There are many things about pregnancy that are amazing. The miraculous ability to create an entire human person over the course of 40 weeks is a wonderful experience for most women. Some, however, may also spend that time struggling with feelings of nausea, swelling, and of course, those crazy pregnancy cravings. Such cravings can range from subtle to obsessive. Have you ever wondered what it is that drives these cravings? If so, read on to learn what causes pregnancy cravings, and what expectant mothers can do to deal with them.
Blame the Hormones
Like most of the unpleasant parts of pregnancy, such as mood swings and sleeplessness, we can thank hormones. There are three hormones in particular that are believed to play a role in pregnancy cravings. They are the appetite stimulation hormones known as ghrelin and Neuropeptide Y (NPY) as well as our blood sugar-regulating hormone, insulin.
*Ghrelin: This hormone is produced by enteroendocrine cells of the GI tract. It is known as a hunger hormone. Its job is to ensure that the human body takes in enough food. Ghrelin’s levels in the blood stream are highest just prior to meals. After eating, its levels in the blood are naturally reduced.
*NPY: Though it is a neurotransmitter, NPY is a known appetite stimulant. It is manufactured in the hypothalamus and works in the brain to increase appetite.
*Insulin: When we eat any carbohydrate, our body will break it down into glucose. In order for our cells to use that glucose as energy, our body requires insulin.
How Hormones Cause Cravings
Though most of the research is still in its infancy (pun intended 😉 ), it is believed that pregnancy increases the synthesis of these appetite-stimulating hormones. Though it may sound easy enough to ignore hormones, it’s really not a possibility! If we had the ability to control our hormones, then we would be able to eradicate diseases like diabetes.
Insulin plays its role only in women suffering from gestational diabetes. This condition causes some women to become insulin resistant during pregnancy. Since their body can’t properly use sugar for energy, they find themselves craving sweets.
How to Deal with Those Cravings
So we know it’s hormones and we can’t fight our hormones, so what do we do? Well, fortunately, pregnancy cravings are not just a lost cause. There are some suggestions that women have found helpful. If you find yourself craving a certain food, it is ok to give into it. Just try and make it the best version you can. For example, if you are craving chocolate, then treat yourself to a high-quality version of it. Bypass that Snickers bar for some dark chocolate that is low in sugar. If you believe you have sugar cravings due to gestational diabetes, it is imperative that you work with your practitioner on a plan for a healthy pregnancy. Otherwise, focus on giving yourself nutritional dense, whole foods filled with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. These will help eradicate nutrient-based cravings so that you have at least some of the cravings under control!
If you are suffering through pregnancy cravings, you are not the first and will not be the last. Cravings are very common and likely the result of an increase in certain hormones. When you do indulge your cravings, make sure to do so with some healthy options.