Are you dealing with unrelenting food cravings or food addiction? Not sure where to start to reset your relationship with food? Want to get to the bottom of the physiological and emotional drivers for your cravings? Tune in to hear Ali and Becki discuss the root causes for food cravings from neurotransmitter imbalance to micronutrient deficiency and the role of stress.
In this Episode, Ali and Becki drill into the physical and emotional reasons for food cravings and food addiction. Imbalanced neurotransmitters like dopamine or glutamate can actually drive addictive behavior and cravings for specific foods, while deficiencies in magnesium or essential fatty acids might be the culprit for others. Still others might be dealing with sleep deprivation, chronic stress or imbalanced gut bacteria or hormones as the achilles heel for their cravings. If you’ve ever felt out of control with your food cravings, this episode is jam-packed with practical solutions, suggestions for lab testing and supplements to get you back in control of your body and redefine your relationship with food for good!
Also In This Episode:
- Micronutrient Deficiency
- Bacteria, Yeast and Sugar Cravings
- Ketosis as a Way to Reset Cravings
- Real Food Recipes to Curb Cravings
Naturally Nourished Cookbook (use code HOLIDAY20 for 20% off through January 2)
Welcome to the Naturally Nourished podcast, that delivers cutting edge food as medicine solutions for optimum health. Ali Miller is a nutrition expert sought out by the media and America’s top medical institutes for her revolutionary functional medicine interventions. From disease treatment to prevention, every episode will empower you with ways to put yourself back in control of your health. Please note, the topics discussed are for educational purposes only. Now welcome integrative dietitians Ali Miller and her co-host Becki Yoo.
B: Welcome everyone to the Naturally Nourished podcast this is episode 61, this is Becki here with Ali.
B: Hey everyone!
A: And today we are talking all about cravings and food addiction. So this topic is really timely with Thanksgiving just a week behind us at least 3 more plus weeks of holidays celebrations before the New Year and I think this time of year can really become a slippery slope for many we see clinically, weight gains of 10-15 pounds during the holiday season, increased availability of those less than healthy foods lots of sugar.
B: Absolutely. A lot of temptation that has some of us feeling that we’re running up a downhill escalator of willpower so hopefully today we’re going to talk about the biomechanics of how to curb your cravings, why cravings occur, and of course as always some food is medicine solutions to get you above water and cruising with that escalator rather than battling it.
B: Awesome so before we jump in let’s get your updates, Ali.
A: Let’s see things are kind of rocking over here I had an awesome Thanksgiving and it was pretty successful as far as navigating foods and such and I’m just getting off of a 5 day intermittent fasting span which is a little longer than I typically do but I just wanted my own kind of reharnessing and reset and it’s been really nice to be back in control of my food anytime I’m at an in-law’s house or family member’s you know you do what you can you bring your snacks and then sometimes you know, you have to oblige to what’s offered and nod and smile and choose the lesser evil and I’m just really excited to be back on track in my own household. How about you, Becki, how’d you do?
B: Awesome. Did great also with the in-laws and I had a little bit of control around what was actually served on the table so I did some healthier versions of kind of the classics and nobody really noticed the difference.
A: And all things Kimchi with your Korean family?
A: Yes so your body is rocking.
B: Yes exactly.
A: So everything at the Naturally Nourished clinic has been pretty full speed ahead we’re getting locked through the month of January and into my,my clinical schedule is packed into February and spaces in our Virtual Ketosis Program are filling up we have, as of now, about 50 remaining spots so make sure that you guys plug in and it’s under Books and Programs go to AliMillerRD.com Books and Programs tab and Ketosis class tab where you can read all about it, there is a bundle that offers our Eat Fat Get Skinny E-book and our ketogenic kickstart e-book which talk more about the mechanics the Eat Fat Get Skinny is 50+ recipes and if you purchase that bundle you can get started and really wrap your mind around what you’re getting into and then the program launches the second week in January and Becki and I will be doing live classes. Those classes will be recorded so you can re-watch them, or if you miss a live one you can watch them, you also get access to our private Facebook group and every class, which is every other week, you’re going to get new materials to help to customize your programs to get successful outcomes.
B: Awesome and then just to quick reminder everyone before we jump in to follow us on social media. So we’re on Facebook and Instagram it’s @Alimillerrd and this’ll help you to stay up on what we’re up to in between podcasts episodes.
A: Absolutely. Always posting recipes, things we’re doing as far as navigating dining out, success stories which we’ll be doing a lot more heading into December as we push for our Ketosis program but we’ve seen some awesome engagement and we’ve had some members already a weight loss of over 30 pounds in the 12 week program, clearer skin, improved energy levels, we’ve seen improvements in fertility in some of our clients that have been dealing with PCOS so really awesome shifts and even things down to the level of autoimmune disease and inflammation seeing significant improved outcomes so we hope you’ll join us in the January program and yes. Connecting on Instagram is a great way to stay engaged.
B: And Keto really is just an amazing to just completely reset your relationship with food, break up with some of those foods that are the more cravable or cause that downwards spiral and we’ll talk later in the episode about how and why this works but first, Ali, I want to jump in with why cravings happen in the first place, what’s actually happening in the brain and in the body when we experience a food craving.
A: Ok so actually the number 1 substance of abuse in our country is food. And you know, there’s a lot of trends we’re seeing with alcohol abuse or drug abuse or especially now the big opioid crisis and addiction but beyond that, when we’re looking at true incidence of influencing our health and our life expectancy, we’re seeing that for the first time ever a higher perpendency towards type 2 diabetes in children, and that children are supposed to not outlive the life expectancy of their parents and this is the first time in decades that we’re seeing this and it all ties back tour obesity epidemic and that really does tie into addictive behaviors and using or seeking foods as a reward mechanism or as an antidepressant or an antianxiety. So we’re really seeing as far as research supports, over 70 million food addictive adults in the country and like I said that influence obesity, it has a huge influence on our healthcare, and unfortunately the food industry and pharmaceutical industry are very in bed together. There’s a lot of corporate tie-ins and financial tie-ins where the food industry actually uses what’s called a Craveability factor and they drive their processed foods to have more what are called excito-toxins or compounds that intensify the taste and feeling as well as patterns in the brain like dopamine and such that fallow food consumption and drive addictive tendencies.
So this craveability factor that’s actually marketed studied, and researched, and being served to our children and our households is really, it’s disheartening when we’re thinking about foods that are in our grocery stores and foods that are served to us to be deemed as safe we know otherwise when we’ve talked to you guys in episodes on detox and such, that there is this term “grass” or generally recognized as safe” in the food industry and taking that a step further beyond chemical additivities and processed compounds knowing that the food scientists are working with are craving patterns in the brain is it’s just relay remarkable and something that I like to know to use to empower ourselves to get back to real foods So, you know, taking this a step forward to ad research study to this, there was a rat study by a neuroscience professor and he used Oreos as the substrate and found that they were as addictive as cocaine based on the neurological activity in the pleasure center of the brain and that actually outlived the exposure to the drugs of abuse so there actually have been clinical studies done on foods and typically this comes back to also the hippocampus of the brain which ties in emotional response and so there’s a lot of both association, there’s a chemical compound like the cytotoxins, and the combination of fat, sugar, and salt which keep our dopamine levels elevated but then there’s also the hippocampus element of memory nostalgia and often is the brain where we file our food and our love, there’s some kind of cross contamination or double dipping where the brain associated love with food memory and memory food with love, and we have that emotional tie that is stronger than association it’s actually something that creates this physiologic response and that’s what creates this vicious cycles.
B: So ok so you mentioned dopamine, let’s talk about to the neurotransmitters that can be imbalanced and can play a role in cravings and then also how we can look at this and assess this.
A: Yes so I would highlight 3 primary neurotransmitters for cravings. There’s many and you know we could even consider something like serotonin chi is the big natural antianxiety and antidepressant but the 3 that I would highlight glutamate, dopamine, and then I would also highlight GABA. So glutamate first, is associated with addictive tendencies and actually has been shown and research they use this at a lot of outpatient and actually inpatient treatment centers for alcoholism and drug abuse. And they’ll actually use L-glutamine sublingually or under the tongue in a 3-5 g dosage which is 3000 -5000 mg. So generally speaking, if it’s pure L-glutamine or we have a product called GI Lining Powder . Our GI lining powder each scoop, which is of a 1 teaspoon has 3500 mg so that would be a 3.5 gram dosages. And I like using the GI lining powder as an option with clients because it does have vanilla in there so even further helps with sugar cravings and it has a really nice flavor profile with a little bit of the DGL or diglycerides licorice so the licorice root also contributes a little bit of sweetness and that can really help for an intense sugar craving. When you put that scoop under your tongue, it’s going to have a pretty immediate impact within about 10 minutes or so and L-glutamine is going to help to convert to glutamate and glutamate is going to satiate those behaviors that are associated with significant craving and addiction. It also can help to reduce anxiety and brain fog.
So it can help with concentration and focus, it can help to stabilize anxiousness or anxiety flairs or peaks, and that’s often also what continues to perpetuate or drive a craving. So glutamate deficiency is a big one and then food forms for L-glutamine if you, like I said, you could start with the GI Lining Powder as baseline I like to recommend using the GI lining powder at ben because that’s going to have the best influence on our gut lining. So glutamine is also a fuel source for our enterocytes or our gut cells and it helps to line the gut which is why it’s called GI lining and so it percent leaky gut or helps to repair leaky gut if you’re doing an elimination diet or an inflammatory food panel protocol, it’s an essential element to repairing your gut and even if you’re eliminating inflammatory foods, using that L-glutamine will help to kind of seal the tank and help to prevent further food sensitivities.
So it can help on that level on reducing inflammation but when taken sublingually of directly under the tongue, it can help more immediate in the cravings So taking it as a base line a t bed will help to make sure you’re not depleted or deficient in L-glutamine and that would be a great mechanisms or way to use it and then you may even consider to put a couple amounts in small baggies to have as needed especially during holiday times of stress because stress depletes your glutamine more. So it’s a vicious cycle, if you will. So that’s one to consider. Another one we would look at that I’ve mentioned already is dopamine. So dopamine is an excitatory neurotransmitters as is glutamine and so the dopamine is actually manufactured in the medulla of the adrenal gland and so this is what at we think of as our bliss center in the brain, it is really associated with cravings and addictive tendencies or reward seeking. So when it gets low, wet ten to look for more external reward response and it’s actually even metabolized on a day to day basis at different demands so this is where I talk about where I was a good girl now what do I get syndrome.
If you had d really long day at work, and you arrive home and you’re immediate response without even mental processing is to open the pantry or to crack open a beer or pour yourself a glass of wine or to go write for the crunchy, salty chip or try to scoop into that ice cream tub at the end of the night when you get your kids down, that is that look for external response to get the dopamine stores up and if you’ve ever experience thee quote on quote food coma that’s generally when the dopamine is on high in the brain when you’re kind of in that numbed sensation. And so again, dopamine gets depleted from stress demand so one way to get ahead of the curve is to ensure that your adrenals are supported throughout the day. So you could consider an this could be multifactorial because if you’re supporting your adrenals you’re also going to support your body’s energy response, you’re also going to support your body’s metabolism, the whole connections of how the adrenals regulate inflammation and sleep and all you, you know, it’s a definite control center for the body, the adrenal gland and so maybe considering our adrenal support bundle which has the adrenal support tablets, which has actual glandular compound the adrenal gland along with B6 and an activated from, that’s going to work as a cofactor to support our neurotransmitters and the adrenal support tablet is going to give us that glandular rto rebound that adrenal glands. It also has our adaptogen boost so adaptogen boost is going to provide us cordyceps and other adaptogenic herbs which help us to be resilient to stress response without digging into the adrenals so they prevent adrenal fatigue and they’re very helpful for stressed induced fatigue and then the third element in there is our Clam and Clear.
And Calm and Clear is a great formula for both stressed and wired or stressed and tired because it has a combination of adaptogenic herbs including other formulations like oswaganda, and basically again, adaptogens help us to adapt to high stress demand without getting depleted in the adrenal gland but then the Calm and Clear also has something called nervines and nervines help us to reduce the excitatory stress output so it’s both calmative and rebound formula in that clam n clear. It also has L-threonine in there and L-threonine helps us to boost our alpha waves of the brain, that help with concentration and focus. So during times of peak stress, you could work with that entire adrenal support bundle but specifically to bring up the dopamine, would be the adrenal support tablet in there because that’s going to have the most direct effect on supporting the adrenal gland and the manufacturing of dopamine norepinephrine, and epinephrine, or those excitatory neurotransmitters that are made in the adrenal gland. So another thing that you can consider for dopamine, especially see that clinically in an assessment, would be L-tyrosine.
So L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps in the production as a precursor or a building block to produce dopamine. So sometimes if people are dealing with significantly low dopamine, and were working the adrenals we may also have them take L-tyrosine at like 4 or 5pm so when they arrive home, they actually have a peak of dopamine output rather than having that low of dopamine and kind of battling those sever cravings.
B: Awesome so that sounds like a couple of really great ways to kind of get ahead of these cravings and prevent that 5pm go into the pantry or go into the fridge.
A: Yeah or 9pm.
A: And then the third one that we would be looking at is GABA. So both dopamine and glutamine or glutamate are excitatory and our gaba is something that’s called an inhibitory neurotransmitter so this is one that when low, can drive more excitatory response, more anxiety, things like insomnia, worry, restlessness, and when gaba is too low, that can drive a difficulty with impulse control. So when GABA is low we get more of that white knuckle response to stress, that just intensity almost out of body like incredible hulk imbalance and so gaba really helps to neurologically relax the system. And so the best formula there are our GABA Calm Chews. These can be taken acutely as needed, again, they help to take that white knuckle effect they’re non sedative so you can take them before public speaking, you can take them before flying, it just takes the edge off. Really good for also a transitional formula if you’ve have a long day at the office and you have to transition to super parent and you want to be present for your children or present for your spouse or partner, right? And you don’t want to have that tracing anticipatory stress from that day and kind of recalibrate GABA really helps there. And like I said it helps specifically with cravings, because impulsivity is reduced. So that threshold of screw it” is greatly reduce and they’re back into a present mindscape and also we feel less overall anxious and there’s often that phrase that “ food is the most over abused anti anxiety” where exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant, so you know, this really helps to reduce the anxiety which helps the impulse control which helps with more of an even keeled approach with our diet.
B: Awesome. And then beyond neurotransmitters and all of this brain chemistry which I’m sure you could go on and on about , let’s talk about micronutrient deficiency as a driver.
A: Oh and before I do that just real quick, I know we’ve talked about it on a couple of episodes, but I just want to kind of let you know that so I said, you know, of these 4 meals that I recommended, the Adrenal Support Bundle, Calm and Clear, GABA Calm, these are all ok to be used without advanced testing, on the lower dosage of the spectrum and calm n clear is a safe formula because it’s a both banks of the river. But if you’re using gaba calm chews daily and more than 2-4 chews on a daily basis, for more than a 90 day period of time or 3 months, same thing with the adrenal support if you’re using that adrenal support tablet daily and more than 2 tablets per day, we definitely recommend assessing your neurotransmitters and your adrenals because you can overshoot or undershoot and you don’t want to just shoot in the dark.
I always like information and data and so we will put a link in our show notes on our neuro-hormone panel. Doing the comprehensive panel will look at your sexual hormone as well, so things like progesterone and estrogen balance and testosterone levels as well as your cortisol and DHEA. And then there’s all of your neurotransmitters as discussed. So the GABA and serotonin as well as the dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, glutamine, glutamate and so that will allow us to have a better understanding of what your baseline is, and how to be strategic for your body in its production versus just symptom assessment as the main driver. But again, all of these things will be safe within the recommended dosage for up to a 90 day period of time taking daily and the calm n clear could even exceed that because it does not drive one particular pathology or doesn’t drive one particular biochemical pathway in the body. It’s more comprehensive and balancing.
B: Yes and that data is so important because, you know, even with deficiency or access of some of the neurotransmitters, the symptoms can actually be the same. So we wouldn’t know you know, just based on symptoms of anxiety, or food cravings, per say.
A: And that same thing goes for anyone that’s taking SSRI or an SSRNI if you’re taking a medication that’s influencing your serotonin or norepinephrine, I absolutely recommend monitoring because we can go into selective serotonin excessive syndrome, and we can also have deficiencies where the medications aren’t working so any times when we’re addressing brain chemistry, biannual twice a year it’s good to access how your body’s responding to what you’re taking.
B: Awesome. Ok now can we talk about some micronutrients?
A: Yes, so micronutrients are a whole another world and you know, I alluded to the connection because we talked about the adrenal support tablet ash B6 so there are nutrients also that play a role on our neurotransmitters and there’s definitely a chicken and egg connection and so the first micronutrient supporter that I would start with if you’re dealing with cravings is protein. Are you getting enough protein because protein is composed of amino acids and amino acids are what produce as building blocks, our neurotransmitters so all of our brain chemicals are made from building blocks of protein, you know, so this is what’s going to relay help to ensure we have all of our tools or our building blocks again for mood stability and for managing anxiety and for managing cravings and reward seeking behavior and healthy stress response. So, generally speaking on a typical diet we’re looking at about 80 g of protein a day on average and so this is going to look at a biological level of 11-12 ounces because each ounce of protein, and this is ounces by weight, each ounce of protein by weight has about 7 biological grams of protein.
So that would mean, again, if you’re eating a 5 ounce grassfed burger patty, 5 times 7 you’re getting 35 ounces of protein. 35 grams I’m so sorry. If you’re getting 5 ounce grassfed burger patty 5*7 = 35 grams of protein and again, you need 80 grams a day. So 11-12 ounces is going to provide us at 80 grams a day so also if you’re doing scoop of my grassfed naturally nourished protein powder in a shake or a smoothie that’s going to contribute 24 grams on that 35, right? So now we’re dancing close to our 60, and that would allow us another 2-3 ounces needed in a biological protein so that could be doing 2-3 eggs at breakfast, and that would be our layout for the day. And protein deficiency other things beyond cravings that we would see, could be fatigue, we can see muscle aches, we can see reduced metabolism or muscle wasting especially if you’re doing a body composition scan.
If you are an active weight loss it is important to support our muscle mass and if you’re in a ketogenic diet where your body is converted to using only fat as fuel, you can reduce your protein a little bit because the body is using fat, and not using the insulin response and so it’s not going to be as prone to muscle wasting it’ll actually be in muscle preservation mode. But generally speaking, that 80 grams is a good recommendation and other symptoms beyond cravings would be yes, fatigue, muscle aches, and a reduction in our metabolic function.
B: Awesome and then beyond protein, let’s talk about a couple of the big ones that can drive food craving. So how about magnesium?
A: Yes so magnesium is a big one as well. Magnesium can play a role in blood sugar stability, stability in blood sugar and blood sugar balance. When else we can see also things like constipation, we can see it being depleted from stress. Stress metabolized increased amounts of magnesium because it’s used for 10s of different enzymes in the body, and we can also see muscle tension with magnesium and things like insomnia. So I’m sure that rings a bell to a couple of us. The best form of a supplemental level is a glycine or glycinate form of magnesium it’s the most bioavailable and this is going to be more of a neuromuscular relaxer so our product relax and regulate has the magnesium bisglycinate in there, and that is focused on relaxation in a neuromuscular levels so, again, that tension in the shoulders, areas where we have tightness in the back, and also regulation as far as bowel motility because it actually helps with the peristalsis or the pumping of the GI tract that is that involuntary movement and when we’re stressed, we tend to get a little bit of paralysis in there so this form of magnesium is not like the milk of magnesia or magnesium that would be more of a laxative, that would be more in the magnesium citrate form.
The magnesium glycerate is going to be more of the smooth muscle and this is more bioavailable and this is the one that would help with cravings as well. Food forms for magnesium would be leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and my favorite recommendation is cacao or 100% of cocoa powder so we can so many different fun recipes on the blog that can support you with taming sugar cravings while getting the cacao. We just did an almond butter cacao cup, we have our Chocolate Avocado Mousse which is in the Naturally Nourished Cookbook, we have many protein shakes that you can do with the cacao and so that would be a great way to get a 2 for 1 with getting the magnesium and your protein up to the ideal range. And this is also why we associate during our time of our cycle women are very intuitive and that need for chocolate, right? Because that can actually help with the cramping and the pain.
B: And I love that so it’s actually our body telling us that we need that chocolate.
A: Yes that’s a prescription. Cash it in.
B: I will take it.
A: Yes. So another mineral of focus we could consider for cravings would be zinc. So zinc deficiency beyond cravings we can see things like hair loss of hair thinning, we often tie biotin and that’s the one that’s more marketed for but zinc has s huge role as well. We can see estrogen dominance when zinc is depleted in the body. We can see vitamin A deficiency, and that can also influence our vision especially night vision, when we’re getting dusk and the daylight is shifting and getting a little bit of a issues with vision. Or night blindness, it’s called. We can also see immune dysfunction and delayed wound healing when zinc is low so it can play a huge role with ulcerations along the GI tract internally as well as scarring and wound healing externally and then overall immune cellular function which can help with things like prevention of cold and flu so if you’re someone who get sick often, that’s another of like zinc deficiency.
But on a craving level, it’s definitely a mineral that we associate as when lower have increased cravings and things that we can bring in for zinc would be red meat, so our bison, our grassfed beef, and even the salmon which is going to have a little more of that red pigmentation is all going to helpful for our zinc. Oyster s re a great form of zinc as well. And we get good mono zinc in our calamari and also in pumpkin seeds so I am working on – we talked about in our anxiety episode, which was a couple back pyroluria and how that as a combination of chronic zinc and B6 deficiency and the pyroluria is something that can be repleted with bringing your zinc up so zinc definitely has a connection with anxiety and that’s one of the mechanisms in which that it can drive cravings.
B: Awesome and then you talked about B6 but what about other vitamins, B vitamins and how they play a role with stress?
A: Totally so, like, B’s across the board and I also mentioned Biotin, right, where we can see the hair thinning but also depression associated with biotin deficiency especially when more severe, significant influence on a neurological level as well like neuropathy, tingling sensation, that also can be seen with B12 and so there’s definitely an overarching influence of all of our B2 including folic acid and the form of methyl folate when folic acid gets low, we can often see tendencies towards anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and a whole gambit of other dysfunction in the body. And so I mentioned neuropathy constipation, those mood disturbances, insomnia, and, yes, stress depleted B vitamins because it uses those on higher demand we over methylate and stress so we’re driving deficiency of zinc and B1. We’re also going to be using more of that B6 as I mentioned like a neurotransmitter converter, if you will. So metabolism and energy are big pieces of the puzzle and stress drives depletion.
Our best bioavailable form of B vitamins is in biological forms of animal proteins, so animal protein products are going to be great egg yolks are a great nourishing form, liver is one of the best forms, and we have a great liver pate on the blog if you’re not open to eating liver, and hopefully if you guys did the full thanksgiving turkey, you incorporated your giblets or organs in your gravy, or you incorporated them into a stuffing or you could save them and put them into your broth or into your pate, but great nourishing form of the most bioactive forms of your B vitamins and you can also try, we have, recipe for liver pills made with raw liver but if you’re a little squeamish or are having difficulty sourcing you definitely want grassfed only and pasteurized because you don’t want to have a toxic gland if you’re consuming the gland as a focus of nourishment. But the vital proteins product, the liver pills that we have on our website, could be something you could take as a whole food form as a capsule and that’s going to be a great form of your B vitamins like things like choline which really supports liver function and methylation which can, again, be deleted under stress.
B: My family is always really squeamish during the turkey neck and organs into her gravy.
B: Like, you won’t even notice it.
A: I know, like “step away, step away from my kitchen.”
B: Alright and then this last one, I wouldn’t necessarily of this as driving cravings let’s talk about how essential fatty acid deficiency can play a role.
A: Yeah so essential fats, I mean, fat is the preferred fuel of the brain and we’ll get into this in a moment when we talk about further into ketosis, but you know, the brain is composed predominantly of fat, we know that neurotransmitter function is optimize when there is ample fat I the diet, in fact, essential fatty acid supplementation is really key to neurological advancement especially if there was cognitive decline or things like depression or anxiety so omega-3 fatty acids are really key in managing cravings, and getting ample fat in the diet period so from all of our fats included our oleic acid and our avocado, our olive oil, all of the different forms of whole food forms from our nuts and seeds and whole foods so wild fish would be a great form of our omega 3s egg yolks would be a great form of even those omega 3s if they’re from pastured chickens and then, yes, eating olives, nuts and seeds, nut butters, even high fat dairy full fat dairy, grassfed butter coconut oil, coconut meat, coconut milk, all these would be great ways to tonify the brain and that in turn is going to help with management of cravings and other symptoms of essential fatty acid deficiency can be seen with cardiovascular health, inflammation, we can also see dry skin or dermatological conditions and memory loss and brain fog all being driven again because the brain functions best when it is nourished with essential fats.
B: Awesome so really these cravings can be a way of our body telling us that we need more of something or that we’re deficient in one of the nutrients, but there’s this other side of it that I know we talk about all the time that if you’re craving a specific food or a specific type of food, like crunchy salty that might need to be I don’t know if we can use micronutrient deficiency as the excuse for everything.
A: Right, right so there is always a potential that we’re getting maybe severe iron deficiency and that cause that crunching, salting thing and there’s things to listen to and look at trends but it’s specific to a food like “I’m craving pizza” or “I’m craving ice cream,” this is often something that I say “ think of your food craving and is it above or below the neck. So above the neck and food specific or versus categorically specific is a big difference and so if we’re craving a chocolate shake from fill-in the blank fast food restaurant or even not fast food restaurant then maybe that is more of an emotional craving, it’s food specific if we are just craving chocolate in any form and we’re comfortable of doing that in more of a nourishing delivery then it might be more intuitive so if it’s very specific and if you think of a replacement that is in a similar category and nutritional level and it doesn’t’ seem to satiate then that’s an emotional craving and another example of that would be if we are let’s say craving pizza, right? And we say “ok well I’m going to see how I would feel, especially in our keto group, we talk about channeling savory, and so I’m going to have 5 parm crisps because that’s going to satiate that salty element, it’s going to give me some salt that could be an adrenal thing, it’s going to give me some of that athtyromine and aging amino acid compound from the cheese, it’s going to give me that tactile element of the crunch, right?”
And if that’s not going to satiate it and I just want that gummy doughy bread stuff then that’s probably more of an emotional craving, right? So thinking about how you can channel and understand your cravings and work with your body with nourishing alternative is a great approach and also checking at timestamp, did I just eat – is this a craving that’s behavioral like within 30 minutes after a meal, I always want something sweet? Then that is more of an emotional sweet and we can work with other alternative behaviors like after the meal, we do a hunger satiety scale, we rank our satiation of how satisfied we are on a physiological response, right? So my belly feels satiated, I’m not bloated or distended, I did not over consume but I feel that I’ve eaten to the point of comfort, I know that I’ve had ample fat, protein, nonstarchy vegetables, so for that 30 minute window I’m going to go for a walk and listen to a podcast or I’m going to do a different pleasure reward bliss behavior like lighting a candle, or I’m going to take a bath or I’m going to do something else that focused on self-care like, file my nails you know something that honors my body maybe would be something that could be done.
We might practice something like oil pulling at that time which is great for our microbiome and our oral health, but also a great distracting element and kind of cleanses the palette and if that precipitates or extends beyond that 30 minutes, then going for what I recommend in my keto group is going for just pure coconut oil for those times, just having a tablespoon of coconut oil give your body pure fat and allow that to hit the brain to again manage that craving receptors and that should do the trick and then dealing with the emotional elements and other mechanisms that’s going be the best way to create a redefinition of food as fuel, as nourishment without being a crutch that creates a hindrance of your successful outcomes for full body health.
B: Awesome so I think that’s super important to contextualize and distinguish these cravings.
A: Yeah and so water can help to honestly, drinking water I don’t like to drink a lot of water during your meal times because that can dilute you digestive enzymes, but once you segregate 30-40 minutes after food, that’s when you can really start to get your water in and so making sure you’re getting in that 75 fluid ounces a day because often our brain confuses thirst signals with hunger.
B: That’s really important to throw in there as well. So let’s shift gears a little bit and talk about the role of stress and beyond that, maybe more so the role of poor sleep because that in itself is a stressor on the body and can drive cravings for certain foods or even diminish our willpower.
A: Yes so sleep is huge and it is- it’s multifactorial because when we’re fatigued, so I mean first and foremost low quality sleep leads to low energy and so we’re often going for those quick, responsive foods like carbs and sugars which are going to give us that peak of that glucose to kind of wake us up or give us that surge of energy if you will but as we’ve discussed you guys just as rapidly as that mountain peaks, we hit the valley response and another crash and that’ what creates that viscous cycle of the mountain and valley. Dysglycemia and blood sugar are in balance excess insulin response, inflammation and all of the yuck that goes with a high carbohydrate diet so definitely if we are fatigued we’re going to be seeking for those external drivers of getting our energy up and that could also be caffeine which could then drive poor sleep quality and that’s another viscous cycle, right?
So we want to recognize that when we’re fatigued and have low quality sleep that can play an influence. And then there actually are changes that we can see on like MRI brain imaging there was actually out of UC Berkeley where they looked at the brains of 23 adults after a normal night’s sleep and then after a sleepless night or disrupted night’s sleep and they found impaired activity in the brain’s frontal lobe and that’s the part of the brain that governs our complex decision making and also they saw increased activity in the deeper centers that tie to reward mechanism so there was less cognitive function and complex brain activity but yet, increased activity in the reward mechanisms and the cravings so they actually found on a behavioral level that the participants level that had interrupted sleep favored unhealthy snacks and junk foods more on the nights that they were sleep deprived, or on the days following their sleep deprived nights.
So that’s a huge piece and seen on brain imaging. And then we even know taking that a step further, that there is an influence with leptin. So leptin is one of those compounds that plays a role with satiety. It works inversely with ghrelin which is a reward seeking mechanism and leptin levels are rest when we balance out our carbohydrate intake so we just get like insulin resistance, we get leptin resistance com high carbohydrate diets but we see that with improved sleep patterns, getting more REM cycles in our evening sleep that we get a good balanced output of leptin and that helps with satiation or satiety, or reduced cravings throughout the day. And then the fourth mechanism of why sleep is important is that our REM cycle boosts our metabolism, you know? So you’re actually burning more calories more efficiently when you’re sleeping deeper than when you’re not.
B: Awesome and I think it’s so important for listeners to hear the multifactorial element of cravings can be because it’s you know it’s not just willpower it’s not just – something’s wrong with your willpower it could be, you know, a multitude of other things.
A: And sometimes you know there are lifestyle elements like meditation, deep breathing, practice sleep hygiene, but I definitely recommend that if you’re dealing with insomnia or interrupted sleep, start you guys with the Calm and Clear because that can really, really help give yourself a tool to get out of the water and then you can use your lifestyle elements to maintain in cruise control and reduce the amount you need, but often if you’re dealing with insomnia I recommend taking that as a 1:1:2 of 3 at bed through the day so that you’re getting that L-threonine to help rewire the brain waves, you’re getting the velarian roots to help with that relaxation and sleep, so 2 or 3 of those in the evening and then 1 or 2 distributed throughout the day can be very helpful in resetting those brain patterns and you might want to look into your adrenals and cortisol because now we’ve identified beyond just sleep stress response, right? There’s 2 factors that could be throwing off why you’re overeating or why you’re craving foods.
B: Awesome so knowing that we don’t have to just white knuckle and muscle through it is very empowering I think.
A: I agree for sure.
B: Ok so this next element is pretty interesting as well. Let’s talk about the role of dysbiosis or candida and bacterial overgrowth and I know we talked a lot about this it was our just past episode, episode 60 on dysbiosis, but it’s so interesting that our actual biome environment can be what’s driving our cravings and overriding willpower as well.
A: Totally so when people say “I have a sugar monster, it’s out of my body and it drives me to do crazy things” yes, it can be neurotransmitters yes it can be micronutrient deficiencies, but often that is dysbiosis and often candida and other signs of candida overgrowth are bloating or distention so if you have that “food baby” and you’re getting that fermentation in the abdomen, if you have any dermatological concerns like if you run your nails on your skin and you get the red streaking that’s often excessive histamine which would play a role with the adrenals and/or dysbiosis or bacterial imbalance, If we’re dealing with vaginal yeast infections or thrush in the oral cavity, wax in the ear, athlete’s feet, all of these are fungal symptoms intolerance of probiotic foods, like yogurt or kombucha or probiotic supplements, all of these are high change that you have candida overgrowths or dysbiosis so I would definitely look into our e-book it’s only $19.95 and for the rest of the month we will be doing a code candida10 which will get you 10% off of the candida bundle which is the supplement bundle which supports this 6 week cleanse.
The e-book will speak so much more to that, so start with the e-book, read more on it, you will also have access to a candida quiz to relay assess your level that I recommend doing pre, in the middle, and at the end of your program so you can assess your outcomes and we’ve just seen amazing results within the use of our candida cleanse bundle of supplements pairing that with the diet which is a restrictive carbohydrate diet, it removes all yeasted foods, and yes, we talk more about that in episode 60 so I just think it’s something to consider if you’re someone who has not listened to that episode and you have other forms of bacterial imbalance. O 2 other big symptoms would be loose stools or constipation so if you’re having bowel irregularity and any of those fungal symptoms, definitely read the candida cleanse Beat the Bloat e-book to learn more.
B: Awesome and then even beyond a candida cleanse, you know , it does comes with the 6 week or more depending on the level, but 6 week protocol for resetting the diet and that actually can help to pull out some of those more cravable and more processed foods and things like that but we could also use something like ketosis to help reset and kick cravings and those sorts of things.
A: Oh totally.
B: Candida’s just one of the many reasons that we may use the ketogenic diet so let’s talk about that.
A: Yeah and I often call ketosis like an extra credit version of a candida cleanse because the candida cleanse we restrict you to 60 g of carbs, whereas ketosis is less than 30 g of carbs. And both of these protocols are completely grain free, flour free like you said, so that’s a huge element of craveable foods and refined sugars and keeping carbs low is really going to help but when you actually go into ketosis, beyond supporting a bacterial reset, you get other mechanistic shifts so you actually can get a hormonal reset where get an increased surge of leptin, we get that leptin sensitivity again when we go no that very low carbohydrate diet so no leptin is able to dock more successfully. We also by the manufacturing and presence of ketone bodies, ketones actually sit on receptors in the brain that and that’s the mechanism of how they can help with epilepsy and seizure activity but they also help with neurological impulse and reduced cravings themselves so they can create satiation on their own the production and utilization of ketones as fuel and that can also help very significantly reduce that as I was speaking before, mountain and valley shift of energy and blood sugar cascades because you’re not using blood sugar as fuel, you’re using fat as fuel.
So you’re getting a much more balanced almost a pronounced moderate speedbump or flatline influence but on a higher amount of energy so not flatline speaking in a low, even a more consistent ample amount of energy as well as cognitive function that you get from the high fat, very low carbohydrate diet so the production of ketones help and this is where people feel a keto high and people will say they forget to eat and have difficulty getting in their nutrients and that’s really where in our 12 week virtual ketosis platform we are very strategic about using food as medicine within the ketogenic diet so you’re still getting your leafy greens, you’re still getting your magnesium, your zinc rich foods, your essential fatty acids are hit pretty much across the board but ensuring that we’re not doing this with processed foods beyond protein, carbs and fat, making sure our antioxidant and phytocompound and micronutrient level that we’re supporting your body for full comprehensive health and so our virtual ketosis program would be a huge recommendation especially to launch after the holidays to kickstart your weight loss and get you on track for the new year and making this your body to really honor your temple. Your year not your body. Your year to honor your body as your temple.
B: And then I know, Ali, you wrote a blog post recently about how you’ve used keto during the holiday season or have this year, to manage cravings and just kind of redefine that whole relationship.
A: Yes so it’s funny because I’ve been running ketogenic program my practice well and prior to opening my own practice in 2009 and I have used it myself intermittently but post Stella, when I had Stella I really started playing with it more personally in 2016 and onward and this is my full blown first holiday season of being in ketosis with just doing cycles 2x a month, of carb cycling and that’s a whole other conversation but I yeah I write about my experience of the emotional elements and strings of what foods mean to me today and I hope that’s helpful I think it will be and it really my whole idea is taking the power away from carbohydrates as far as how carbohydrate can sit on a pedestal, if you will, and allowing yourself to eat real food but still stay with low carb success and if you’re listening to this after the holiday season in the new year I think it’s a helpful blog post so manage social situations, and birthdays and all of those things.
And I talk about how I made a pumpkin recipe an actually adapted it to only have 10-12 grams of carbs per serving and it didn’t evoke that same craving response if I had had it been at that 20-30 because I was using ketones as fuel and so it was nourishing, it was satisfying but I still felt super grounded throughout the entire time so I’m honoring my body’s needs and listening to my body and participating in seasonal foods if you will, not feeling completely over restricted.
But yeah it’s still saying successful with the mechanisms of a very low carbohydrate diet.
B: Awesome I love that, and then let’s just to wrap up, Ali ,give listeners a couple of recipe idea that could help with curbing cravings or are nutritional dense replacements for some of those more craveable food sand let’s pick a couple that are with seasonal or party friendly and fun.
A: Yeah so we just did the a tapenade and cucumber cups. I love these, they’re so pretty and can be a great thing to bring to a party you can also play with versions where you do like the olive oil soaked red peppers, to add a little flair of color in there and that looks very green and red which is kind of fun, our parm crisps are always a fan favorite as are our salmon pinwheels o that’s another beautiful and bright thing to bring and then the pumpkin keto cheesecake bites are another fun one that we can do. And look really pretty, they’re rolled in pecans and really great high fat option to keep in your freezer to help you get through this holiday season and again if you’re dealing with a craving that’s above the neck, see if you can satiate with a higher fat version of that craving and you now then going to behavioral elements to really put that craving to be and manage everything on a baseline and the last thing I wasn’t to make sure I mention, so away from food right away but those 3 things are great and we’ll put links to those recipes on the blog and the Naturally Nourished Cookbook has so much stuff you guys so I’m hoping that by episode 61 all listeners have a copy but please order one of those, we’ll be doing some promotions over the holiday season with sales on my cookbook so great gift stocking stuffer for other family members to share food as medicine with friends and family.
So we’ll be posting that with a promo code but the last thing I want to mention is on a supplemental level, because we’ve mentioned that micronutrients can play a big role, please be sure that you take as an insurance policy a good quality multivitamin as well. Especially as we’re still in cold and flu season you guys, it goes all the way through March, April so I would definitely recommend the Multidefense without Iron if you’re not menstruating; with iron if you’re menstruating and that is going to be a bioavailable form of all of the micronutrients so all forms of minerals are going to be chelated to be most bioavailable and then we’re also going to get methylated forms of the b vitamins and it has a phytocompound antioxidant blend in there as well so that’s a great base defense the multi defense as a great quality multivitamin to be an insurance policy for those micronutrient deficiencies.
B: Awesome. So I think we’ve given a listeners so much to think about in terms of practical solutions to taming their cravings and just really taking away that power that food can have over us. You know from the neurotransmitter and hormonal influence to micronutrient piece to candida, we’ve talked about a lot and I hope you all can identify with and apply just a couple of these tips to just cruise through the rest of your holiday season and feel really empowered around food.
A: Yes and we will be following we had such a dense show notes that in episode 67, which will be coming out in the new year, we’re going to be talking about goal setting, accountability, but we’re also going to be connecting more of the behavioral elements of how we can combat food cravings so today was all about the biomechanics like Becki said, and some of the nerdy geeky function stuff and talking about tools on a supplemental and dietary level and we hope that you guys some of these things resonate and you’ll give if you have not done ketosis, this is definitely the time to try it so again, check out our Virtual Ketosis Class which is under Books and Programs on AliMillerRD.com only a couple slots left and by the time this goes live even less than the 50 I mentioned so I hope you’ll join us live and we’ll get to meet you all virtually and thanks always as listening if you have a moment and you can take time to go over to ITunes and leave us a 5 star review, share this episode on Facebook or Instagram with family and friends that you feel could benefit. We always appreciate you sharing food as medicine and functional medicine with those that you love. Thanks for tuning in!
Thank you for listening to the Naturally Nourished Podcast. Visit our blog at Alimillerrd.com for recipes, wellness tips, and food as medicine meal plans. Connect with Ali at Becki at AliMillerRD on InstaGram or Twitter and Facebook. Until next time, stay nourished and be well.