Everyone has heard about women having specific cravings during pregnancy, but why do women suddenly want certain foods, and do these cravings mean anything?
Cravings mostly have to do with the hormones of pregnancy.
Think about the time before you start your menstrual cycle when your hormones are their highest, and then magnify those feelings tenfold. This will give you an idea of how strong cravings can be.
These hormones can lead to changes on the receptors of the tongue, causing you to want to eat certain foods more than others. This also can cause some aversions to foods you normally love to eat.
However, some of these cravings may have a health-related cause behind them.
For instance, the most common cravings women experience during pregnancy are for fruit, milk, chocolate or other sweets.
Craving fruit may indicate body levels low in vitamin C, or craving dairy may mean a deficiency in calcium.
Craving more high-calorie sweets like ice cream can be related to increasing caloric needs to support your pregnancy.
Sometimes, women will crave sour foods such as pickles and salty snacks such as potato chips or French fries. This may be your body’s way of retaining fluids and replacing sodium lost during your first trimester, during which progesterone levels can lead to losing more sodium in your urine.
Cravings also can be psychological and can be influenced by the environment. For instance, if your friend tells you that they craved chili cheese fries during their pregnancy, this may trigger you to also crave chili cheese fries.
So, when do we need to worry if the pregnancy cravings indicate a true medical problem?
An impaired taste or smell can indicate zinc deficiency, and zinc supplements will be recommended. Red meats (beef, lamb, buffalo) contain more heme iron than white meats (chicken or pork). Fully cooked oysters, mussels or octopus are common seafoods high in iron and zinc.
If your iron levels are low, then your doctor will recommend iron supplementation, which should help to reduce the craving.
Occasionally, a woman may crave things we don’t consider to be edible such as dirt, clay, laundry detergent or ice. This is called pica and can be a sign of iron-deficiency anemia. Your doctor should check your hemoglobin level periodically during the pregnancy, especially if you have very unusual cravings.
Also, eating clay or dirt in excessive amounts can lead to imbalances in electrolytes, mineral deficiencies and other obvious things, such as constipation or even intestinal obstruction.
Remember, you can satisfy your cravings occasionally, as long as they are in moderation and not done excessively. Pregnant women only need to take in 300 additional calories a day to support their pregnancy.
Indulging too much and too often can lead to abdominal pain from indigestion, or excessive weight gain during pregnancy, which increases the risk for gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
Always be sure to discuss with your OB-GYN if you have any cravings that seem out of the ordinary.
Your doctor should be making sure that you are taking in the appropriate nutrients and are gaining a normal amount of weight for a healthy pregnancy.
Published on: December 19, 2017