The Causes of Cravings and How to Take Your Health Back from the Clutches of Processed Food
As the holidays approach us, we tend to eat more sweets and have more food cravings because of the food industry marketing, i.e: pumpkin spice latte. Everyone has their weaknesses and fall season is mine. I love apple and pumpkin anything and there were many times where I could not help my cravings. Five years ago, I decided to make a stand and finally get my cravings under control and take back my health. I lost 60 pounds that year and have not gained the weight back. My sugar cravings and hormones were out of control and I needed to figure out why.
Focusing on controlling these cravings and opting for healthier snacks started to become a daily habit of mine because I knew I had a high risk of diabetes and cancer. I wanted to understand why I was experiencing these cravings and come up with solutions to provide for my patients with healthier and more beneficial options.
The Science of Cravings
I know this sounds crazy, but there is a science behind the consumer’s addiction to eating the whole bag of potato chips or whole box of crackers. Processed foods are engineered down to an exact formula using math, science, regression analysis, and energy to find the perfect amount of salt, sugar and fat in products to ignite our taste buds.
Expressions researchers in the food industry use to define what’s appealing to consumers in terms like mouth feel; maximum bite force; and sensory specific satiety1. In a study funded by Unilever (one of the world’s largest food companies) researchers found that consumers even perceived a potato chip as crisper and fresher simply based on the sound level of the crunch. They determined these consumers are often unaware of the influence of such auditory cues1. Did you know that even the reason behind the round shape of chocolate candies has a purpose? The softer shape is comforting and allows the morsel to melt more evenly on the tongue which triggers the proper taste buds to create a satisfying response in the brain1.
How do they do it? “Salt, sugar and fat are the three pillars of the processed food industry,” Michael Moss, author and investigator of the New York Times said after he spent four years prying open the secrets of the food industry’s scientists. “And while the industry hates the word ‘addiction’ more than any other word, the fact of the matter is, their research has shown them that when they hit the very perfect amounts of each of those ingredients … they will have us buy more, eat more1.”
To mask the bitterness or sourness that the formulations can cause, the food industry uses flavor enhancers. Preservatives are also used to increase shelf life. So, the jumbo box of crackers you purchase will stay fresh for months.
One of the most common flavor enhancers is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). MSG is an excitotoxin, a substance that overexcites cell neurons causing cell damage, and eventually, cell death. These excitotoxins can enter and cause damage to the brain which can lead to abnormal development. When I found out about MSG, I was so upset because I was using products that I thought I could trust with this horrible ingredient. Some companies even hide the word MSG under different names such as hydrolyzed soy protein, yeast extract, or “natural flavors”. It adds flavor to the canned chicken soups and salad dressings used by many American home cooks, as well as the cheese of Goldfish crackers in many of your children’s lunchboxes. Nacho-cheese-flavor Doritos contain five separate forms of glutamate! 2 Imagine what they would taste like without it? These foods, if you want to call them food, are DRUGS.
Bruce Bradley, a former food industry executive says, “We’re not talking about food actually being real anymore. It’s synthetic, completely contrived and created, and there’s so many problems about that because our bodies are tricked and when our bodies are tricked repeatedly dramatic things can happen, like weight gain” or endocrine disruption, diabetes and hypertension1.”
Instead of simply blaming the industry for our food cravings, we need to take a step back and take responsibility for our guilty indulgences and late-night binges. One of the simplest and overlooked problem solvers is exercise. Not only does exercise boost your mood and get you in shape, but it also releases endorphins… the same neurotransmitter that chocolate releases.
Peppers, spicy foods, and protein are also endorphin releasers that help you stay focused, more alert, and can lift a depressed spirit.
Another contributing factor is yeast overgrowth. Candida, a normal part of your natural microflora, is the most common cause of fungal infections worldwide3. Although it may be a contributing factor in some illnesses, it may be the cause of others. However, it almost always accompanies intestinal, immune, degenerative, or toxicity related illnesses. Recovery from Candida overgrowth requires a whole lifestyle healing approach and once it is diagnosed, the very first step is to detect the underlying cause. So, the first question is, how is yeast overgrowth diagnosed?
Testing for Candida Overgrowth
The truth is, everybody has Candida in their bodies and it lives in your mucous membranes. Yeast overgrowth is something of a controversial illness, and many medical professionals have not yet recognized it. There are a few tests that are recognized to determine the levels of possible Candida overgrowth. The culture test is for skin and genital yeast infections where a small skin sample is cultured to determine the presence of yeast, which can be seen under a microscope. In the blood, antibodies can be checked for the likelihood of candida overgrowth. These antibodies are IgG, IgA, and IgM. There are also stool and urine tests that can be performed. If any of these tests are positive for or show a possibility of candida overgrowth, it is important to determine the actual cause. Irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease have all been found to have a significant connection to yeast overgrowth.
Even if you were to perform these tests, the specific treatment will differ per individual. There are underlying causes that must be determined as to WHY there is yeast overgrowth.
Symptoms you may be experiencing:
- White coat on tongue
- Brain fog
- Hormone imbalance
- Joint pain
- Loss of sex drive
- Chronic sinus and allergy issues
- Digestive problems (gas and bloating)
- Weak immune system
We would argue that Candida within itself isn’t the cause of the health problems. It is simply an opportunistic organism that thrives in an unhealthy host and I was an unhealthy host due to all the antibiotic exposure in my childhood. Life factors of today’s modern society can significantly create an environment for Candida overgrowth. These factors such as antibiotic use, hormone replacement therapy, high sugar and carbohydrate diets, nutrient/mineral deficiencies, toxic elements, stress levels, and birth control use coincide with the symptoms of Candida overgrowth that many people experience.
Antibiotic use kills off not only the bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria that are beneficial for our health. In fact, our gut is the first line of defense for our immune system. As intestinal bacteria die, yeast will thrive and grow into large colonies and take over which can cause this contribution towards yeast overgrowth. While antibiotics are often prescribed to treat bacterial infections, they are not effective against viral infections. Viral infections that should not be treated with antibiotics include: Colds, Flu, Most coughs and bronchitis, and sore throat (except Strep throat). It's not just humans that over consume antibiotics. Animals which provide us food (like cattle and pork) are treated with them as well. Today 80% of the antibiotics used in the United States are fed to livestock!4 Always take a probiotic when you are on an antibiotic and even after the round of antibiotic is finished. Other nutrients to consider that boost the body’s immune system are Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Oregano Oil, Zinc, and Lauricidin.
Hormone replacement therapy and birth control pills are widely used today for many different reasons. Low energy, sleep disturbances, mood swings, contraceptives, and weight gain, are just a few examples of why individuals will jump to the conclusion that they have a hormone imbalance. However, any increased use of the hormones estrogen or progesterone can upset the body's natural balance. But did you know that Candida also produces a waste product that mimics estrogen in the body?5 It’s a vicious cycle if you are trying to treat symptoms with hormones and then, in turn, cause the body to send out messages telling your body that you are producing more estrogen than it really is! Estrogen dominance is a whole other topic, but we are all familiar with illnesses that are caused by this hormone such as infertility, irregular bleeding during menses, migraines, fibrocystic breasts, and even some breast cancers.
The Gut – Brain Connection
The gastrointestinal tract is one of the few places that neurotransmitters are made. Neurotransmitters communicate information from our brain to our bodies like telling a muscle to contract or an endocrine gland to secrete hormones. There are many things that effect our body’s ability to produce neurotransmitters and it’s estimated that up to 86% of Americans have suboptimal neurotransmitter levels.6 Stress, poor diet, drugs, and caffeine are just a few of the lifestyle factors that can affect our production. This is important, because if you have inflammation of the gut, or an imbalance of gut flora, other areas of the body will be affected, and your list of symptoms expands. Did you know that 80%-95% of the body's total serotonin is produced and found in the gut?7 Scientists are currently paying more attention to the link that the gut and the brain have and how it affects systemic inflammation. Pro-inflammatory substances from the gut can cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate certain enzymes, which can lead to a depletion of tryptophan.8 Tryptophan is an amino acid precursor to serotonin. Therefore, when treating depression, it is important to understand the link between your mental and digestive health.
Are You One Big Sugar Pill?
Candida cell walls consist of 80% carbohydrates. This means, that in order for the fungus to thrive, it relies on sugars which is what carbohydrates are made of. Carbohydrates are found in all of our fruits, vegetables, and grains. Americans are eating more sugar every day and this sugar is what feeds Candida. As stated in an article published in the Diabetes Journal, Candida becomes more infective in a high glucose environment by producing some protein molecules which bind to our immune cells and do not allow them to be active against Candida.9 With a suppressed immune system a person is more vulnerable to infection and inflammation. Candida doesn’t just thrive off of glucose, it has the ability to utilize many sugars and this ability also allows it to grow in different environments in our body.
Lifestyle Changes to Consider
- A diet lower in sugar and higher in proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables is optimal. Proteins include eggs, chicken, fish, beans, and even steak (if your Iron levels allow). Healthy fats to consume are avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and coconut oil. Limit your fruits to no more than two fruits per day and eliminate fruit juice. Eliminate alcohol, soda, and sport drinks as well. Exclude dairy from the diet the best you can as well. Be sure you read ingredient labels for high fructose corn syrup found in a lot of condiments and pre-packages foods.
- Supplement your diet in areas that need work. You will need to get proper testing done in order to know exactly what you need. Proper testing includes a comprehensive blood analysis to determine where your deficiencies and toxicities lie. Supplements one would most likely consider are: digestive enzymes; Probiotics (Probiotic supplements come in different ranges of bacteria. Soil-based probiotics generally have lower counts but are more resilient and have better survival rate through the gut.); Vitamin C; Vitamin D; Lauricidin; Oregano Oil; and Chlorella.
- Limit your exposure to toxic elements
Are you getting enough sleep? Multiple studies show sleep deprivation leads to food cravings (especially targeting sugar and carbohydrates). This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation negatively affects the production of a hormone called Leptin (a hormone responsible for telling the body when it’s full), making one want to consume more calories than actually needed.
Sugary and caffeinated beverages (such as soda and energy drinks that many depend on for their mid-day “pick me up”) are over-consumed and a non-nutritive food. Basically, you’re spending time filling up your tank with volume that’s incapable of helping your body heal/repair or overcome infections. In fact, consuming those foods reduces your body’s ability to heal/repair and increases inflammation. The two most common ingredients found in energy drinks are sugar and caffeine, both of which provide temporary stimulation but can result in actual long-term energy loss and increased inflammation. Also, the processed sugar in energy drinks and soda overwhelms the pancreas, which over time can lead toward diabetes.
Opt for a glass of iced water with fresh organic lemon squeeze or try and snack on protein sources. Energy-efficient snacks like almonds, a fresh piece of fruit, or even a couple bites of leftover chicken balance high-quality calories with the nutrients needed to convert calories into enduring energy.
These may seem unappetizing to you, but this is exactly what the processed food companies have designed. When you eat their foods containing flavor enhancers, it makes natural foods taste less desirable. Now you’ve got to go through the pain and discipline of retraining your taste buds.
Another reason why you might be craving those sweet and salty foods may be a deficiency of certain minerals. Common deficiencies of magnesium, chromium, iron, zinc or calcium can all contribute to different types of cravings. But how do you know for sure what you’re deficient in?
The best way to find out exactly what you need is to test for it. By getting a comprehensive blood test and tissue mineral analysis, your individualized results can explain what lifestyle habits and deficiencies may be contributing towards the imbalances of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s also important to test because being short on key nutrients can lead to many illnesses and diseases, and in children, a failure to grow to their fullest potential.
Step 1: Starve the yeast by cutting out sugar and yeast-containing foods.
Step 2: Break down and kill the yeast overgrowth with the natural oils mentioned.
Step 3: Repopulate good bacteria with probiotic supplements and probiotic foods. Fermented foods are great for repopulating the gut with good bacteria such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, and coconut water
Step 4: Help the body's natural detox defense with liver cleansing supplements such as milk thistle.
Step 5: Get plenty of sleep and avoid unnecessary stress. (This may be a good time to try some stress reducing techniques such as my deep breathing exercises listed in my book called, “Learning How to Breathe”.)
If you are already facing Candidiasis, we strongly recommend working with a health care practitioner who understands the concept of finding the cause of your health problem and not one that will give you medications or even supplements based upon symptoms. Prevention of illness and optimizing health is key. Comprehensive testing will find weaknesses, deficiencies and even diseases long before you have symptoms. Contact us today via email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to get tested.
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I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! For more information you can go to www.nomoremedsmovement.com and sign up for my closed Facebook group #NoMoreMeds-Community for more healthy tips.
Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.
Dr. Weaver was recently named one of Charlotte Magazine's "Top Doctors" in 2016 and is now a number-one internationally bestselling author to two books: Learning How to Breathe and No More Meds.
Upper Cervical Wellness Center is known for finding the root cause of health concerns through lifestyle changes, diagnostic testing, nutraceutical supplementation, and correction of subluxation (as opposed to just medicating the symptoms). The practice offers cutting-edge technological care at its state-of-the-art facility, including laser-aligned upper cervical X-rays, bioimpedance analysis (measures body composition), digital thermography (locates thermal abnormalities characterized by skin inflammation), and complete nutritional blood analysis, which is focused on disease prevention.