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If you experience cravings, you might feel like the potato chips and chocolate are literally calling you from your kitchen cupboard. You, like most people, may feel like you lack the willpower to resist their call. This battle of wills happens frequently because many of us don’t realize that certain foods can increase appetite and food cravings.
It’s true. There are actual physiological and some emotional reasons you may crave certain foods — and there are solutions for healing your appetite.
For the best cravings-buster, the tart, refreshing taste of a probiotic drink can boost your health and balance your appetite. Next time those cravings hit, reach for probiotic-rich InnergyBiotic and satisfy your cravings healthfully.
Certain foods set you up physically for an increase in appetite and cravings. Examples are:
Physical cravings for foods or additives could be a result of a food allergy (as is often the case with milk, wheat, and gluten) or simply the fact that the food creates a biochemical response that creates a desire for more (as is often the case with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined salt, and MSG). As scientists continue to explore the relationship food has with the body, they are using stronger words to describe the irresistible pull of cravings, like addiction.
Just like any other addictive drug, eating sugary foods can release dopamine to stimulate the reward center in the brain. And like a drug, you can also develop a tolerance to sugary foods — where you need to eat more and more to get the same pleasure response from the body. Brain imaging confirms that fatty and sugary foods create responses in the brain similar to heroin, opium, or morphine use.1 James DiNicolantonio, cardiovascular research scientist at Missouri's St. Luke's Mid-America Heart Institute and author of a recent comprehensive review published in Open Heart, believes that sugar is more dangerous to the heart than salt and can be more addicting than cocaine.2
As Michael Moss explains in his New York Times piece adapted from his 2013 book on the same topic, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, that's exactly why junk food manufacturers are profiting from this multibillion dollar industry — because they're playing into the science of food addiction.3 Moss writes in his book, "The industry's pursuit of allure is extremely sophisticated, and it leaves nothing to chance. Some of the largest companies are now using brain scans to study how we react neurologically to certain foods, especially to sugar. They discovered that the brain lights up for sugar the same way it does for cocaine, and this knowledge is useful, not only in formulating foods. The world's biggest ice cream maker, Unilever, for instance, parlayed its brain research into a brilliant marketing campaign that sells the eating of ice cream as a ‘scientifically proven’ way to make ourselves happy."4
There's an additional (and little known) reason for physical cravings: an imbalance in your inner ecosystem.
An imbalanced inner ecosystem is caused by stress, toxins, drugs, and poor dietary habits, like eating too many processed foods, essentially the basics of our “modern” lifestyle. Many babies are born today with an imbalanced inner ecosystem, which sets the stage for childhood illness and low immunity. In a 2015 study published in the American Society for Microbiology's online open-access journal mBio, researchers confirmed that environmental factors, like length of gestation and mode of delivery, can affect an infant's gut microbiome and even predict body fat later in life.
Among the 75 infants observed, those with a longer gestation and vaginal delivery were quicker to develop a mature inner ecosystem with regulated body fat at 18 months, compared to babies with a shorter gestation and C-section delivery who had more immature gut bacteria and lower body fat as an indicator of poor growth.5 Swedish researchers confirmed that healthy gut bacteria can be passed down from mother to baby during a vaginal birth, while Australian researchers discovered that a pregnant mother can also pass on her junk food addiction to her developing baby.6,7
When your inner ecosystem (your intestines) is balanced, you have plenty of good bacteria and yeast to protect you from pathogens and disease. An out of balance inner ecosystem means that pathogenic bacteria and yeast have taken over. One of the symptoms is cravings. But there are other possible symptoms, from digestive pain to food allergies and even skin problems and fuzzy thinking. These are often symptoms of Candida yeast overgrowth, which affect 70 percent of the population.
Scientists made great strides in solving this gut-cravings puzzle in a 2014 review published in BioEssays. Researchers from the University of New Mexico, Arizona State University, and UC San Francisco put their heads together and concluded that gut microbes can dictate human eating behavior and choices. Researchers say our gut bacteria are "manipulative" and may be responsible for influencing the body to eat certain foods by releasing signaling molecules in the gut, but the relationship goes both ways. We can also influence our inner ecosystem by changing what we eat so that our bacteria begin to crave the right foods. Researchers saw a noticeable effect on the gut microbiome within 24 hours of a diet change.8
Your true appetite is largely rooted in the balance between your digestive tract and nervous system, according to Chinese medicine. Interestingly, these are also the first organs that babies develop in the embryo stage. Since the beginning of our lives, these organs have been sensing our world and fueling our bodies. The Body Ecology program is designed to heal your digestive system and bring your nervous system back into “rest and digest” mode.
When you are in rest and digest mode (parasympathetic nervous system), you are more calm and grounded. This is the mode in which you are able to digest the nutrients in your food. And it’s the mode in which you are in touch physically and emotionally with what your body really needs. This type of "mindful eating" has research to back it — Ohio State University researchers discovered that eating mindfully can be just as effective in reducing weight and blood sugar levels as following a strict diet for type 2 diabetics.9 Paying attention to your eating behavior through the practice of mindfulness can also promote healthier food choices and prevent emotional eating.10
When you are stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight (sympathetic nervous system) mode. In fight-or-flight, your body cannot digest. So no matter what you eat, you are not getting the nutrients you need. Too much of this creates an imbalanced inner ecosystem — perfect for those pathogens to grow.
You can use these Body Ecology tips to start balancing your digestive and nervous systems:
1. Avoid sugar and processed foods - Sugar causes your body to produce more insulin, which then blocks leptin, a hormone that reduces appetite and induces fat burning.11 Processed foods are full of sugar and additives that actually increase your appetite, which can lead you to consume more calories.
2. Include fermented foods and drinks – Consuming fermented foods and drinks is one of the most effective and healthiest ways to reduce or eliminate cravings. Our modern diets are devoid of the sour taste and bringing it back into the diet can help to regulate appetite. More importantly, the microflora (good bacteria and yeast, also called probiotics) in fermented foods and drinks help to balance the inner ecosystem and reduce or eliminate cravings.
Have cultured vegetables with every meal. Drink probiotic liquids whenever a craving strikes. And if you want a sweet-tasting treat that will beat those cravings, try 2 oz. of InnergyBiotic, a probiotic liquid that is the perfect blend of sour and sweet, to satisfy any craving healthfully.
3. Examine your lifestyle – Cravings do have an emotional component as well. Often referred to as “emotional hunger,” it can stem from feeling like something is missing in your life. We tend to replace our unmet needs with food. If we can learn to face our emotions head-on, instead of masking them with food, we will feel stronger and more in tune with ourselves — and our emotions will be less likely to be stuffed inside and into the body.
For example, many people lack “sweetness” in their lives. This can happen when you aren’t doing what you truly want to do in your work or your life. Finding hobbies, work, and relaxing activities that make your heart sing go a long way in reducing stress and calming your mind and body. Researchers have also found Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT, to be a powerful healing tool that combines modern psychology and ancient Chinese wisdom to address emotionally-rooted food cravings. In a 2011 Australian trial, EFT was used to successfully reduce food cravings for up to six months in people who were overweight or obese.12
4. Nourish yourself - In many health communities, this is called the practice of "self-care," which we often view at Body Ecology as "self-nourishment." Just as you would nourish your inner ecosystem with fermented foods and drinks to promote robust gut health, it's important to nourish and care for your body each day to keep your health in balance.
We all know we need to drink more water, exercise more, and get more sleep, but the research paints an even clearer picture. Not caring for your body greatly affects your ability to regulate what you eat and can even lead to stronger cravings. UC Berkeley researchers discovered that sleep deprivation can increase junk food cravings, with a tie-in to risk of obesity.13 Conversely, regular aerobic exercise can help to suppress the appetite by suppressing the brain’s response to food.14 And when a craving hits, it helps to drink a large glass of water first to see if dehydration is the trigger. Many times, the body asks us for sugar when it is actually craving water.
Now that you know what to eat and what to avoid in order to heal your appetite, let’s address one final key point: cellular memory. Your body has a cellular memory of foods you crave, so physically, you may still feel drawn to them.
If you stick to your healthy Body Ecology lifestyle for 4–5 days, you give your body a chance to heal from unwanted cellular memories. It's encouraging to know that by committing to a new lifestyle plan, it is possible to retrain the brain and reverse decades of food addiction.15 On the Body Ecology Diet, your gut lining turns over, your body sheds toxins, and you start to get in touch with the kinds of foods that will truly nourish you. Over time, with a healthy inner ecosystem, the “congestion” that may have been mucking up your intestines clears and, interestingly, a more grounded mind-body connection may appear. You may feel, as we’ve often heard reported from Body Ecology followers, that you are “in touch with your body” like never before.
We should all get enjoyment from our food. A Body Ecology lifestyle can help you get out of the vicious cravings cycle and into the kind of deep satisfaction that comes from within.
Constantly craving unhealthy foods can be frustrating, but it certainly isn't uncommon. You can practice sheer willpower in the battle against junk food, or you can learn how to support your inner ecosystem so that you are naturally satisfied by the foods that nourish you. Eating high fructose corn syrup, sugar, MSG, aspartame, refined salt, pasteurized milk, gluten, and processed foods can increase appetite and the cravings that come with it.
Physical cravings can also stem from an imbalanced inner ecosystem — or a weak gut that is lacking healthy communities of good bacteria. And in some cases, cravings may be related to stress or an "emotional hunger."
Use four helpful Body Ecology tips to naturally reduce cravings and balance digestive health:
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