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Understand What Your Cravings Really Mean by Liz Whalen

Do you wake up in the morning and crave that hot cup of freshly brewed coffee? Pick up a sweet muffin on your way to work and then munch on a salty bag of chips later in the afternoon as the snack attack comes on? Don’t be a slave to your cravings.

Cravings can work in one of two ways—they can signal us into what our bodies needs in order to function optimally, or they can lead us down a path of illusion, creating desires that only can be satisfied on a deeper level, but that manifest as food cravings.

Ayurveda recognizes six tastes— sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. In order to keep balance, it’s recommended that we incorporate all six tastes into each meal. But when things go out of balance, we may get cravings for a particular taste that can signal us into something deeper.


The first factor to consider when addressing cravings is whether they are a natural craving, signaling us into what our body really needs, or an unnatural craving, deceiving us with a desire to eat a food we don’t really need. The determining factor is what is known as ama in Ayurveda. Ama represents toxins that have accumulated in the body as a result of impaired digestion or other factors. If the body is clogged with ama, it may produce false cravings, as it has become disconnected from its natural ability to clue us in to which of the six tastes we require. Everyone has some level of ama, but there are certain signs that can let us know when it has become too high, such as low energy and fatigue, waking up feeling groggy, and indigestion to name a few.

Deciphering Cravings

Although a craving can be unnatural, we can use it to decipher an underlying meaning, which can put us on the path to resolving it.

Sweet—A craving for sweets can signify the need for more energy or more grounding, as well as the need for self-nurturance. For example, when we don’t get a proper night’s sleep, we may notice the tendency to crave sweets throughout the next day. This is the body’s attempt at gaining the energy it missed through sleep.

Salty—Cravings for salt can indicate that our digestion is sluggish, or that we have been overdoing it by taking on too much at once. If we don’t allow ourselves the proper time for rest and rejuvenation, digestion can be greatly affected, as it’s dependent on this time in order to function optimally. Salt cravings can also indicate a lack of zest in life.

Bitter and Sour—The experience of bitter or sour cravings can be the body’s natural response to excess ama. Bitter can also signify the need for more greens in the diet. The most common bitter craving is for coffee.

Spicy Foods—A craving for spicy foods often indicates weak digestion. This is particularly true when there is a lack of exercise in our routine. Spices are natural aids in the digestive process, so when we crave them in excess, it’s our body letting us know that it needs some assistance.

Addressing the Underlying Cause for Cravings

Now that we can see that there are deeper meanings for our food cravings, let us look at what we can do to resolve them at the source.

Reduce Ama—If there is a high level of toxins in the body, we will need to clear this out in order for digestion to function properly. Exercise, eating a balance diet composed of fresh, organic foods and using detoxifying herbs are good ways to start to decrease ama. Another excellent practice we can add to our routine is sipping hot water throughout the day. The warmth of the water on the tongue will stimulate the digestive fire and begin to burn away the accumulated toxins. Conversely, cold beverages can impede digestion and lead to the build-up of ama.

Improve Sleep—Sleep is crucial to our overall sense of well-being, and it has a tremendous impact on digestion. The time spent in deep sleep is when our bodies process everything from the day that has not been processed. It is also when the body rejuvenates. If this process is cut short, there is a high chance that will we experience cravings that are not natural. For sleep to be most restorative, it’s important not only that we get the right amount, but that it’s taken during the right times. Avoid day-time sleeping and try to be in bed by 10 p.m. This will allow the body to get back in rhythm with the natural cycles of the day, and that’s when deep healing can occur. It is said that every hour of sleep before midnight counts as two hours of sleep after.

Meditation—Meditation can be profoundly healing, allowing us to process and let go of experiences we hold in the subconscious mind. These unprocessed experiences build up and eventually begin to manifest as physical symptoms, such as cravings. Cravings can lead to unhealthy eating, which leads to ama, which leads to disease.

As humans existing on multiple levels, we should address our imbalances on multiple levels. We can choose to eat only when we are truly hungry, we can move the body to release blocked energy, and we can meditate to clear our mind of impurities and set our souls free.

By taking a truly holistic approach to our well-being, we can set ourselves up for a lifetime of success. When we gain an understanding of what is causing our cravings and how we can resolve it, we put ourselves on a path to reaching all of our goals. Let one symptom take you deeper and discover the light within.

Liz Whalen is an Ayurvedic wellness coach and yoga instructor. She helps clients find a path to inner peace and contentment that manifests on all levels of our being. Learn more about Liz Whalen and her work at or contact 201-344-4580.

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