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The Hormone-Food Craving Connection: What Your Body’s Telling You

February 14, 2024

Do you ever wonder why you sometimes NEED that piece of chocolate or slice of cake?

Well, it’s not just your taste buds talking – it’s your hormones!

Let’s explore the link between hormones and those irresistible food cravings.

lady throwing a punch with an intense look on her face - reflecting how hormones can affect food cravings

The Physiology of Food Cravings

Imagine this: hormones are like tiny messengers in your body.

 Some, like this one, ghrelin, make your tummy growl, saying, “Feed me!” 

Others, like leptin, tap your brain, signalling, “Okay, that’s enough.” 

Usually, these hormones work together to guide your appetite and keep you fueled.

But often, being full isn’t enough, and something seems to bypass these hormones, subjecting your eating habits to it.

Hormones and Emotional Eating

Let’s talk about hormones and emotional eating.

Think about the last time you had a stressful day. Do you remember feeling drawn to something sweet or stodgy just to feel better? Or at least a little less willing to opt for your healthy meal plan that day?

Blame it on cortisol, the stress hormone. 

It not only messes with your mood but also makes you crave comfort foods. 

So now you know why you reached for ice cream when you were feeling down – it’s a hormone thing!

Gender and Hormonal Influences

Next, your gender and hormone influences.

Ladies, your hormones are like a roller coaster, especially during the monthly cycle, pregnancy, or menopause.

These hormonal shifts aren’t just swinging your mood – they influence what you crave! 

Men, you’re not off the hook either; hormones play a role in your cravings too.

We know that hormonal changes in women, like during menstruation, can influence food cravings, but there’s less awareness about hormonal fluctuations in men.

Testosterone levels, for example, can impact appetite and food preferences.

Men may experience shifts in cravings based on factors like stress, sleep patterns, or ageing.

So you can see the hormone effect is not limited to women.

External Factors Shaping Hormonal Responses

So now, let’s look further into other conditions outside the body that can influence your hormones.

Now, have you ever noticed how lack of sleep makes you want junk food? 

Blame it on imbalanced hormones. 

You may be unaware that hormonal fluctuations follow a daily rhythm known as circadian rhythms. 

These rhythms not only affect sleep-wake cycles but also impact hormone levels linked to hunger and satisfaction or feeling full. 

Cravings might not only be about what you eat but also when you eat. Understanding how your body’s internal clock influences cravings can be a key factor in managing them effectively.

Exercise, on the other hand, does the opposite, regulating your hormones and keeping cravings in check.

And yes, your surroundings and the food ads you see influence what your hormones demand.

Cultural and Societal Aspects

What you crave isn’t just about you – it’s about your culture and what society tells you to eat. Advertisements and food trends are like puppet masters pulling the strings of your cravings.

They stimulate the interest in your brain, activating triggers that push you to desire foods even when you are not hungry. Be conscious of those influences!

Health Implications of Hormonal Food Cravings

Too much of those hormone-driven cravings can lead to health problems like obesity and metabolic issues.

It’s not just about wanting that extra slice of pizza; it’s about how it can affect your long-term health.

Practical Strategies for Managing Cravings

Here’s the good news – you can control those cravings! Eating a balanced diet, moving your body, getting enough rest and practising mindfulness can help. 

For women, being aware of the demands the hormone fluctuations in our bodies place on desires allows us to plan ahead and reach for healthier substitutes or eat those dense sugar or carb foods in moderation instead of excessively.

It’s about understanding your body’s signals and giving it what it needs, not just what it craves.

Rounding Up

Before we conclude, let’s look at the impact of dieting on our hormones and cravings.

Dieting is often seen as a battle of willpower against cravings. However, what’s less known is the psychological impact of restrictive diets on hormonal balance. Extreme or prolonged calorie restriction can trigger hormonal responses that intensify cravings and make it harder to stick to a diet. 

So, next time you find yourself eyeing that bag of chips after a tough day, remember it’s not just about willpower. 

Your hormones are in on the decision-making, too. 

The easiest thing may be to have healthier snack options at home all the time or go out and buy a bag of crisps when you want it – not having a jumbo pack at home, which wrecks all your good intentions.

Listen to your body, make smart choices, and create a healthier, happier you!

More Reading

Editing by AskAwayHealth Team


All AskAwayHealth articles are written by practising  Medical Practitioners on a wide range of healthcare conditions to provide evidence-based guidance and to help promote quality healthcare. 

The advice in our material is not meant to replace the management of your specific condition by a qualified healthcare practitioner.
To discuss your condition, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a health practitioner or reach us directly.

Image Credits: Canva

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