By MaxLife Therapies, Barefoot & Pregnant
You wake up and can't function without your cup of coffee. Mid-morning you MUST take a candy break because you're "STARVING!" Noon rolls around and you go for the carbs! The sandwich, the chips, and the monster chocolate chip cookie. Three o'clock and it's the triple-by-pass mocha latte, so that by 6 o'clock you can settle into the glass of wine to effectively round out the day.
What a rollercoaster ride! Emotionally, physically and mentally, you are probably feeling the same. One minute you feel low, and then a total high once you've had the coffee, the wine or the sugar.
I call this the Crave Cycle and here's how it works.
There is a chemical neurotransmitter called serotonin. When in ample supply, serotonin gives us a sense of well being. When you are deficient in serotonin, then you may feel depressed, anxious or fatigued. You may also get uncontrollable urges for "stimulants" such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol, that when consumed, seemingly make these feelings go away.
There are areas in the brain that make serotonin, and areas with receptor sites that "take up" serotonin. If you are deficient in serotonin, you are also deficient in the receptor sites. When you eat sugar, then your body makes more serotonin. In an effort to create balance, or homeostasis, then your body will create more receptor sites. You are then abundant in serotonin and receptor sites, which creates the feelings of euphoria, calm, and well-being.
Well, the body doesn't like to be in a state of overwhelm for too long. Eventually it will reduce the number of receptor sites. As a result, the body will then stop the output of serotonin. When this happens, you return to the state of depression, anxiety, and fatigue.
You self-medicate and grab whatever gets you quickly back to that state of calm - the coffee, the wine, the sugar, etc.
So how do you manage the Crave Cycle? It's a tough one because it requires a shift in physiology.
But here are a few tips for getting off the rollercoaster and managing the Crave Cycle for life:
1) Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates such as oats and high-fiber fruits and vegetables to build serotonin naturally. Foods rich in magnesium (spinach, nuts and seeds, avocados, quinoa), folic acid (green leafy veggies, asparagus, lentils, soybeans), and omega -3 fatty acids (fish, flax seeds, hemp seeds) and a high antioxidant diet with fresh berries, prunes and legumes like black beans will help keep the body healthy and happy.
2) Eat foods that are rich in Tryptophan, such as turkey, milk, chicken, beef, brown rice, nuts, fish, eggs, cheese, fruit, and vegetables. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin - meaning it helps your body to make more of it naturally.
3) Slowly wean yourself off stimulants by cutting your intake by ¼ every day. This will allow you to work up to a complete two-week holiday from stimulants without the uncomfortable side effects - namely headaches, crankiness and low energy. After two-weeks, you will notice a lack of desire for these foods.
4) Supplement with B-complex vitamins that help to eliminate cravings and supply your body with energy producing nutrients. Some herbal remedies have energy-producing effects - such as Ashwaganda and Ginseng - but are not recommended during pregnancy or while nursing. Great for restoring energy later on!
5) Move your body! Exercise creates sustainable supplies of serotonin and other feel good chemicals called endorphins. Take a brisk walk or do some heart-rate inducing yoga that is perfect for pregnancy and naturally puts you in positive environments.
Once you have effectively managed your cravings, you can enjoy some of your favorite foods in moderation without feeling like you need them to manage your day!