And What They Are Trying To Tell You
Have you ever had a sudden craving for a particular food or beverage? Perhaps you’ve been minding your own business when, out of nowhere, you really had the urge to drink something sweet like lemonade. Or maybe you had an odd craving for broccoli or tomatoes when you didn’t even feel that hungry.
These cravings may seem random and inconsequential, but they can actually tell you a lot about your body. Cravings have been studied in Chinese medicine for centuries, and it is believed that they are an indicator of the things that your body needs.
What Your Cravings Mean
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cravings relate to the 5 organ meridians as there are 5 main categories of flavor. As such, the flavor that you have the strongest craving for may suggest that there is an imbalance within a certain organ or organ system. When you satisfy these cravings, you are helping to create balance in your body, and balance is the key to overall health.
Since each flavor is related to a different system, we can better understand our cravings when we learn about the correlations. Below we can see how our organs speak to us through cravings.
Heart – The heart craves bitter flavors, such as coffee, cabbage, or cocoa.
Liver – Your liver loves all things sour, like pickles, vinegar, and sauerkraut.
Lungs – If you crave spicy food like hot peppers or kimchi, your lungs are reaching out.
Kidney – Salt is the kidney’s flavor of choice, and includes things like potato chips, cheese, and nuts.
Stomach – A sweet tooth means that your stomach is speaking, and includes foods such as candy, fruit, or sugary snacks.
It’s likely that you have felt cravings for all of these flavors at some point – likely even within the past few days. However, minor cravings only suggest minor imbalances, and if they are easily satisfied then it probably means that your body is operating normally.
What you need to watch out for are excessive cravings, which can indicate that one of your organs is struggling or that you are lacking specific nutrients (these two situations can be closely related). For instance, if you simply can’t get enough salt, it might be a sign that your kidneys are weak or that something is bothering them.
How to Listen to Your Cravings
Now that you understand how your cravings relate to the different parts of your body, you may think that it’s easy to satisfy them. However, you must remember that it is all about balance and that overindulging can lead to even further stress on your organs. If you allow your kidneys to dictate every meal, your sodium intake will be excessive, and this can cause harm to your liver and heart.
On the other hand, satisfying your stomach’s craving for sweets can actually hurt the very organ that is calling out for them. When you get a sudden urge to eat something sugary, you shouldn’t eat 6 apples in a row or consume an entire cake.
Think of your body like a plant that needs water. The right amount of water helps a plant to grow, but oversaturating it can drown the plant, cutting off the oxygen supply and causing it to wilt. The plant needs a strong balance of water, oxygen, and nutrients in order to thrive.
Likewise, your body needs a balance of nutrients and flavors in order for your organs to work in harmony. The best way to ensure that you aren’t overindulging or “oversaturating” your organs is to eat slowly and methodically. Allow yourself time to digest your food and to let the nutrients do their work. You’ll often find that the seemingly intense craving for something salty or sweet may not be nearly as urgent as it felt in the first place.
If, however, you find yourself unable to satiate certain cravings, you will have to evaluate your body and your habits even further. Let’s look at some of the things that could be leading to these imbalances.
Excessive Cravings and How to Handle Them
A sweet tooth could indicate that you are suffering from digestive issues. The problem here is that the easiest solutions are often the worst – processed, sugary foods can wreak havoc on your digestive system. To get back on track, you should consider naturally sweet foods such as bananas, carrots, and berries. Dark chocolate can also satisfy some sweet cravings, although it is more bitter than sweet, but make sure to limit your intake.
If you find that you just can’t get enough potato chips or cheese, your kidneys might be telling you that you are experiencing too much stress. You might benefit from meditation or exercise. Instead of reaching for the chips or crackers, try more natural, balanced foods like bone broth, mushrooms, and nuts.
Your heart is responsible for bitter cravings. This could suggest that your cardiovascular system is under duress, but it doesn’t always indicate an emergency. It could just mean that it’s time to slow down on certain habits such as alcohol consumption or smoking. Your heart will generally reach out far before major damage is done. To satisfy these cravings and promote heart health, eat foods like spinach, kale, cucumber, and parsley.
Cravings for sour foods come from your liver, which is responsible for removing toxins from your body. If you have a taste for sour foods, you might be suffering from inflammation, high blood pressure, or exhaustion. Healthy sour foods include green apples, lemons, cherries, and vinegars.
Spicy or Pungent
If you crave spicy foods like peppers or pungent foods like garlic, your lungs are speaking to you. Your lungs are home to your immune system, making them the first line of defense against sickness and disease. Spicy or pungent cravings could be signs of a respiratory illness or allergies. Some foods that can help provide relief include ginger, chili peppers, garlic, and horseradish or wasabi.