When Your Body Speaks: Paying Attention to Food Cravings

Some time ago (in the pre-Covid era), 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, but 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

This article was first published February 2019.


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Several years ago I had a vision of the future that transformed my life and helped me to determine what new career path to pursue. Leading into that moment was the fact that, at the age of 40, after years of working in computers, I was back at school. I was an adult returnee in my “senior” year at college and my three most favorite professors had each approached me about entering into their field of expertise: Asian Studies, the School of Journalism, and Psychology. What a wonderful compliment! — each thought that I would excel in their profession and offered me mentoring, contacts and references for further graduate work. I was both flattered and immobilized with indecision

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

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| by Cheryl Shainmark

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