You meet up with a few friends for happy hour at a Mexican restaurant, loading up on salty chips and margaritas and some chicken tacos. After several hours, you head home, but stop on the way to pick up some chocolate ice cream at the grocery store. You just had a sweet tooth to satisfy. Later that night, you have a case of indigestion, for which you pop a few antacids.
We’ve all had those moments when we MUST have something salty or something sweet or something greasy. Ever wonder why?
Alex Jamieson, co-creator of “Super Size Me” and an expert on natural weight loss and on the elimination of food cravings, has some fascinating insight on what’s actually happening when you get a craving.
According to Jamieson, there are four root causes of food cravings: bacterial, nutritional, emotional and physical.
“The bacterial root cause is … this microbiome, that I have always called the bacteria, the yeast in our body, the beast within or the puppet master,” Jamieson says. “They communicate with us, with our brains, with our neurotransmitters, they drive us to eat sugar because sugar feeds them. When you try to go off sugar and sweetened foods, they start to die, and they scream out … ‘Feed me sugar!’ and [draw] you to the freezer for ice cream at 11 at night often.”
Yeast overgrowth is another driver of sugar cravings. Classic candida yeast symptoms include headaches, skin outbreaks, bloated belly, indigestion and any kind of digestive problem, says Jamieson. The key to dealing with these sugar-pushers is by learning to balance the bacteria and yeast in your body with probiotics, probiotic-rich foods and raw, fermented foods.
Then there are nutritional cravings. Your body is trying to tell you it is out of balance and missing an important nutrient.
“You may actually be missing magnesium,” says Jamieson. “That’s often what’s really underneath those chocolate cravings. Chocolate’s a good source of magnesium, and magnesium’s one of the minerals that we’re most often depleted from.”
Fortunately, there are much healthier sources of nutrients like magnesium, that when added, satisfy your nutritional needs and eliminate the cravings. Good alternative sources of magnesium are chia seeds, hemp seeds and sea vegetables, says Jamieson.
In terms of “the physical,” this really relates to the fact that humans are physical beings requiring things like movement, touch, intimacy and sex on a regular basis in order to thrive.
“Often, our energy cravings for coffee in the afternoon is really either a craving for rest or movement,” Jamieson says. “We thrive when we’re together as a group. Babies who are born prematurely are now put skin-to-skin on an adult as much as possible. When they’re in that skin-to-skin contact, they thrive … We need that as adults, too. We need to touch each other, we need sex. We crave this physical pleasure, and we don’t get enough of it.”
The fourth cause of food cravings – probably not a surprise – is your emotions. Ever eat your feelings? Most of us have, at one point or another, substituted food as a solution to emotional states. It’s a real thing.
“The body feels when you feel, and our bodies are very smart, very intelligent,” Jamieson says. “They know when you feel bad, you just want to feel good, and your body says, ‘OK, have a cupcake. It’ll feel good.’”
Of course, emotions are tricky and complicated and may not be quickly or easily repaired, but the important thing is to start trying to unravel those underlying layers of sadness or anger that you’re coating with frosting and deal with them more directly.
“Begin to deal with those root causes so that the foods are not making you sick,” Jamieson says, “and that the underlying causes are being nourished instead.”
Want to learn more about cravings? Grab Alex Jamieson’s Cravings Cure Cookbook & Starter Kit.