Does my mind interpret requests by my body (for vitamins, etc) into particular food p

Sometimes I wake up and crave orange juice, when I drank a lot there was a fairly high correlation between this event and a hangover. I’ve always assumed it was happening because my body says to my head ‘Vitamin C, NOW’ and my head was able to translate that request into a particular product – it’s remarkable and I have no idea how that works ….

Another example came today and about two hours after a heavy gym session; I suddenly began to crave chocolate éclairs, something I haven’t eaten in several months – I assume it was the energy kick my body was requesting ….

Then I thought of pregnant women developing odd cravings, which until now I hadn’t thought of as requests by the body for minerals or vitamins, etc.

The really weird one was thinking that maybe the foetus itself was requesting nourishment through the umbilical chord, into the mothers’ body, up to her mind which then translated the developing baby’s request into marmite and banana sandwiches - an unborn and developing baby requesting sandwiches, how mad is that ?

Have I just written a complete pile of steaming seconds, or is (at least) some of it true, or possible. And, if it is possible, how on earth does my head translate requests from the body into particular foods ?

The mystery word at the end beginning with ’p’ is ‘products’, in case anyone’s head was unable to translate the idiocy of my typewriting into comprehendible English.

I can’t find a cite, but I remember reading that we don’t crave certain foods because we need whatever nutrients that food may supply. The body just doesn’t work that way.

Likewise with no cite but I thought in a broader sense (i.e. not a specific food) we tend to like those things our body needs. Specifically salty foods comes to mind. While today our diets (at least in the developed countries) is loaded with more salt than we know what to do with this wasn’t always the case. Back in the mists of time salt wasn’t so easily comes by. That’s why you find salt licks so popular with animals. As a result we developed a strong ‘like’, as it were, for salt. Mother Nature wanted to ensure that when we encountered it we wanted to take advantage of it. I do not know if that can be extended to other ‘tastes’ as well such as sweet cravings but there it is FWIW.

I don’t know if this counts,but in almost all of the pregnancy books I have been reading, they say that if you find that you are craving clay (the dirt,not the american idol boy) talk to your DR. right away cause you are probably lacking a specific vitamin…I think it was iron but I’m too lazy to go get the book and confirm,but if you insist,I will.

I read about an interesting study that is relevant to this question.

Children of 5 years of age were allowed, over a period of weeks to choose from around 30 fresh or prepared foods at each meal.

At first, they chose odd combinations, or ate the same thing at every meal for 4 or five meals. However, in the long run, they all ate a balanced diet.

The implications here are:

  1. you don’t need to force children to eat the right food - it comes naturally to them (note however that sugary foods and pastries were excluded from the study).

  2. by a process of trying different foods, you form a database of what nutrients are available from which food, and you can select accordingly. This is analogous to the process where you avoid foods that have made you sick in the past.

Anecdotally, I have also had cravings for oranges or orange juice, that I thought might be to do with needing Vit C after smoking cigarettes.

It has always seemed logical to me that we crave sweets and sugar so much because in nature, these substances are extraordinarily hard to find. Other than honey, which you have to risk bee stings for, and fresh fruit, where else would prehistoric man – or any animal, for that matter – get something sweet? In the quantity you could get it, honey would be a good source of calories, and fruit is a great source of several nutrients. So creatures who liked these would be better off. The same thing would probably be true of fats, and to a slightly lesser extent meat. However, plants are easier to come by, and so there was no need to develop a particular taste for them; they are what one would usually eat anyway. Thus there was no advantage to having a desire for them. In today’s developed world, on the other hand, you can get all the sugar you want, to the point where we too often substitute it for what the body really needs.

Long ago (so I can’t cite it; hopefully I’m not utterly misled), I remember reading about a study of food habits among poor, inner-city children. One of the most common dietary insufficiencies they found was the near absence of calcium in the kids’ food. However, it wasn’t a problem for those living in the negelected buildings- universally they had an absent-minded habit of picking at the cracked plaster walls and eating it, thus getting all the calcium they needed.

Alcohol is dehydrating, and you probably enjoy juice with vitamin C more than water, etc.

Occasionally people with vitamin deficincies crave foods which contain them, but usually not. Most people with iron deficiency do not eat more meat and correct it. Pregnancy is also a big cause of iron deficiency, and while some pregnant women do get pica, most do not. Kids deficient in calcium who eat paint might get lead poisioning.

I can give only anecdotal evidence. The first time that I had a problem with low blood sugar, I had no idea what was wrong. But I did crave a bowl of raw oatmeal with milk and lots and lots of sugar.

Another time, I was drinking orange juice by the bucket. I found out that my potassium was so low that I had to take eight big tablets at one time.

If research says otherwise, I would be willing to accept the findings. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all that the brain is able to signal us when certain nutrients are running low.

When I was going through my adolescent growth spurt, I used to wake up in the middle of the night with weird cravings like “I must have a whole bunch of steamed broccoli with lemon juice, NOW!” The cravings back then were frequent, and they were usually for a specific type of healthy food.

I still get them once in a while, but usually when I notice I’ve been lacking in some particular category, so maybe it’s not so subconscious anymore. I do think there’s something to it, though.

Goodness, I’ve never heard of (pregnant women) craving clay but it does sound marvellously prehistoric!

I think this must make more sense than my suggestion - the craving is more likely to be related to smoking that the alcohol.

As I understand it, humankind only moved to more northern climates (not natural fruit growing areas) once we learned to better control our environment - I’m not sure how that impacts on the sugar issue, but it must somehow …
Thank you,** everyone**, for your helpful contributions! Lots of anecdotal evidence in a similar vein (har har) to my own.

Actually, I’m still struggling with even the correct search terms to use on Google. Fwiw, I suspect, from a scientific perspective, ‘we’re’ still a very long way from understanding what’s afoot.
I just don’t have another explanation for craving itself, let alone products I haven’t eaten in several months … having said that, the chocolate éclairs were lovely !

I knew a lady who, when pregnant, had cravings to eat raw chicken; it must be that her body was just crying out for its RDA of salmonella.

Then please explain the rationality that chomping on ice cubes signifies a lack of iron in the blood? (I know I’ve read that a few times on this board.)

IIRC,The condition of eating clay or in some cases laundry starch is known as pica. Though the only being I ever knew who suffered from the condition was a dog.

Its not so strange if you consider the body will request energy in the form of solid food, or liquid to hydrate the system.

Naturally we know the appearance of a variety of both solids and liquids, which when ingested will cause the desire to cease. From there its simply a case of choosing from whats available.

So the algorithm might be:

  1. Stomach capacity low
  2. Stomach tells brain “fill me”
  3. Brain examines database of prefered products
  4. Brain examines whats available
  5. Brain chooses product available which is most preferable

But maybe what foods you prefer has some bearing on their nutritional benefit. If it gives you a steady supply of energy, or a quick rush (jalapenos :)) then you’ll probably prefer it to something thats crud.

Greetings! Dr Dolittle, I presume ?

On your first para, I have no idea but I’d guess human evolution (and memory) probably predates modern filtering and plumbing – was there a period in history when iron could be had from drinking, say, stream water ?

Sure, but that is just hunger - maybe the brain is equipeed to make decisions about sugar or fluids, but I doubt it goes beyond that. Besides, we are pretty much programmed to crave high-energy foods (regardless of whether our needs have been met), which is why obesity is a problem in our non-hunter-gatherer society.

Don’t menstruating women (or at some point in the cycle) crave red meat (protein) sometimes ?

Evidence is gradually accumulating that other animals choose different foods based on what their body needs. Here is a page that talks about research with chimps, sheep, and lemurs.

Here’s another cite from one of the Discovery Channels about how chimps medicate themselves when ill.

As far as orange juice, it gives sugar, water, and potassium, all of which are low after a night of imbibing. I’ll bet it’s the post-celebration hypglycemia that really motivates you.

I don’t know… do they? It sounds like folklore to me, but I’ll gladly yield that suspicion in the face of some reliable figures.