The Psychology Behind Cravings and How to Deal with Them

What causes our cravings and how to reduce them.

Posted Oct 11, 2020

Ashley Green/Unsplash
Source: Ashley Green/Unsplash

When we are addicted to fast foods, such as those containing high sugars and high salt levels, we become inured to the taste and often lose the ability to really taste foods in their natural state.

Mood affects food cravings, and food cravings also affect mood. Cravings are complex and may derive from several causes. Understanding the foods, the time of day, the food-as-self-medication factor, food allergies, and mood prior to cravings is essential and can be reviewed during the assessment process. 

Several factors contribute to food cravings: 

Cravings as self-medication. Nutrient deficits may cause people to crave food with nutrients we need or we want to alter our mood, up or down.

Cravings as addiction. Specific foods are formulated to be addictive and lead to cravings, especially processed foods. 

Cravings as allergy/sensitivity. Foods that we are allergic to can also cause cravings of those foods

Tips for dealing with food cravings: 

  • Reduce stress to help avoid the tendency to reach for addictive substances as a coping mechanism.
  • Understand what your brain may need: More protein? Healthy fats, or carbs?
  • Consider amino acid support by contacting a specialist in this field.
  • Keep addictive foods out of the home and avoid those restaurants. 
  • Identify foods that precede or trigger your cravings, and avoid them.
  • Engage in alternative strategies for your attention, such as computer games, relaxation, and exercise.
  • Drink water throughout the day.
  • When a craving is for a comfort food not in alignment with your nutritional goals, substitute something healthy instead. If you love french fries and ketchup, bake fries in olive oil and get sugar-free ketchup.
  • Just rinsing the mouth with starchy carbohydrates triggers brain response and increases energy.
  • Plan snacks ahead so if you grab something, it is healthy and satisfying.

Nutrient Supplementation for Reducing Cravings

  • Vitamin B complex is useful in raising serotonin levels, thus improving mood and the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates.
  • Chromium and L-glutamine both help to regulate blood sugar levels and can reduce cravings for carbohydrates and sugars. 
  • Fish oil helps to reduce cravings for sugar by enhancing insulin sensitivity. 
  • L-tyrosine supports the production of dopamine that contributes to improving mood.
  • Magnesium is useful in reducing stress, balancing blood sugar, and improving sleep. 
  • DL-phenylalanine increases endorphin levels and tryptophan raises serotonin levels and reduces cravings for carbohydrates. 

Be compassionate with yourself for your cravings. Know that your inner wisdom is telling you information about what you need. Pay attention and interpret it so it serves your brain, body-mind, and well-being. 

Learn more about addressing cravings in my course Integrative Medicine and Nutrition for Mood and Cognitive Enhancement