Supplements for Food Cravings
Today I am featuring a guest blog post written by Dr. Scott Olson, ND. Dr. Scott Olson is a Naturopathic doctor, expert in alternative medicine, author and medical researcher. Spurred on by his patients’ struggles with sugar addiction, he was determined to discover just how addictive and harmful sugar can be and ways to overcome that addiction. The result of that study is his book Sugarettes, which describes the addictive qualities of sugar and the harm that sugar does to our bodies.
Dr. Scott also writes a blog (www.olsonnd.com) which covers the latest in health and healthy living.
Supplements for Food Cravings (by Dr. Scott Olson)
There is nothing that can derail your intentions of eating better more than an uncontrolled food craving. If the thought of those cookies, soda, crackers, chips or ice cream keep popping into your head, then food cravings may be controlling you instead of the other way around.
Scientists puzzle over just what food cravings actually mean. It is hard, for example, to determine if a craving is your body’s way of telling you that you are missing something in your diet, or if those cravings are a sign of something else (like an addiction).
Scientists and health practitioners, for example, have long thought that cravings such as those for chocolate that occur premenstrually have a lot to do with the high mineral content of chocolate and not due to the addictive qualities of chocolate.[i] But the truth may be that both addiction and the body’s needs are in play when you have a food craving.
The thought that certain foods (especially sugar and foods that act like sugars in our bodies) can be addictive are beginning to gather support in the medical community. Sugar addiction, it turns out, has a lot in common with other addictions like alcohol, cigarettes or even hard drugs. These addiction cause cravings and are nothing to joke about as they lead often lead us to eat more than we want, eat foods that are not good for us, and may be contribute to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s.
It is all in your head, but that doesn’t mean it is all in your head
If food cravings are the result of some addictive behavior, then most of the cravings you are having are not the result of your body needing a substance, but is your addiction calling you.
Science is behind the ball as most studies on food cravings focus on trying to change your mental approach to eating – as if food cravings were only a psychological problem.[ii] While I’m not denying that there is something called emotional eating, it misses the point to only consider food cravings in your head. Food cravings are as physical as cravings for drugs and need to be approached from both a physical and physiological standpoint.
Supplements for Food Cravings
Here are some supplements to help with food cravings. Some of these are backed by scientific studies and some are not.
- Try amino acids: Tyrosine, phenylalanine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), tryptophan, and glutamine all seem to help with cravings. These amino acids do two things: first they provide the body with needed nutrients and secondly, they are building blocks of brain chemicals (like serotonin) that help modulate both mood and cravings.
- B-complex: B-vitamins are also important co-factors in building brain chemicals and are generally lacking in our diets.
- Minerals: Chromium, magnesium and calcium have all been shown to help with food cravings.[iii],[iv]
- Balance blood sugar: Many herbs such as Gymnema[v] and supplements such as chromium,[vi] vanadium[vii] have been shown to help stabilize blood sugar, which is also thought to play a role in food cravings.
- A good multi-vitamin: Multi-vitamins can help quell cravings. Many include the B-vitamins and minerals (as mentioned above).
- Exercise: Exercise reduced chocolate urges and there was a trend towards attenuated urges in response to the chocolate cue.[viii]
One of the best ways to become healthy is to listen to what your body needs. This feedback system, however, can go awry when food cravings are the result of an addiction. Supplements can help you gain control over your food craving and as part of a whole program to keep your food cravings under control.
[i] Thys-Jacobs S. Micronutrients and the premenstrual syndrome: the case for calcium. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Apr;19(2):220-7.
[ii] Hill AJ. The psychology of food craving. Proc Nutr Soc. 2007 May;66(2):277-85.
[iii] Anton SD, Morrison CD, Cefalu WT. Effects of chromium picolinate on food intake and satiety. Diabetes Technol Ther. 2008 Oct;10(5):405-12.
[iv] Thys-Jacobs S. Micronutrients and the premenstrual syndrome: the case for calcium. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Apr;19(2):220-7.
[v] Joffe DJ, Freed SH. Effect of extended release gymnema sylvestre leaf extract (Beta Fast GXR) alone or in combination with oral hypoglycemics or insulin regimens for type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes In Control Newsletter 2001;76
[vi] Anderson RA. Chromium in the prevention and control of diabetes. Diabetes Metab 2000;26:22-7
[vii] Goldfine AB, Patti ME, Zuberi L, et al. Metabolic effects of vanadyl sulfate in humans with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: in vivo and in vitro studies. Metabolism 2000;49:400-10.
[viii] Taylor AH, Oliver AJ. Acute effects of brisk walking on urges to eat chocolate, affect, and responses to a stressor and chocolate cue. An experimental study. Appetite. 2009 Feb;52(1):155-60. Epub 2008 Sep 13.