Dreaming About Sugar, Salt, Or Carbs? These Essential Oils Can Help Curb Cravings
Have you ever tried your hardest to turn around your eating habits only to find yourself on a midafternoon or late-night binge of cookies or chips? Are mornings fruitless unless you have your sweetened coffee drink? Or maybe your cravings are more subtle, masquerading as routine with your daily afternoon snack of a granola bar and a diet soda?
Regardless of how obviously or subtly your cravings are harassing you, you can bet that hormonal imbalance is fueling them. Chronic levels of stress cause increased cortisol levels in your body, which shut down your digestive system in favor of survival. In this survival state, your body thinks food is scarce, and it will do whatever it takes to keep you alive. This causes the body to store extra fat around your middle and tricks you into overeating because your brain thinks that it might not get another meal.
The vicious cycle of cravings and chronic stress
To add to the problem, when we see extra weight around our middles we often start skipping meals or restricting calories. Sadly, this just further triggers those midafternoon binges and heightens our cravings because it reinforces the idea that we aren't getting enough food and need to enter survival mode. As you can see, it quickly becomes a vicious cycle.
And finally, there's the sugar addiction itself. Did you know that when we consume sugar, it causes the brain to release dopamine1, the exact same neurotransmitter that skyrockets when you do cocaine? You experience that tell-tale sugar high, followed by a crash, and then you're left craving more.
Even if you think that you don't eat that much sugar, you can still be addicted to carbs, which the body then converts into—you guessed it!—sugar. If you pass on the chocolate but indulge in pretzels, chips, and bagels, you are still dealing with a sugar issue.
Lifestyle changes that will help you curb cravings.
The good news is that essential oils can be the key to banishing those cravings when you use them to support other healthy lifestyle changes and reduce chronic stress and cortisol. My new book, The Essential Oil Hormone Solution, takes you step by step through the process of making lifestyle changes that both lower cortisol—to communicate to your body that it doesn't need to be in survival mode—and help you cut down on sugar and carbs for better health overall.
1. Become a label expert.
Be aware that sugar often goes incognito in foods because the food industry knows how to hide it with tricky wording and ingredients. One of the best nutrition skills you can have is knowing what names sugar might be hiding behind and being able to identify them on the spot.
2. Opt for lower sugar fruits.
If you've been snacking on grapes or oranges, you may want to make a switch to berries to lower your daily sugar intake. Fruit sugar is better than processed sugar, but when you add in things like that nightly glass-turned-bottle of wine, you realize how much your body relies on the grape sugar.
3. Download an app to track your eating.
You may not be aware of how much you are actually eating or when those cravings occur. Tracking your eating habits as well as exercise can help you to balance your body's needs when it comes to fuel and movement. This will also help you to manage stress levels when you decrease the sugar content and get that body moving.
4. Pay attention to your mood.
When you have a craving, see what time it is and how you're feeling. It could be that your body is conditioned to crave a sweet pick-me-up as soon as you feel stressed in the afternoon. Watch for these patterns and try to break the habit by opting for a high-protein snack or water, or use essential oils to rid your body of that craving and calm your nerves.
5. Choose protein and whole foods for snacks.
Foods like nuts, seeds, and berries will help your body get used to feeling fuller without the rush of sugar. Veggies are also a great option for snacks as well, especially when paired with protein like hummus. Even cubes of meat or some jerky can help sustain you without spiking your blood sugar.
Often, your body mistakes thirst for hunger, triggering a snack craving. Try drinking your way through first and see if you still need a snack. Begin carrying a water bottle around with you everywhere so that you are consistently keeping your body hydrated. And more importantly, be sure that you aren't drinking your calories. Get rid of the juices, the sugar-loaded coffees, sweet teas, and especially the soda.
Go-to essential oils for when you just can't stop thinking about sugar.
When it comes to cravings, there are two go-to essential oils that fight against cravings: peppermint and grapefruit. Famous research by Dr. Alan Hirsch showed the amazing power of simply inhaling peppermint to curb cravings. You can put peppermint leaves in your water, a drop in your green smoothie, a drop under your tongue, or simply inhale it right out of the bottle to keep those 3 p.m. or late-night cravings away.
Other studies have also demonstrated the effectiveness of citrus essential oils2, and grapefruit proves to be the most effective at reducing cravings while improving insulin resistance to combat the effects of metabolic syndrome. I love adding grapefruit slices to my water or a drop of EO in my smoothies or water infusions on a daily basis for a fresh zing that fights cravings.
Other citrus oils like bergamot and lemon also help your body to balance your mood while reducing cortisol levels naturally and can curb those cravings. Cassia and cinnamon bark3 are other favorites of mine to keep the body feeling full, balance blood sugar levels, and support healthy digestion. Ginger is also another option that helps to support a healthy digestive system, which also needs some love if chronic stress is taking a toll on your GI tract.
It’s important to note that not all essential oils are safe to digest. The FDA has a current list of approved essential oils that are generally recognized as safe. For more details on the essential oils you should and should never ingest, check out this piece.
Essential oil recipes that will help you curb cravings.
Here are some of my favorite ways to utilize essential oils to curb cravings and support the body as it gets used to a healthier lifestyle:
1. Cut the Cravings Diffuser Blend
I recommend using this diffuser blend during those times of day when your body wants to take you to the vending machine or the pantry for a sugary treat. It will redirect and sustain your focus naturally instead of relying on that momentary sugar focus that will end up leaving you wanting more.
- 2 drops grapefruit essential oil
- 2 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1 drop cassia essential oil
Add essential oils to diffuser with water three times a day.
2. Crave Control Rollerball Blend
- 5 drops grapefruit essential oil
- 2 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
- 2 drops ginger essential oil
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- Carrier oil of choice
Add the essential oils to a 5 mL glass rollerball bottle and fill the rest with a carrier oil of choice. Replace top and cap, and swirl to combine. To use, roll on your pulse points and inhale deeply to curb cravings.
3. Crave-Busting Water Infusion
- 1 grapefruit, sliced into wheels
- 1 drop peppermint essential oil
- 1 drop grapefruit essential oil
- Small handful of ice cubes
- 1 quart filtered water
Add the wheels to a large glass pitcher and drop in the essential oils. Cover with ice and carefully pour in the water. Steep for at least 30 minutes, but 2 to 3 hours is preferred. Sip throughout the day to banish cravings and sustain your mind and body.
Even more important than using essential oils is identifying and getting to know your own triggers so that you can use essential oils preventively. Ask yourself: What causes you to crave certain foods in the first place? Is it lack of sleep? Chronic stress? A social gathering of wine drinkers? Your period? Whatever it may be, try to track it down and be proactive with essential oil. And don't forget to fuel your body properly, get it moving, hydrate, and calm those stress levels to keep your hormones happy!
Mariza Snyder, D.C., is a functional wellness practitioner and public speaker currently living in Northern California. She received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic College West and her Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Health Psychology from Mills College. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, Women's Health and O, The Oprah Magazine and is the author of five best-selling nutrition books. Snyder specializes in holistic medicine and nutrition, aiming to help people live a healthy and abundant life.