Carbohydrate Craving – Causes and Cures

Probably the most common cause of carbohydrate craving is eating too many starches and sweets. Eating or drinking carbohydrates without much protein or fat causes blood sugar levels to go up. How fast sugar levels go up also depends on the Glycemic Index. In general the sweeter and more easily digested the carbohydrate is the more rapidly sugar levels go up and more insulin is released. Sudden surges of insulin cause the blood sugar to be taken up by muscle and liver cells and blood sugar rapidly falls, and oftentimes to low levels, which is known as reactive hypoglycemia.   The resulting low blood sugar causes craving for more sweets and starches.

Many people spend the whole day in a yo-yo effect with blood sugar rising and falling.  Eating more complex carbohydrates like whole grains, including protein with meals and eating small healthy snacks slows down the uptake into the blood system preventing the yo-yo cycling. Going longer stretches without eating or not eating adequate amounts of carbohydrate can also result in low blood sugar resulting in possible carbohydrate craving. If a very low carbohydrate diet is maintained for several days the body will learn to burn more fat resulting in a build up of ketones that may suppress carbohydrate craving, but carbohydrates should be incorporated back into the diet eventually.

That is how the first stage of the Atkins diet works. The South Beach diet replaces very low carbs with “good carbs” and “good fats”, but the first stage of the South Beach diet also restricts carbohydrates such as fruit – in order to force an increase in the use of body fat for energy.  Another cause of carbohydrate craving is using certain medications such as SSRI’s and certain mood stabilizers.  See Part Six Medication and Weight Control  Diabetes also causes carbohydrate craving even though blood sugar is elevated. The problem in diabetes is that there is either a lack of insulin or a resistance to insulin.

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