One fascinating doorway into diagnosis is through a patient’s food cravings. There are many aspects to cravings, and different reasons for their existence — from basic nutritional imbalances, to influences coming from different diseased states of mind. I’ll present a sampling of some different cravings and their possible meanings, but this list is far from exhaustive, and leaves many more possibilities unspoken.
- Imbalances in the glandular typology — Based on the patient’s dominant gland type, an state of imbalance will lead to particular food cravings. An imbalanced thyroid type, for example, will crave refined carbs (bread, cakes, cookies, etc.), sugars, and stimulants such as caffein. An out-of-balance adrenal type will crave rich, salty foods, high in cholesterol, as well as alcohol. The problem with these glandular imbalances, once the person starts to stimulate themselves with these craving foods, is that it becomes a downward spiral where they crave these foods more and more, have less and less energy, and begin to gain weight.
- An expression of the patient’s healthy constitution (genotype) — Different genotypes will have a relationship to certain foods as basic preferences. These aren’t cravings under normal circumstances, but can become so under more stressed circumstances. A phosphorous, for example, has a natural preference for salty foods, but they may start craving them to excess under stress. They also tend to enjoy very spicy foods. A Pulsatilla constitution may crave fatty foods, including butter (watch out for those pulsatilla children who tend to stick their fingers right into the butter dish to scoop out a treat!), and these may increase as full blown cravings when under stress (which would typically be a relationship issue for Pulsatilla).
- An expression of an underlying disease state (of mind) — This category is large and quite interesting, as it includes many types of cravings which are not accounted for by the usual factors of nutritional imbalances or deficiencies. A state of unresolved grief, for example, represented by the remedy Natrum Muriaticum, will have a tremendous craving for salty foods. (It takes a well honed diagnostician to tell the difference between this salt craving from a Phosphorous salt craving). The reasons for having strong cravings for alcohol are many and varied, but to pick one remedy as an example, Lachesis, would relate to an emotional state related to many pent-up, undischarged emotions which seeks to have some way of trying to dissipate them (although the alcohol doesn’t actually provide a true discharge).
This is a very brief sampling to give you a taste of some of the thinking and differential diagnosis required to properly understand the meaning of a craving. I often find these symptoms some of the most useful in clinic, as they tend to be strong and distinct patterns in the patient seeking to be resolved.