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What Causes Food Cravings and How to Stop It?

Topic Overview

Craving for favorite food is quite common in every person. This is seen especially in teenagers and young adults. Food craving is associated with liking a particular food product but it does not necessarily mean over eating that food. There have been various studies and interviews conducted which have revealed a lot of information about food cravings [1].

These studies clearly show that people who are into dieting in order to shed some weight are more likely to have food cravings than people who do frequent fasting. The studies also reveal that craving tends to increase for that food which is not made available for an individual [1].

Citing an example, if chicken is not made available for an individual who likes this food for a few days then the chances of him or her craving for it significantly increases. This proves that there are various underlying cognitive and emotional processes that are involved with regard to food cravings. However, the desire to have the favorite food is quite variable and differs from individual to individual [1].

Studies also reveal that food cravings are generally associated with junk foods which are high on saturated fats, salt, and sugar. What exactly goes on within the brain and body that causes people to have food cravings is what has been discussed in the article below and ways to stop food cravings [2].

What Causes Food Cravings and How to Stop It?

What Causes Food Cravings?

Some of the common causes for food cravings are:

Nutritional Deficiencies. An individual who does not have proper intake of vital nutrients in the food is more likely to have food cravings. A low intake of protein tends to lead to cravings for sweet food products like cakes and pastries. Similarly, people who are anemic or have low iron levels in the body tend to crave for ice etc. [2].

Stomach Health. The stomach is an extremely vital organ of the body. This functions by producing various hormones which maintains the overall health of the body. It also plays a role in determining the mood of an individual. The stomach is filled with bacteria both good and bad. As long as good bacteria are dominant then all is well; however, if bad bacteria take over then it increases food cravings [2].

Dehydration. A dehydrated individual is more likely to have food cravings than a normal person. This is because the body comprises mostly of water in the form of blood and fluids which allow the body to function. Dehydration results when an individual consumes less water than is required by the body. A major symptom of dehydration is hunger and this causes food cravings [2].

Hormonal Imbalance. This is yet another important cause for food cravings. The hormones serotonin and leptin are responsible for feelings of hunger and an imbalance in any of these hormones can cause food cravings. This can be commonly seen in females who are pregnant, having their periods, or during menopause as this is time there is significant hormonal balance in a female results in food cravings. In some cases insulin may also cause food cravings for something sweet. This is usually seen in females with polycystic ovarian syndrome [2].

Stress. if an individual is stressed excessively either emotionally or professionally then it may also cause food cravings. Emotional stress like boredom, depression, loss of self-confidence all are triggers for food cravings. This is because conditions like depression results due to low serotonin levels which in turn cause food cravings. However, food cravings as a result of emotional stress do not last long and is relatively temporary [2].

Insomnia. People who do not get enough sleep at night are also prone to food cravings. Studies have revealed that a poor night’s sleep affects the regions of the brain that is responsible for decision making tasks. This then causes the individual to crave for food [2].

How to Stop Food Cravings?

People who have a habit of craving for different types of food despite knowing the adverse effects of it always need something sort of a magic pill which can get rid of the cravings once and for all. There is no medication as such which can get rid of the food cravings but there is a protein produced by the fat cells of the body called leptin which controls the appetite of an individual and facilitates metabolism [3].

When an individual is hungry there are two types of hormones released by the body of which one promotes hunger and the other one suppresses it. As and when the individual eats food the hormone which suppresses hunger dominates. Thus to stop cravings it is essential for higher production of leptin and for enough leptin to reach the brain so that it can tell the individual to stop eating thereby suppressing the food cravings [3].

People who crave on high sugar and fructose foods have a problem with the leptin reaching the brain since these sugars impar the ability of the leptin to reach the brain. This is the reason why even with high levels of leptin such individuals still persist to have food cravings. However, there are some food products which help in curbing food cravings [3].

Among these, the most easily available is omega 3, flaxseed, walnut, and fish oil. These products not only increase leptin production but also help it reach the brain which then curbs the food cravings instantly. Thus eating foods rich in omega 3, flaxseed, fish oil, and nuts is extremely beneficial in stopping food cravings [3].

Another way to stop food cravings is to get plenty of sleep. If an individual has insomnia, then it is best to get checked by a physician to treat it. Once an individual starts getting restful good night’s sleep is essential for increased leptin production and thereby stopping food cravings. The best is to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night to stop food cravings and stay fit [3].


Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 12, 2019

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