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Are You Suddenly Dying To Eat A Pickle Or A Pint Of Ice Cream?

What your food cravings secretly reveal about your health.

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African American woman's hand holding a delicious looking burger
Davide Luciano/The Licensing Project
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Suddenly craving pickles? No, you're not necessarily pregnant.

Actually, your hormones change as you age — especially after the age of 50 — and these hormones may alter your taste preferences. Other times, your hormones react to the way you’re feeling: It’s the reason why you reach for chocolate when you’re stressed.

“All hormones affect food cravings,” says Cory Rice, an internist and practitioner with BioTE Medical, a hormone optimization and nutraceutical therapy company. “As men and women age, all of these hormones start to decline in concentration, but also in our ability to produce them through our various glands.”

Got a craving? It’s most likely a symptom of a hormone imbalance, and it will happen more frequently as you get older, he says.

Here’s what your body is trying to tell you.


If you have insulin resistance, you will tend to crave more carbs, says Barry Sears, author of the Zone diet book series and president of the Inflammation Research Foundation. Insulin resistance is the start of metabolic syndrome, aka prediabetes, so Sears recommends that anyone craving carbs incessantly get a blood test for diabetes — stat. In the meantime, the best way to address the craving is to consume more protein and to lower your glycemic load by eating more nonstarchy veggies like broccoli or asparagus to release gut hormones. These go directly to your brain to stop hunger and to stabilize blood glucose levels in your blood, Sears says.

Fatty foods

If you’re downing french fries like it’s your job, you may have estradiol to blame. This assists in the regulation of the number and type of fat cells in your body. “If there is a deficiency, your appetite is not suppressed, and your body is told to hold on to certain fat cells,” says Bonnie Gasquet, medical director at Wellness Jar Medical Spa in North Palm Beach, Florida. When the flux drops — as it does during hot flashes — you will likely mobilize brown fat cells for thermoregulation, but you’ll hold on to the other fat cells for storage (it’s one of the reasons why you may have a harder time losing weight postmenopause). If you notice that your food intake and cravings aren’t under your control, you should see a doctor who is familiar with bioidentical hormone replacement and metabolic nutrition. “It’s not an emergency, but quality of life would greatly be improved once discovered and corrected,” Gasquet says.


There’s a real reason why you reach for a pint of ice cream when you’re sad. “Sweets increase serotonin levels, which is the link to depressed people eating their feelings,” Gasquet says. That’s because serotonin is a neurotransmitter that acts as a messenger to help regulate mood, so low serotonin levels lead to depression. There may, however, be another reason why you’re turning to sugar. Women also crave sweet and salty foods when their progesterone is elevated compared with their estrogen, which is what happens throughout your cycle if you’re menstruating, she says.

Food and more food

You just can’t seem to feel full. You may have a progesterone deficiency, Gasquet says. A progesterone deficiency can lead to unbalanced ghrelin and leptin, which control your brain’s awareness of feeling full or being hungry. There is a byproduct in progesterone metabolism that assists in your brain’s regulation of these while you sleep, so if your progesterone is deficient it is likely that your satiety regulation is off, leading to more daytime eating in general, she says.

What to do if you have food cravings

Since food cravings are a common symptom of a hormone imbalance, you should see a doctor specializing in hormone replacement therapy, Rice says. Make sure your doctor checks all your hormones, as it may not be initially clear what your food craving is suggesting. For example, eating too many sugars or carbs because of increased cravings will start a vicious cycle of metabolic disturbances that include weight gain, fatigue and sleep disturbances. This will, subsequently, increase your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and elevated lipids. The good news? “The food cravings that lead to all of these health issues are completely reversible with appropriate hormone optimization and therapeutic lifestyle change through proper nutrition,” Rice says.