When we lack, we intuitively CRAVE. As I’ve always said, cravings are messages from your body. When you are deficient in something, your body tries to maintain balance by sending signals through cravings. It’s not a choice you make; the survival mechanisms in your subconscious mind trigger these cravings. My own experience illustrates how nutritional deficiencies and cravings go hand in hand.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Cravings: Familiar Bedfellows
I used to undergo a yearly routine medical checkup, which was required by my employer. Every year, my test results would indicate that I had a B12 deficiency and was encouraged to get monthly vitamin B12 shots. When I asked why I lacked the vitamin, the answer was simply, “It just happens, Stephanie. You don’t have to worry. Just take the shots and you’ll be OK.”
I later learned in nutrition school that my Vitamin B12 deficiency was caused by the birth control pills my doctor prescribed and I had been taking since the age of 17. The number one symptom (a.k.a. body message) of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue. I was craving salty foods because my adrenal glands were on overdrive, trying to keep me going by flooding my body with cortisol. This explains why I often reached for a bag of salty potato chips after coming home from work.
Scientific research confirms the link between nutritional deficiencies and cravings. For instance, scientists have found that iron and sodium deficiencies cause cravings. In rare and extreme cases, nutritional deficiencies have led to pica or the craving for non-nutritive substances such as wood, dirt, or soil.
Other Deficiencies That Cause Cravings
Nutritional deficiencies aren’t the only drivers of food cravings. Some scientific studies have identified other factors. Below are just a few examples:
- Lack of sleep – When you sleep too little, your hormone levels get disrupted. Researchers have found that the lack of sleep causes the body to produce less leptin (the “satiety” hormone) and more ghrelin (the “hunger” hormone). This makes you more likely to experience food cravings.
- Lack of hydration – Research reveals that mild dehydration causes mood disturbances. These disturbances could lead to food cravings. Also, thirst is often confused with hunger, which leads to cravings.
- Lack of relaxation – People with high levels of stress are more likely to experience food cravings.
- Lack of fiber – Fiber helps you feel full. Eating too little fiber may increase hunger and food cravings.
- Lack of joy or sense of well-being – Being in a negative mood can lead to food cravings.
3-Step Solution to Cravings Due to Deficiencies
I host a podcast called The Beyond The Food Show, and I recently had Dr. Keesha Ewers as a guest. On the show, she shared three steps you need to take to start healing your cravings that are due to deficiencies, nutritional or otherwise:
- Watch your inner language. Talk to yourself in a loving and compassionate way that does not let you off the hook. Think about how you would parent your own child and do that for yourself.
- Take responsibility. This doesn’t mean you should blame yourself for your cravings. Just take responsibility for your choices.
- Get off the scale. Use your own body’s feedback; listen to your body messages. Get into a collaborative relationship with your body instead of a combative relationship.
If you want to learn more about nutritional deficiencies and cravings, listen to my interview with Dr. Ewers here, or you can play the audio or video file below:
Struggling With Food Cravings?
If you need help with food cravings, you can download my free Crave Cure Guide. It’s my free gift to those who want to start their journey to better health and find food freedom. You can download it here.