Overcoming cravings isn’t all about will power or self-control. Here’s some inside information about where cravings come from and four steps to stop them for good.
How well you feed the 100 trillion microbes living in your gut determines how great you feel and it has a significant ripple effect in the body! Our microbes break down our food into neurotransmitters, micronutrients, hormones, and other important metabolites that the body uses as information to function. They have control over when you get hungry, when you crave certain foods, mood, and even how well you metabolize sugar.
For example, gut microbes can produce special proteins, called peptides. These peptides are similar to a hormone called ghrelin, which regulates hunger signals and appetite. They send the body these peptide signals that cause us to crave certain foods (1). This explains why we have a nearly uncontrollable desire to eat certain things even if we know they are not good for us. Those microbes want to keep surviving so they send us these overwhelming craving signals (2).
Did you know food cravings could indicate leaky gut? Check to see if the root cause of your symptoms might be leaky gut in this free quiz.
It feels like a physiological need that overrides our good logic.
Harmful microbes will over-populate when fed simple carbs, sugar and processed, packaged foods resulting in blood sugar spikes (insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes), weight gain, bloating, gas, constipation, depression and all sorts of other problems. These particular microbes then send MORE craving signals for those foods. You see, they want to survive! And, the cravings get pretty intense when they want to be feed. This can be a vicious cycle. Ultimately, changing the microbiome is what can permanently change cravings for those things we know aren’t good for us.
But, you can change it!
It takes a conscious effort to override cravings but over time it is possible! But we desperately need more good microbes than bad if we want to feel great, have energy, be in good mood, manage blood sugar, and avoid health problems down the road. Believe it or not, the healthy foods feed the beneficial microbes and junk feeds the harmful microbes. Feeding your gut microbes healthy vegetables is important because it is the amino acids, phytonutrients, and fiber in those veggies that the beneficial microbes turn into information. The body uses that good information to build, repair, detoxify, create communication signals – like cravings, and control all body processes!
Habits like needing a snack when you are watching the television at night or coming home and immediately opening the pantry for a treat can be changed through behavior modification (which is something I help clients do). But, it is ALSO the gut microbes setting a circadian-type rhythm for your eating patterns.
If those microbes are accustomed to getting a treat at a particular time of day, guess what? They are gong to send you those craving signals at that time of day every day? This is often what perpetuates bad habits.
Use these four steps to stop cravings
- Recognize what is happening. Being mindful and aware is half the battle.
- Deciding you are ready to make a change.
- Substitution. Come home and immediately change your clothes or put on your tennis shoes for a walk instead of heading to the pantry. Or, instead of eating a half of a box of crackers, eat a handful of baby carrots for crunch. Chew gum when watching TV instead of mindlessly snacking. Or, give your hands something to work on and keep them busy. Find something you can do instead of the habit you are trying to change.
- Begin shifting the balance of microbes to the healthier side by eating more fruits, vegetables and less processed, boxed and packaged goods. Over time this will calm the cravings. You will be feeding the good microbes and starving out the bad microbes that send craving signals.
Knowing we should eat more vegetables and less junk and doing it are often two different things.
If information were enough, we would all be thin and happy and doing the right things for our bodies. Making behavior changes can be a struggle. If you’ve tried many times and haven’t stuck with it, you are not alone. The majority of people take two steps forward, one step back on a continuous cycle on their path to better health. But, the good news is, health coaches can help you get there faster and maintain your new healthy habits. I help you do those things you know you should do but can’t seem to make happen.
If you want to revamp what you are eating but find it a struggle, I would be happy to talk with you. I offer a free 30-minute call to see how health coaching could help you make some positive changes so you can change your gut and calm those cravings.
If you’re struggling with food cravings that could also be a sign of leaky gut. Check to see if that could be the root cause of your symptoms in this free quiz.