Some people consider foods cravings a “normal” part of life.
As such, they simply give into their intense desire for a caramel latte in the morning, a side order of French fries with lunch, greasy takeout for dinner, or a bowl of ice cream for dessert.
But let me be clear: These cravings are far from “normal.”
In fact, they typically signal something’s OFF with your body. And there are four common HIDDEN CAUSES.
So, let’s talk about them. Then, I’ll tell you how you can take back control naturally—and nearly immediately…
Neurological and hormonal causes
Neuroscientists recently pinpointed a major reason why so many people today experience strong food cravings…
It starts when you’re feeling stressed. (Something we’ve all been experiencing more of over these last two years!)
Stress shuts down activity in an area of your brain called the prefrontal cortex, which helps you perform “executive functions” and make logical decisions.1
But when it’s overwhelmed with stress, you’re far more likely to make impulsive dietary decisions, like grabbing a piece of pizza or chowing down on some chips.
Fortunately, exercise can “turn on” activity in the prefrontal cortex and “turn off” your food cravings—within minutes—so you can REGAIN CONTROL of your eating habits.
In fact, in one recent study, people consumed fewer ultra-processed foods after just 20 minutes of moderate-intensity walking!2,3
And in another study, people consumed less food… with fewer reported fat and sugar cravings… after just one high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE).
In other words, anything that gets you moving can help quickly reset your thinking and curb your cravings. (And remember, every little bit helps—even a walk around the block after dinner!)
Of course, stress also triggers your body to start producing “fight-or-flight” hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.4 And humans evolved to produce them in response to danger.
But they can also arouse a deep-seated urge to fill up on foods that flood your system with sugar and fat. (Your body craves nutrients it can quickly turn into energy to make a fast escape.)
But here again, exercise (or other stress-reducing activities, like yoga or meditation) can help keep those “fight-or-flight” hormones in check… and keep you moving past your favorite guilty pleasure!
Now, let’s move onto another hidden cause of food cravings…
Common nutritional deficiency paves the road to disaster
New research on lab mice suggests that many common food cravings start as a nutritional deficiency.5
For this research, scientists found that tryptophan (an essential amino acid found in turkey and other whole foods) travels from the gut to the brain, where it transforms into the “feel-good” neurotransmitter serotonin.
This key neurotransmitter also tells the brain that you feel satisfied after a meal. Which could help explain why you feel so happy, satiated, and maybe even a little sleepy after eating turkey on Thanksgiving. It could also explain why, if you don’t have enough tryptophan-rich foods in your diet, your brain never gets the message that “you’re done” at the dinner table.
Of course, research on mice is just a start—and you know how I feel about animal studies. But these results offer an interesting and compelling perspective on one of the many ways your overall diet can impact food cravings.
So, for now, I think we can safely say that adding wholesome foods with tryptophan to your balanced diet may help you feel more satisfied after meals… and less prone to food cravings.
Foods high in tryptophan (in addition to organic turkey) include:
- Organic chicken
- Wild-caught salmon
- Wild-caught tuna fish
I should also note the researchers in this study found that certain beneficial gut microbes can produce tryptophan, too.
So, if you don’t already, consider taking a daily probiotic. I always recommend one that includes prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics—and features different strains of friendly flora. (Remember, when it comes to probiotics, more isn’t necessarily better. The key is diversity of strains over quantity.)
Not only will it help improve your gut health… it may even keep your cravings at bay!
Now let’s move on to a MAJOR culprit behind the biggest (and most DANGEROUS) of all food cravings…
Sugar the saboteur
Sugar is probably the most common food craving. It’s also the most powerful. In fact, several recent studies claim that sugar is just as addictive to humans as illicit drugs—like cocaine and heroin.6
I would even contend that—in some cases—it can be just as deadly, as it increases your risk of developing just about every disease on the planet.
Simply put: Sugar kills. And that’s especially true when it comes to your willpower. Because the more sugar you eat, the more intense your cravings.
But there’s one simple (and abundant) nutrient that can help bust this deadly craving… glutamine.
Glutamine is an amino acid that provides energy to your muscles and other tissues. It inhibits the release of insulin when you have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). And it prevents you from experiencing a hard blood-sugar crash. (These same crashes often trigger your intense cravings for sugar.)
Glutamine also stimulates your body to release stored glucose (called glycogen) in order to get low blood sugar back on track. Lastly, it serves as a “stand-in” for sugar itself when your body really needs some energy.
In a nutshell, this amazing nutrient ensures that your blood sugar never gets low enough that your body hits the panic button—and has you running off to your favorite bakery.
I recommend 500 mg of glutamine three times a day, or whenever a powerful sugar craving hits. I find it strengthens your willpower to say “no, thank you”—and really mean it—when the waiter brings out the dessert tray after dinner.
Of course, once your body adjusts to life without sugar, your cravings should disappear, and you probably won’t need to supplement with it daily anymore.
But you should still make sure to eat plenty of glutamine-rich foods, including asparagus, bone broth, broccoli rabe, Chinese cabbage, cottage cheese, grass-fed and -finished beef, turkey, venison, and wild-caught fish (see page 7).
In the end, food cravings (especially sugar cravings) aren’t normal.
But by adding simple craving-busters—like exercise, stress-reducing activities, tryptophan-rich foods, probiotics, and glutamine—into your daily routine, you’ll quickly break the vicious, guilty pleasure cycle… and keep your hand out of the cookie jar—for good!
 “The neurocognitive connection between physical activity and eating behaviour.” Obesity Reviews, 2011. doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00893.x
 “Expert insight: How exercise can curb your junk food craving.” Western News, 1/4/22. (news.westernu.ca/2022/01/expert-insights-how-exercise-can-curb-your-junk-food-craving/)
 “An exploration of exercise-induced cognitive enhancement and transfer effects to dietary self-control.”
Brain and Cognition, 2016; 110: 102-111. doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2016.04.008.
 “Comfort-food Cravings May Be Body’s Attempt To Put Brake On Chronic Stress.” Science Daily, 9/11/03. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/09/030911072109.htm>.)
 “The gut microbiome influences host diet selection behavior.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022; 119 (17). doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2117537119
 “Sugar addiction: is it real? A narrative review.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 2018;52:910-913. doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-097971