Let's decode your pregnancy cravings so you can determine what your body REALLY wants. Cravings during pregnancy are often the result of hormonal changes, nutrient deficiencies, or an internal imbalance. If you are craving pickles and ice cream, your body is not telling you that you need those exact foods. There is a bigger story behind the craving. Let's dig in.
There are many different cultural beliefs surrounding cravings. The truth is that food is a source of nutrition but it can also be a source of comfort and a way to restore balance in our bodies. Food can be a way that we deal with difficult feelings and soothe our emotions.
Emotions Stored In the Body- The Source of Our Cravings
There is a growing body of research showing the connection between processing emotions and illness. This has been a key understanding in Chinese medicine for centuries and western medicine is finally recognizing this ancient wisdom. When we do not process our emotions, our body works to store these emotions in the body. There are different organs that work to process different emotions. This article will help you decode the emotions that may be the underlying factor of your craving.
We are going to decode each craving based on five key flavors; bitter, salty, spicy/pungent, sour, and sweet. These five flavors define organ relationships which are impacted by how we store our emotions in our body. This principle is based on traditional Chinese medicine and has been practiced for centuries.
Why Do I Crave Bitter Food During Pregnancy?
Bitter cravings are connected to the following organs: the heart and small intestine. Bitter foods typically have a drying effect. In Chinese medicine, it is said that our heart is the house of our spirit. Bitter cravings correlate with feeling down or challenging emotions such as abandonment, betrayal, love unreceived, lost forlorn, insecurity, and vulnerability. Before reaching for the bitter food you are craving, reflect on how you are feeling and if any of the emotions listed above are present for you. Addressing our emotions first can relieve our cravings. Some examples of bitter foods to support imbalances during pregnancy include:
Many of the recommended bitter foods are dark leafy greens. They also supply a significant amount of folate, a B vitamin that promotes heart health and helps protect against some kinds of birth defects.
Why Do I Crave Salty Food During Pregnancy?
Salty cravings are connected to our kidneys and bladder. Craving salty foods during pregnancy tell us we have a need for minerals or we need to help strengthen our metabolism. They can also indicate that we are trying to cope with stress or other emotions such as blaming, dread, fear, horror, irritation, conflict, creative insecurity, and feelings of being unsupported.
The salty foods we crave will likely not satisfy our body's actual needs. Many salty foods don't include salt which includes many minerals like sea salt. Try swapping your less healthy craving for a handful of dry roasted nuts- this might be exactly what your kidneys need. Nutrient-rich salty foods that can support any imbalances in pregnancy are:
Sea vegetables like seaweed
Brine pickles and
Dry roasted nuts
Why Do I Crave Spicy Food During Pregnancy?
Spicy cravings during pregnancy are connected to the lungs and the large intestines. Spicy foods can indicate a need to boost your immune system or help regulate your body temperature. Pungent food cravings can indicate mucus build-up in the lungs and large intestine. Spicy foods help you break a sweat and cut through mucus. Heat kills viruses, so there is some wisdom to the concept that pungent foods raise your body temperature (garlic, chili peppers, and ginger). Great foods to try to satisfy your spicy or pungent cravings during pregnancy include:
On an emotional level, the lungs and colon are associated with the following emotions: discouragement, rejection, sadness, sorrow, confusion, defensiveness, grief, and stubbornness.
Why Do I Crave Sour Food During Pregnancy?
Sour cravings during pregnancy are connected to our liver and gallbladder. Sour foods are typically astringent and emptying. They help our body break down fats, stimulate digestion, and reabsorb fluids. Craving sour foods during pregnancy may indicate a chemical imbalance requiring a neutralization of acids in the body. You may notice your sour cravings accompany a high-fat meal containing meat. Great sour foods to satisfy this craving during pregnancy are:
Lemons and Limes
Fermented foods like Kimchi
The liver and gallbladder are associated with housing the following emotions: anger, bitterness, guilt, hatred, resentment, depression, frustration, indecisiveness, and panic.
Why Do I Crave Sweet Food During Pregnancy?
One of the most common flavors craved during pregnancy is sweetness. Sweet cravings are telling us that we need calming and soothing or that we are filling an emotional need. Sweet tasting foods are said to benefit our stomach and spleen. These sweet cravings indicate a blood sugar imbalance, a need for emotional balance, or excessive protein intake. The emotions associated with stomach and spleen imbalances are anxiety, despair, disgust, nervousness, worry, failure, helplessness, hopelessness, lack of control, and self-esteem. In my experience, these emotions come up for many of us during pregnancy.
Many of the sweet foods we crave are not packed with the nutrients our body is looking for in blood sugar balancing. Some naturally sweet and more nutrient-dense foods include:
Folic acid is a B vitamin and occurs naturally in peas, oranges, parsnips, and cabbage.
How to Address Trapped Emotions
Addressing challenging emotions can be very difficult. For that reason, many of us choose to suppress our emotions and they get stored in our bodies. Here is a three-step process to begin to release these emotions that have been stuck in the body.
Step 1: Recognize (self-awareness)
The first challenge can be identifying the emotions that are trapped in your body. This is where mindfulness comes in. The goal is to notice what is happening within our body, accept it, and feel it fully, without judgment. By becoming more mindful we will also get better at recognizing our emotions and how they manifest in our bodies. Get curious about what you are feeling and the root of this feeling. Always offer yourself self-compassion when you are processing difficult emotions.
Step 2: Respond (self-expression)
Our emotions need to be expressed to be processed. To release trapped energy, we must move the energy of emotion through and out of the body so we can let it go. This process needs to be authentic and embodied. Somatic healing teaches us that to heal our emotions we need to integrate the body. Processing emotions in your body may look like crying, screaming into a pillow, going for a swim, walking or running, dancing it out, hitting a punching bag, doing some gardening, tapping, yoga, painting, or simply breathing deeply while facing the sun—whatever feels right to you at that moment. Journaling what is coming up for you can be very effective.
Step 3: Reset (self-care)
If we have been suppressing our emotions, it is likely that we have also been neglecting a part of our bodies. Creating a regular practice where we prioritize self-care and enhance our feelings of well-being will help us invite more joy, peace, and health into our lives.
Disclaimer: This information does not substitute for a care provider-patient relationship and should not be relied on as personal medical advice.
Meet the Author
Clara O'Rourke (she hers),
Holistic Doula & Childbirth Educator.
I am a researcher turned total birth nerd with a passion for supporting people birth in their full power! I guide people through their pregnancy, labor, and postpartum journey by helping them overcome fear or anxiety about birth, providing evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions, and making sure they have everything they need to birth with confidence. Birth is sacred and it should be treated that way. I am committed to providing support for birth and beyond, regardless of a person's background, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or relationship status. También ofrezco mis servicios en español. I wish you and your growing family the brightest of beginnings!