Have you ever craved a certain food so much that it seemed to completely overpower you? Do you find it hard to stop after just one cookie? Then afterwards you feel completely guilty and upset that you gave in so easily? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you are not alone. Many women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome suffer from intense cravings every day. These uncontrollable and extreme food cravings are a common symptom of PCOS.
Research shows that almost 100% of women will deal with cravings in their lifetime. You may think that the little voice in your head telling you to eat is just a figment of your imagination, but it is a sign of something bigger going on in your body. Our bodies are always sending us signals about what it likes and does not like. When we pay close attention and listen, we can learn to understand what it is trying to tell us.
Causes of Food Cravings
When you understand the causes of your cravings, you can start to make small changes to your diet in order to control them. Here is a list of the common reasons for cravings.
- You go too long in-between meals. This will cause your blood sugar levels to drop, making you feel tired, cranky, and crave carbs. Your body is asking you to fuel it with food. This may be why at 3 pm you want to raid the vending machine for anything with sugar. Instead of reaching for something with carbs, go for a handful of nuts. The protein and the fiber will balance and sustain a healthy blood sugar level.
- Eating too many simple carbohydrates can lead to cravings. Processed foods with little fiber such as white rice, white bread, and sweets are high on the glycemic index. They will cause a rapid spike in blood sugar, and then a fast drop, which can stimulate your appetite and trigger cravings.
- You don’t eat enough protein. Most of us eat meals that consist mostly of carbohydrates, especially in the morning, such as sugar-laden cereals, pancakes, and bagels. These high-sugar foods can cause a spike in blood sugar and then a big drop, causing more cravings. Protein helps to keep you feeling full and prevent cravings.
- You are eating a low fat diet. Thanks to the mentality that eating fat will make you fat, most people avoid it like the plague. Fats help you to feel fuller longer and prevent spikes and drops in blood sugar. They also help to lower stress hormones keeping cravings at bay. And studies show that eating healthy fats, helps you to lose weight.
- Not eating enough calories. When you are eating too few calories, you are probably feeling deprived and this can cause you to crave foods that are unhealthy for a quick fix.
- You have low serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in your body that affects your mood. Sunlight is one of the ways your body produces serotonin. This is why many people experience more severe cravings at night and in the winter when there is less sunshine.
- You have insulin resistance. This condition causes the body to produce an excess of insulin, which can cause carb cravings. Many women with PCOS also have insulin resistance that could be the reason for their cravings.
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How to Eliminate Your Cravings
Now that the causes of your cravings have been identified, let’s talk about how to get rid of them.
- Cravings awareness is a part of the PCOS 5-Element System because it is a crucial component of overcoming PCOS. When you want to reduce the amount of carbs you eat, it is best to lower it slowly. This helps to trick your brain into accepting the lowered amount as normal, which prevents the dreaded low carb diet side effects. When you are experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to drastically reducing your carb intake too quickly, you may end up having even worse cravings.
- A great way to combat cravings is with extra nutrients. For example, using nutrients that are effective at helping your body maintain healthy blood sugar levels to prevent cravings. Additionally using nutrients to combat insulin resistance and maintain healthy glucose levels are essential. Stabilized blood sugar levels can ease the symptoms of PCOS. Fiber and fenugreek are excellent to help regulate the absorption of glucose and carbohydrates into the bloodstream. These nutrients can also prevent blood sugar spikes.
- Stress is another emotion that can trigger cravings, because eating carbohydrates increases serotonin which has a calming effect on the body. Creating ways to cope with your stress will keep you from craving food to feel good.
- Another way to eliminate your cravings is to start a cravings journal. Keep track of them for a month and be sure to write down the time of day, the emotions you were feeling, the foods you craved, and how much of what you ate. This will help you get clear on the real cause of your cravings.
- Avoid high sugar foods at all costs! They light up the addictive part of the brain that will not allow you to have just one of anything. These are foods like breads, pasta, cookies, pastries (any foods with flour), sugar of all kinds, chips, etc., and any foods you LOVE.
- Sleep! Sleep is critical to lowering stress hormones, reducing inflammation, helping our bodies to be more insulin sensitive and raising serotonin, our feel-good brain chemical. If you’re tired, you will crave carbs to keep your energy up – it’s a no-win proposition.
- Lastly, make it a priority to take the time to care of yourself. If your cravings are triggered by strong emotions like sadness, boredom, or anger, doing something that makes you feel good will help. An example of this is taking a walk outside because the fresh air and the sunshine will boost your serotonin making you feel happier. And you could treat yourself to a mani/pedi, a massage, an Epsom salt bath or time to put your feet up and read.
No matter what the cause of your cravings, know that there is a solution and that with knowledge and the right tools you will kick your cravings to the curb in no time.
About Angela Rohal
Angie is a communications major who discovered she had PCOS when in 2013 she went off the birth control pill in an effort to live a healthier life and within a few months gained 70lbs, stopped getting her period, and experienced terrible acne, depression, fatigue, and hair loss. She found the PCOS 5-Element System by Insulite Health in 2015 and quickly began to feel like herself again. She is now Co-Director of Customer Care at Insulite Health, where she shares her love, compassion, and her philosophy of never giving up!