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  • Cravings: the fight against uncontrollable urges to eat

    18. January 2024

    Cravings: the fight against uncontrollable urges to eat

    Food cravings - a phenomenon that many of us are familiar with. We are suddenly overcome by an irresistible urge to eat immediately, often accompanied by physical reactions such as trembling or sweating. But what is behind this intense feeling of hunger, which sometimes ends in a complete derailment of eating behavior?

    More than just a growling stomach

    Contrary to popular belief, a growling stomach is not the main trigger for hunger. Interestingly, people without a stomach also experience feelings of hunger. This suggests that the causes of hunger lie deeper.

    The complexity of hunger and satiety

    Hunger and satiety are complicated processes that have not yet been fully decoded by science. Hormones play a decisive role here. An important factor for the feeling of hunger is the glucose level in the blood.

    This is how it works:

    • Information is transmitted from receptors in the liver and stomach to the hunger and satiety center in the hypothalamus.
    • In the case of hypoglycemia, i.e. low blood sugar, hunger stimuli are triggered.
    • The insulin level is constantly monitored.
    • Fat cells continuously release leptin. A low leptin level in the blood increases the feeling of hunger. In obesity, the leptin level is permanently high.
    • During diets, the leptin concentration drops sharply, which promotes food cravings.

    Hunger vs. appetite

    It is important to distinguish between hunger and appetite. While hunger is a physiological need, appetite is more of a psychological phenomenon. Appetite is often linked to emotions and habits and occurs even when we are actually full.

    How to recognize the difference:

    • Genuine hunger turns even simple foods like a cucumber into a taste sensation.
    • This will not be the case with pure appetite.

    Causes of cravings

    Cravings can be physical or psychological, and are often a mixture of the two.

    • Physical cravings: Often associated with acute hypoglycaemia. Other factors can be a diet that is too low in calories or hormonal changes.
    • Psychological cra vings: Triggered by negative emotions, stress or boredom. Identifying and treating the causes is often a greater challenge than with physical cravings.
    • Mixed forms: Many cravings are a combination of physical and psychological factors that can lead to a pattern and, in the long term, a habit. Eating disorders are also often found here.

    Important to note

    Food cravings are often just a symptom of an underlying problem. The solution is not to simply stop these eating binges, but to understand and address the underlying causes. By learning to better understand our body and our emotions, we can deal with cravings more effectively and find healthier eating habits.

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