories, and new patterns, in order to create healthier habits.
I hope that this gave you a bit more insight into what can be a very frustrating and confusing topic.
If you feel like your cravings are driving you, overcoming you, challenging you, or even hurting you, and you need some help discovering:
- THE WHY (intolerances, stressors, digestive imbalances, emotions)
- WAYS TO OVERCOME (physical, mental, emotional)
Connect with me.
Book your discovery session: https://p.bttr.to/2LLsZcr