When Your Body Speaks: Paying Attention to Food Cravings

Several weeks ago I caught a doozy of a cold, leaving me with a stuffed head, chronically runny nose, sore throat and a bit of a cough. Bad enough for the first few days, weeks later it seemed like it just wouldn’t go away.  I didn’t have the flu or strep throat or bronchitis, but the symptoms lingered. Finally, after weeks of getting more rest and watching my diet, it passed. During that time I ate lightly, (when I wasn’t sleeping,) but found myself throwing handfuls of thyme and garlic into virtually everything – from scrambled eggs to soup. It was a little bizarre, actually.

Now I know that garlic has all kinds of medicinal benefits, but I hadn’t really thought about thyme that way – I just “craved” the flavor. Then, just a few days ago, I saw a brief mention of the health benefits of thyme, and it clicked – I had been craving thyme and, at the same time, giving my body the medicine it wanted. A quick Google search showed that thyme is used to treat bronchitis and lung ailments, that it’s loaded with Vitamin C to fight colds, and that as a natural antibacterial is frequently used to fight infections, both internally and externally. It also can be used in dilution to treat skin wounds and acne, and is a natural antifungal.

I have learned over the years to listen to my food cravings, so long as they are not of the sugar or narcolepsy-inducing-carbohydrate variety.  A good rule of thumb is, “if it makes you sleepy, beware” (unless that’s what you want). Over the years I have listened to the impulse to throw mint in a salad when my stomach was upset, to buy a quart of keffir when my digestion was off, and to soak my itchy feet in a solution of tea tree oil – all of which led to immediate relief, forestalling any potentially serious issues. In each case I was not conscious of picking the medicine my body needed, I was simply listening to a craving. It was only after the fact, when I was feeling better, that I realized what I had done.

These are just a few examples that come to mind, but I’ve been listening to my body and researching the medicinal properties of food for years. I have a clear memory of being a little kid and craving apple cider vinegar for about two weeks. I would come home from school and pour a little bit into an egg cup and bolt it down before going to change into play clothes. Then the impulse passed and I forgot about it. It wasn’t until years later that I learned that apple cider vinegar is know to lower blood sugar, restore pH balance and boost the immune system. I still have no idea what my young body was trying to heal or regulate, but I know it made me feel better at the time. More important, I learned to listen to my body and what it was trying to tell me.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

by Cheryl Shainmark