What Your Cravings Are Telling You About Your Health
Cravings — we’ve all got ’em. They catch us unaware halfway through important meetings; they blind us to all reason in our quest to satisfy them, and just generally make us feel totally desperate. Having indulged in the food we crave, though, we often find ourselves feeling even worse. The guilt sets in, then the physical discomfort, and then (the grand finale!) the crash. An unhappy ending to an unhappy beginning.
In her new book The Craving Cure ($28), bestselling author and nutritional therapy trailblazer Julia Ross shares all the details of her expertly honed approach to managing cravings — one that uses amino acid supplements to help tweak brain chemistry according to each person’s specific craving tendencies. Our cravings, she says, are nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to feel guilty about, largely because they are out of our control.
For the vast majority of human history, our bodies were able to effectively manage our weight and health because the foods we ate met all of our dietary needs. All that changed in the 1970s, when we began cutting back on protein, increasing our fructose intake, and swearing off saturated fats. Of the three primary types of foods that we’d survived on for centuries — fats, proteins, and sweet or starchy sugars — we’d largely eliminated two. The resulting changes to brain and body chemistry have made us a society of cravers.
Ross began using amino acid supplements to help patients in her addiction and eating disorder practices in the late ’80s. Thirty years later, she and her team have these amino acid regimens down to a (literal) science. According to the introduction of The Craving Cure, these seemingly magical aminos are “called ‘the building blocks of protein’ because they are used alone or in hundreds of combinations, like multicolored bricks, to build every structure in the body, including the brain cells that control our appetite.”
Adding amino acid supplements helps restore the internal signals we once possessed naturally due to our diets, but lost as a result of depleted fat and protein stores and increased sugar intake. Our appetite-regulating cells can’t function well without a good supply of at least five of the 22 amino acids — which just aren’t available for us in junk food! Most of the amino acids we eat come from high-protein foods like steak and eggs, but even in the form of supplements, the right amino acids can adjust your brain chemistry so your mind is no longer telling your body to crave things it really doesn’t need.
“Our clients don’t change their workplace. They don’t change their friends. But their appetite is changed, and when they tell people they don’t want any, everybody always asks why!” Ross says. “They don’t mind telling them, because they’re excited about not wanting it anymore. The wonderful thing is they don’t have to rely on willpower.”
The Craving Cure details five different types of cravers and offers a questionnaire for readers who want to get to the bottom of their own cravings. Most people, Ross tells us, are a combination of a few types of cravers. Every type is then prescribed a specific amino acid solution, which the expert explores in depth in her book. Which type are you? Keep scrolling for the basics of each type of craving, each of which can be corrected with a particular amino acid or amino acid combination.
the depressed craver
Known as “Type 1” cravers based on their sheer numbers, Depressed Cravers are those who look to food — notably sweets and starches — to relieve depression. Due to the changes in our brain chemistry that took place as a result of the dietary shifts of the ’70s, we are today much less likely to get a natural high from looking out the window at a beautiful day or from listening to upbeat music. Instead, Depressed Cravers, in particular, turn to food (typically starches or chocolate-free sugary treats such as pasta, sugar cookies, or vanilla ice cream) to induce those feelings of happiness. As with all types of cravings, though, Ross and her team have identified an amino acid solution that can reduce depression and support better health too.
the crashed craver
Ross describes a Crashed Craver using a situation that feels eerily familiar to us. “Someone hardly had any lunch or breakfast and they’re really looking forward to dinner, but they don’t have anything to cook,” she says. “They stop at the store to get something to cook so they can have a good meal, feel good, and relax — but they can’t get out of the store without buying candy at the checkout.” These so-called “impulse buys” actually aren’t impulsive at all, because they’re serving a real need. Low blood sugar is a legitimate problem, and the body directs you to solve it instantly with sugar. The proper amino acid regimen, Ross tells us, can correct dips in blood sugar without a candy bar.
the comfort craver
Comfort Cravers look to food for the feelings of comfort that were once naturally generated in the brain. According to Ross, Comfort Cravers are often especially drawn to foods containing chocolate, which are most likely to increase endorphin activity. Amino acids, however, can wipe out those pesky chocolate cravings entirely. “You get the immediate pleasure that just wipes out any interest in chocolate,” Ross says. “Somebody who’s a chocolate fanatic suddenly doesn’t care, and we know they’re on the right amino acid at the right dose.”
the stressed craver
You’ve heard of stress eating, right? Of course you have. Well, it’s a scientific phenomenon — and like the other types of cravings detailed above, it comes as a result of lacking signals in the brain (specifically, naturally tranquilizing signals). People who are Stress Cravers look to food to help relax them. In this case, the amino acids suggested in The Craving Cure build up the brain chemicals that are naturally calming.
the fatigued craver
If you’re a cola, latte, or jelly bean lover and find yourself turning to your favorite caffeine or sugar fix to get a quick burst of adrenaline, you might very well fall into this category. Fatigued Cravers seek stimulation from the foods they crave. Some Fatigued Cravers are dark chocolate fiends too. As with the other four types, Fatigued Cravers can find relief from their cravings by supplementing their diets with amino acids.
What kind of craver are you? Tweet us @BritandCo!
Brit + Co may at times use affiliate links to promote products sold by others, but always offers genuine editorial recommendations.
(Photo via Getty)