Food cravings are funny things.
I’m sure you are familiar with the stereotypical pregnant woman who craves pickles and ice cream. Another common example of a food craving is mixing really good chocolate with cheap salty snacks.
From time to time, we all have food cravings. And in Chinese medicine, what you crave can offer some clues to your underlying health.
Food Cravings and Chinese Medicine
Several years ago a young woman, Elaine, came to my clinic to be treated for depression.
During her first appointment, I asked her a number of questions about her health and lifestyle. When I asked her what foods she craved, her answer surprised me. She said that she craved frozen vegetables.
Not cooked frozen vegetables, but frozen veggies right out of the freezer—crunchy and cold.
While her unusual answer surprised me, it also gave me some insight into her condition within the framework of Chinese medicine.
Her craving for extremely cold foods told me that she had some kind of a heat condition, most likely involving the Heart organ system.
In Chinese medicine, each organ system (Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys, Liver) has a taste, or flavor, associated with it.
The flavor related to each organ is beneficial and healing to that specific organ, but only in small amounts. Through the foods you crave, you can get a better idea of which of your organ systems might need some attention.
For example, the taste associated with the Spleen is sweet.
The majority of people that I see in my clinic will tell me that they crave sweets.
This is frequently because their Spleen, the organ of digestion, is working overtime to digest fat-laden, nutrient-dense, over processed foods. In addition, people who are overweight or who struggle with depression almost always have damage to their Spleen system.
As a result, they crave sweets.
Unfortunately, in Chinese history, sweets were eaten in small amounts in the form of natural foods, like dates, yams, and fruits. Today, when we crave sweets, we turn to something like the two pound bag of M&M’s, which only further damages your Spleen.
If you crave salty foods, you might look to the health of your Kidney system.
The Kidney in Chinese medicine is most damaged by stress, overwork, and keeping long hours without adequate rest.
It is also related to how well and healthfully you will age. Your Kidney is associated with water regulation, both in Chinese and Western medicine, and eating too much salt can affect water metabolism, in the form of retaining water or frequent urination.
A friend of mine is notorious for craving dill pickles and other sour foods.
The sour taste is associated with your Liver. Interestingly, my friend struggles with pain around her Liver and has been diagnosed with a fatty Liver.
Your Lung system is associated with foods that are acrid, or strongly flavored, such as savory herbs and highly spiced foods. Acrid foods have the ability to make you sweat and cause your nose to run — both activities associated with your Lung system in Chinese medicine.
The Heart is associated with the element of fire, and bitter flavors.
Frequently, people who crave dark chocolate, coffee, and dark bitter ales, also find that their Heart system is depleted in some way.
Food Craving Case Study
Elaine, the woman who was craving frozen vegetables, had issues with her Heart system, as well as internal heat. She was suffering from emotional concerns, which almost always involve the Heart system in some way.
Her depression and frustration over a long period of time was creating physical heat. Her craving for frozen foods, while not bitter in taste, was an attempt to cool a pattern of Heart fire.
Chinese medicine shows that there is some truth to the expression “you are what you eat.”
Do you have any food cravings you would like to share?
You can visit my listing for Minnesota Acupuncture, click the links below to my blog or website, or just give me a call and we can discuss your food cravings and what they might mean for you, and your health.