So you’ve started on a healthy eating diet plan with regular exercise as you know it’s one of the best ways to lose weight but why do you still crave unhealthy foods?
Natural Medicine Practitioner & Nutritionist, Elisha Danine shares some information about how our hormones can contribute to these cravings:
We crave unhealthy foods for many different reasons. It could be morning, noon, night or anytime in between and us women could eat a horse at times. There are many reasons why we may be craving unhealthy foods but in this article I’ve decided to focus solely on hormones. These are some very common reasons you may not be able to beat the bulge


Leptin is a protein that acts as a hormone, primarily in the hypothalamus. Research suggests that leptin promotes a negative energy balance by suppressing appetite and increasing energy expenditure. Leptin is also released from stomach cells in response to the presence of food – suggesting a role for both short term and long term satiety regulation. Rarely, people can suffer a genetic deficiency of leptin, with barely detectable blood levels of leptin available. Surprisingly, many obese people actually have high leptin levels as scientists believe this hormone rises in an effort to overcome leptin resistance.


Grehlin is another protein that acts as a hormone. It is the opposite to Leptin as it regulates energy balance by stimulating appetite and promoting efficient energy storage. A lack of sleep increases this hunger hormone, and decreases the satiety hormone leptin, which may explain current evidence of short sleep duration being attributed to high BMI rates. Researchers are still trying to understand the link between sleep disorders and eating habits, so in the meantime it may be best to try ways to help induce sleep like, not using your bedroom as an office, or to watch tv, also not using any wi-fi devices for an hour before bed. To help bring on sleep try having a warm bath with some lavender drops before bed.

Thyroid hormone

Some women suffer decreased metabolism as a result of thyroid hormone deficiency called hypothyroidism. Common symptoms are: Fatigue, Cold intolerance, Constipation, Dry skin and Weight gain. In these cases, weight gain resulting from decreased metabolism usually does not exceed 7-8 kilos.
Your doctor can easily arrange for you to take a blood test to measure the concentration of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If the test comes back and everything looks good, your thyroid gland is probably fine. For a more exact diagnosis, you can ask them to measure the actual levels of thyroid hormone in the blood (T3 and T4). Two ways to avoid becoming deficient in thyroid hormone are to:

  • Make sure you consume enough iodine, which is a building block of thyroid hormone. Good sources are fish, shellfish and iodised salt (or sea salt).
  • Very low levels of thyroid hormone usually indicate an autoimmune reaction to the thyroid gland itself. Speak to a Nutritionist or Naturopath to organize food allergy testing or an elimination diet to see if any foods are causing this immune response.

Endocrine Disorders

Sex hormones also affect your weight. Women can suffer from the endocrine disorder PCOS – polycystic ovarian syndrome – which elevates testosterone and insulin levels. This can mean weight gain and menstrual disorders, infertility, acne and male pattern hair growth (such as facial hair). Both a low-carbohydrate diet and anti-inflammatory diet are good treatment options for PCOS.


The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep, or cortisone medication. In rare and extreme cases, you could be dealing with a specific kind of tumour that drives cortisol production. The condition is called Cushing’s syndrome. If you suspect you’re suffering from this, consult your doctor and they will run the appropriate tests.
Written by Elisha Danine – Natural Medicine Practitioner.
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