Food Cravings: What Each of Them Mean in Chinese Medicine

31 Jul, 2018

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. Have you ever wondered why you crave all things salty while your friend can’t go without her sweets? The body craves specific tastes when certain organ systems are out of balance.

Cravings are clues! When we’re out of balance, we develop a craving for the flavor that will correct that imbalance.

In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), each of the 5 organ meridians correspond to the 5 flavors of food. For example, the “spleen”/stomach meridian corresponds to sweet, so people with disharmonies in the “spleen” will either crave or have an extreme aversion to sweet foods. This craving signal can be helpful if the person listens to it in moderation and consumes mildly sweet foods such as sweet potatoes or oatmeal with honey. But someone who overindulges in extremely sweet foods such as cake or ice cream risks further damaging the spleen.

Here is a quick breakdown of why you may be drawn to certain foods over others:

So, what to do? Well first, tell your acupuncturist about your cravings as this can help them understand your whole health picture. Secondly, make better food choices when the cravings hit. Small amounts of the flavour can be beneficial, but large amounts damage. If you have salt cravings, snack on salted nuts, wasabi peas, or seaweed crackers. If you crave salt throughout the day, add more seafood to your diet to give your Kidney energy a boost. Of course, the best remedy for being low on energy is to recharge your batteries. Get lots of sleep and try to eliminate some stressors from your daily life. If you crave sweets, snack on some fresh or dried fruit, a spoonful of honey, or bake some pears or apples with honey and cinnamon. Use it as a clue to strengthen your digestive system with acupuncture and herbs.

Contact us for more information or to book an appointment with our acupuncturists.