Cravings, we all have them from time to time but when they become an everyday occurrence and they begin to get in the way of your health journey maybe it is time to take a step back and see what your body is really telling you. As trivial as it may sound craving salty and/or sweet foods can actually be your bodies way of telling you what is going on inside. For example, your adrenals could be exhausted from prolonged stress, your gut bacteria may be out of balance, or your blood sugar levels could be dropping throughout the day. But how are these things linked with your cravings?
You have two adrenal glands which sit above your kidneys and they play an important role in moderating the release of hormones such as cortisol in response to stressful situations and aldosterone to help balance fluid and mineral excretion. When an individual is exposed to prolonged stressors such as an increased work load at university, over-exercising or emotional stress, it can put a lot of pressure on the adrenals to do their jobs. Over time as the adrenals become more and more tired from pumping out the hormones to help support you through these stressors resulting in symptoms such as lethargy, poor sleep and salt cravings. Why would your adrenals crave salt you ask? That hormone we mentioned before aldosterone that controls your fluid and mineral excretion also become exhausted causing a reduction in aldosterone production. This triggers a decrease in sodium and increase in potassium in the body, therefore your body signals to you to eat salty foods to restore the balance. Crazy huh?
This is an extension of what was mentioned above with the adrenals… if you don’t consume enough water and become dehydrated the ratio between fluid and minerals in your body becomes unbalanced causing your body to crave more salt to draw fluid into the body. Therefore, make sure your drinking at least 2L of water everyday and an extra 1L for every 1 hour of exercise to keep your body hydrated.
SO HOW MUCH SALT IS OKAY?
Salt or sodium is a mineral needed in small amounts to help maintain electrolyte balance in the body with potassium and calcium. When looking at packaged foods try and aim for foods that have less than 120mg of sodium per 100g. In excess, sodium can cause health consequences such as high blood pressure, kidney problems, oedema (fluid retention) and osteoporosis, therefore being mindful of your salt intake is important.
IMBALANCE OF YOUR GUT BACTERIA-
Your gut bacteria are vital for not only your digestive health but your immunity, hormones and even your mental health. Essentially your “good” gut bacteria keep away the bad guys (pathogens, toxins, bacteria) and keeps you healthy, but what happens when you have too many “bad” guys compared to the good ones? Bloating, flatulence, poor immunity and even depression (to name a few). And what’s even worse is that your bad gut bacteria actually thrive off sugar!! So if you’re on the health band wagon but you have skimmed over the “heal my gut part” and are wondering why those sugar cravings won’t leave you alone maybe you should go back a few steps and start on the right foot and kick those sugar cravings to the curb for good.
UNSTABLE BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS-
If you have uncontrolled diabetes, suffer from dizzy spells, get energy slumps during mid-morning and mid-afternoon or crave sugar after dinner it is likely that you may be experiencing imbalances in your blood sugar levels. This can be caused by consuming a lot of sugar at once causing your blood sugar levels to peak and then rapidly drop, or by overdosing on insulin, skipping meals, a lack of protein in your diet and exercising more than usual. This drop in blood sugar levels (also known as hypoglycaemia) can cause you to crave sugar in order to increase your blood sugar levels back to normal. However, if you consume too much sugar or consume it every time you drop into this low period you can create a vicious cycle that involves a peak and then rapid drop continually throughout the day. Ways to combat this vicious cycle is to eat 5-6 small regular meals throughout the day and eating foods that are lower in glycaemic index so the energy is more slow releasing causing a slower increase in your blood sugar levels over time instead of the sharp peak that high sugar foods (lollies, cakes etc) can cause.
SO HOW MUCH SUGAR IS OKAY?
Sugar comes in the form of sucrose (table sugar), lactose (sugar found in dairy) and fructose (sugar found in fruit) which all essentially turn into glucose. The body needs small amounts of glucose (approximately 5-9 teaspoons a day) to support energy production and maintain blood glucose levels. However, in excessive amounts sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes, cancer and metabolic syndrome to name a few. So how much is one teaspoon of sugar you ask? Approximately 4.2 grams of sugar makes up 1 teaspoon, so next time your consuming something from a packet check how many grams of sugar per 100g there is and aim to be mindful of this amount.
So next time your reaching for that chocolate bar or those bag of chips think to yourself do I REALLY want these or is my body trying to tell me something? Can’t work out what your body is trying to tell you… book in for a consult with me and together we can get to the bottom of it!