Why Do We Get Cravings?

I have noticed a lot of my posts trend toward food. But as a freshman in college, attempting to avoid the freshman fifteen, knowing about food is important to me. My biggest challenge is cravings. Why do I get those sudden cravings for something sweet or salty? I think cravings of all kinds could be considered a big opponent of weight-loss. If there is a cause, maybe there is a solution to wipe out every type of craving. Unknown

Most cravings psychologically based. Reactions that originate in our brain can lead to the wish to eat. Who hasn’t heard of stress eating? Mental stress can become associated with certain foods or just cravings in general. This study chose to stimulate the “reward pathways” of the brain. Reward Pathways are circuits in the brain that tell a person to repeat a “rewarding” experience. In other words, they are greatly connected to the reaction we get when tasting food. Something rewarding could be a food that tastes good or even a social interaction. This study examined how stress causes the release of endogenous opioid in the body. Endogenous Opioid, simply put, is something that acts as an endorphin. Once this is released, the body’s defense mechanisms are activated and stress responses stimulated. Whatever rewarding reaction we choose repeatedly stimulates the reward circuitry. This is what leads to over-usage of these actions, or over-eating. Stress is the independent variable with Endogenous Opioid being the mechanism that leads to over-eating, the stress response and dependent variable. This is one explanation for an increase in eating frequency and cravings.

However, sometimes we lose our appetite instead of feeling hungry when we are stressed. What could be the difference leading up to the two feelings? Apparently, you can actually lose your appetite OR crave food due to stress. It all depends on whether the stress is short-term or long-term. The Harvard Health Publication explains the mechanisms behind both. During short-term stress, a brain structure called hypothalamus gives off a corticotropin-releasing hormone that suppresses eating. The adrenal glands also send out epinephrine which “triggers a flight-or-fight” response and also suppresses eating. Epinephrine is a hormone derived from tyrosine and is the same as what we call adrenaline. During long-term stress, however, the adrenal gland makes a different hormone called cortisol. This hormone controls things such as metabolism as well as blood sugar. It is easy to see why the hormone is associated with eating. Cortisol increases motivation in general and often becomes motivation to eat. Eating and cravings only stop once the stress is reduced. In both cases, the hormone, either epinephrine or cortisol, would be the independent variable that causes “y”. Y, the dependent variable, would be the response, either the suppression of hunger or the motivation to eat. I believe these studies were well-executed and could even lead to more in the future. Especially with growing obesity rates, this could become a very important and criticized issue. neuro-endocrine-axis

I believe these studies to be well done but I still find myself having completely random cravings during the day. Is it possible to have a craving without a reason and the hormones are released by mistake? There don’t seem to be any articles that say so.  However, U.S. News comes the closest with the cause of simple addiction. We no longer eat because of stress, either short-term or long-term, or because of association with an activity. Instead, we eat because some foods taste like a reward to us and we become addicted to them just like we can be addicted to other “feel-good” things. The most common of these, as well as the one that affects me most, is sugar. In the case of addiction, your body sends out endorphins to create that good feeling.

Authority Nutrition claims that food addiction is exactly like other addictions. There for, the laws of getting rid of addiction are just the same. Just as an alcohol addict can relapse, we can relapse from giving into that craving just one time. I hoped that maybe abstaining from sugar after I eat sometimes would work. But Authority Nutrition says that the only way to truly kick addiction is complete resistance. While there was no experiment giving evidence, I am not quite sure there is a possible experiment. However, I think future observational studies could be conducted comparing those who give in to craving sometimes and those who refrain completely.

5 thoughts on “Why Do We Get Cravings?

  1. Shirneil Merisier

    I found this article that was rather interesting and it concerned this topic… it said that men are better at suppressing craving than women. A scientist Wang conducted a study in which he experimented on both genders and their self control around food that cause cravings. His test showed that men can ignore the food stimulus and get themselves not to crave the food any longer , whereas women despite their hard work to resist the food it only make them want it more!
    The article is right here you should check it out!!

  2. Julia Hall

    This post was really interesting and relatable. I am always craving things and looking all over the place to buy it. I feel like my cravings have been more dominate at college, based on your blog, I can say that it is probably due to stress. I have learned that one of the best ways to decrease or even completely get rid of the craving is to drink water and also cut that food out of your diet for 2 weeks. After that two weeks you wont have as strong cravings. People who go on diets do this by cutting out junk food such as chips and cookies. Eventually those people wont crave it anymore because it has been out of their system for so long.

  3. John McGranaghan

    Reading this blog was very useful for me and every other human being. Cravings are something that happens to every single person and I never quite thought about the logic behind why we get food cravings. Food is obviously a necessity for life but your brain can sometimes trick your body into thinking you need to eat more, even though your body may be full. Here is a video I found about ways to possibly stop food cravings. I found it helpful because cravings can be a problem for most people.

  4. Aubree Sylvia Rader

    Your post was really interesting to me because I oftentimes crave absurd stuff, but I always thought it was a way for your body to get the nutrients it is being deprived. You can read more about that theory in pregnant women on http://www.webmd.com/baby/features/pregnancy-food-cravings. I found it interesting how we treat food like a reward, but if you think about it families oftentimes pick a nice restaurant when they are celebrating a special occasion or get a cake for someone’s birthday so in a way it is a gift. I wonder what triggers the types of food you crave and if a person must have previously eaten that item in order to crave?

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