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There is a common dietary misconception is that if you crave a flavour, food or drink, it must contain a vitamin, mineral or other substance that your body is lacking. We are often told we should listen to our body and eat whatever we crave because it “knows” what we need. The truth is, sometimes your body knows what it needs, and other times it is stuck in a vicious cycle where it craves exactly what is worst for it.
Oriental Medicine has wisdom about diet that could help you understand your cravings.
In Oriental Medicine, craving certain flavours indicates a weakness or imbalance in different systems of your body. Sweet foods relate to the Spleen, or Earth element, which is involved with your digestive system. If you crave sweets often, it’s more than likely you will be suffering from a digestive weakness or imbalance.
In Oriental Medicine, it works two ways: small amounts of sweets can actually strengthen the Spleen (digestion), but overdoses can injure it. Both physical and mental digestion are affected. When the earth element is weakened, the appetite decreases, digestion is hindered (there may be tiredness or bloating after eating), sweets are craved, the stool becomes loose, we feel heavy in our body, there is a tendency toward worry and over-thinking, and fatigue sets in.
When we eat too much sugar, it tends to damage the Spleen, which leads us to crave more sugar, which in turn leads to more damage to the Spleen. It’s a rather nasty cycle!
In this case, we use herbs such as cinnamon and licorice, with their “sweet” nature to strengthen the digestive system. However, eating small amounts of foods we in the West consider sweet (such as refined sugar, chocolate and ice-cream), does not substitute the same therapeutic value.
The Solution? Talk to your Practitioner about your cravings. You may receive acupuncture to strengthen your Spleen, or you may get a personalized herbal formula for your imbalance. Under their guidance, it may also be necessary to change certain aspects of your diet.
In the meantime, try these tips:
- Stop eating sugar cold-turkey. This is one case where trying to wean yourself off won’t work.
- Get rid of all the “bad” sugars in the house (soft-drinks, chocolate, pastries, cakes, biscuits, sugared cereals, ice cream). If it’s not there, it can’t tempt you.
- Eat fruit instead, if you really have to. While fruit is still high in sugar, it doesn’t affect the Spleen as much as processed sugar does.
- If the cravings are still getting to you, mix a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in a glass of water and drink it down. It’ll take about 10 minutes to take effect.
- Know what you’re going up against. The strong sugar cravings will likely last anywhere from a week to two weeks. Many people aren’t aware of the addictive qualities of sugar and don’t realize that it will take that long.
- Notice the positive changes that happen in your body and use these as motivation. Is your thinking clearer? Are you less “foggy” in the head? Are your sinuses clearer? Do you feel lighter?
- Drink about 2 litres of water daily. Coffee, tea and energy drinks can actually trigger sugar cravings, so be careful with your consumption of other beverages.