Friday, August 27, 2010

Comfort Cravings

"Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort" Norman Kolpas

We all have an emotional relationship with food. From the moment we are born we are driven by the innate need to survive, hence be provided with sustenance. As babies, when we cried we were fed. As toddlers, when we fell over it was soothed by a 'treat'. Even as adults we provide food as an expression of love...think Valentines Day, Easter and Christmas.

It's easy to see why so many of us have a 'not so healthy' relationship with food. Food and 'treats' are associated with all things comforting. So it's really not surprising that when we feel stressed (which happens a lot in society today) we reach for the comfort food. Developing effective strategies to deal with the stress is one aspect in managing food cravings, but sometimes our cravings may indicate an inbalance in our underlying biochemistry.

Food cravings can be driven by an underlying biochemical need within your body and your brain.  When we are stressed we often crave carbohydrates like sugar, bread and potato as these foods provide a quick source of energy that helps to increase our mood enhancing brain chemicals.  Paradoxically, if we eat too much of this kind of food, it can actually have the reverse effect and release one of our stress hormones.

Other cravings that may indicate an imbalance include:

Sugar.  A need for serotonin, the feel good brain chemical.  It could also indicate a yeast overgrowth in your gut.
Salt.  A possible need for potassium and iodine.  It could also indicate adrenal exhaustion and underactive thyroid.
Protein. May indicate a lack of an amino acid that promotes calm and relaxation.
Salad Greens.  May indicate insufficient hydration.
Chocolate and Caffeine. May indicate a deficiency in dopamine, another feel good brain chemical.
Fried fatty foods.  May indicate elevated cortisol levels and a lack of essential fatty acids.

It's easy to see why a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, fruit, protein, good fats and wholegrains will easily nourish our bodies and help us function at optimum capacity.  It will also help to reduce the cravings we do have as our bodies are receiving all the nutrition they need.  However, when you do get stressed it may be worth noting what particular things you are craving and finding out from your healthcare practitioner if you do actually have a deficiency in that area.

emit your life!

(information sourced from Jacqui Manning, Comfort Food, pg 48 Wellbeing Magazine 2009)

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