Deborah K Bates - Blog
Food Cravings and Imbalances in the Body
Food cravings and imbalances in the body's systems
Food cravings are a symptom of imbalance in the body’s homeostasis.
In my book Your Personal Tuning Fork the Endocrine System ... a way to sustainable health, I discuss the role of homeostasis in relation to the body’s systems such as the endocrine glands. For most of us, we cast little thought to our bodies, perhaps only thinking about it when illness or disturbance strikes. Disturbances such as allergies, brain fatigue, dizziness, general aches and pains, headaches, insomnia, lethargy, loss of libido, low self-esteem, mood swings, sugar /salt / carbohydrate cravings, and weight issues interfere with daily life interrupting sustainable health.
What do food cravings say about your endocrine system?
Sugar/salt/carbohydrate cravings can be a symptom of an imbalance in one of the endocrine glands for example:
The pineal gland produces serotonin and melatonin and an imbalance in these levels interferes with the body’s circadian rhythms (day/night cycle) and results in light deprivation disorders such as depression, oversleeping, weight gain, fatigue and sadness. There are many factors that lead to this imbalance including lifestyle and diet. Carbohydrate cravings such as breads and pastas are a symptom of an imbalance in serotonin and melatonin levels. This craving could be the body’s way of saying it needs more nitrogen which is available in high protein foods, nuts and oils.
The hypothalamus sends two hormones, growth hormone (GH) and growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) to the pituitary gland. It also governs the body’s acid/alkaline balance, makes us sweat if it’s hot, keeps us breathing regularly, and controls the part of the nervous system that regulates involuntary muscles. Like the pineal gland, the hypothalamus plays an important role in hunger, thirst, sodium levels and electrolyte balance. A balanced hypothalamus means our system of sodium and electrolyte levels are functioning at their best to regulate weight, hunger and thirst. Imbalance can be evidenced through salt cravings for salty foods such as crisps, salty fish and cheeses, fast foods and excessive thirst. Foods high in chloride and silicon found in fatty fishes, cashews and seeds can help.
The pancreas is an amazing organ and approximately 5 percent of the total pancreatic mass is comprised of endocrine cells. The pancreas has two main functions:  to produce pancreatic endocrine hormones (e.g. insulin and glucagon) which help regulate many aspects of our metabolism, and  to produce pancreatic digestive enzymes. The Glucagon Hormone’s function is to re-convert glycogen stored in the cells and liver into sugar. It is then returned to the bloodstream as an available source of energy, with the purpose of preventing blood sugar levels from getting too low. Another function is to precipitate the break down and stimulate and conversion of protein into sugars. This function is also shared with the adrenal cortex hormones and the pituitary growth hormone. Glucagon also plays an important role in maintaining a salt and fluid balance in our bodies. When we are depleted of sugar and salt due to excessive sweating, from over-exertion for example, glucagon kicks in to re-establish balance. Sugar cravings can be a symptom that the body needs foods naturally containing chromium, sulphur, magnesium, potassium, tryptophan, phosphorus, found in cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries, chicken, beef, oil fishes, eggs, dairy, nuts, fresh fruits, broccoli, grapes cheese, sweet potatoes, spinach.
The adrenals are known as the glands of combat because they respond swiftly to rage, anger, and fear, the adrenal glands are the survival center of the human body — the seat of the flight or fight responses. Situated at the top of both kidneys, the adrenals are triangular and orange-colored the size of Brazil nuts. They regulate adrenalin and react strongly to unhealthy mental and emotional conditions. Each gland consists of a medulla (the center of the gland) and the adrenal cortex.
Adrenal Over-load is the malaise of the 21st century and very much a lifestyle related situation. Because of the many stressful situations encountered every day, the adrenal secretions are subject to depletion or weakening. In a stressed state, our body increases its production of stress hormones (cortisol, cortisone, and adrenaline) to allow us to cope with stress better. In a normal situation, the adrenals defuse stress and restores balance. But if the adrenals are compromised or weakened, the release of stress hormones serves to set up a situation where the body is bombarded with ‘stress hormones’. When this occurs, white blood cell production and function is inhibited, particularly the production of natural killer cells which ward off infection. Rather than being able to release the stress and allow for a natural state of relaxation, the body is pushed into ‘stress mode’ — this is the condition of adrenal overload. Adrenal over-load can occur due to a number of lifestyle factors and there are a number of symptoms and factors associated with adrenal over-load, one symptom is – caffeine and sugar cravings such as a craving for chocolate or caffeine drinks. Essentially the body is seeking a balance in the adrenals and minerals such as magnesium which can be found in nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.
Balancing the body with food and minerals is just one way we can maintain homeostasis. A healthy system and sustainable health thrives in a holistic approach encompassing; lifestyle, nutrition, meditation, exercise and supportive therapies. You can read more about this amazing system of glands, hormones and how they interrelate with the body’s main systems and organs in Your Personal Tuning Fork: The Endocrine System - an easy to read daily reference for every-day solutions to every-day issues.