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What Causes Cravings

By January 14, 2020September 11th, 2022Nutrition Education, Weight Loss

What Causes Cravings

One question I get often is how do I beat my sugar cravings? A lot of things can cause us to crave certain foods. This photo of me holding this huge sucker is from my Keto Italy trip (which you must join me next May!). I have never seen such a huge sucker in my life! But seriously, sugar cravings was hard for me to break too! I was on a lot of antibiotics for ear infections when I was a child, then as a teenager I was prescribed antibiotics for acne. No wonder I loved junk food and was depressed! I most likely had no good-gut bacteria!

There are many reasons that we have food cravings. Let me step you through the top reasons we crave foods to help you combat your cravings!

What Causes Cravings and Hunger

Here are some common things that can cause cravings and hunger:

1. Lack of Electrolytes

The first feelings of hunger during the day probably means you need some sodium. Often times, clients tell me they crave salt. Craving salt isn’t harmful unless you grab potato chips to satisfy those cravings. Remember that electrolyte needs to up on keto. Some of the feelings of an electrolyte imbalance (lightheadedness, etc) people often misconstrue as hunger. Click HERE to find my SOLE Water recipe and try to sip on that before reaching for food.

2. Low Hydrochloric acid

I always tell clients, “You are not ‘what you eat’ you are WHAT YOU ABSORB!”

You could be eating the most nutritious food BUT if you aren’t absorbing those nutrients you are constantly going to be hungry and have cravings. Even though you absorb calories, you are not absorbing nutrients. If you are having indigestion, acid reflux or hungry after a large meal, add hydrochloric acid with pepsin (click HERE to find). A healthy thyroid produces hydrochloric acid. I’ve had clients need up to 5 capsules each time they eat, but most often clients only need one with each meal.


I often work with clients who are on thyroid medication and I always tell them to have their doctor keep a close eye on their thyroid levels. Despite what their doctor tells them, I often get clients OFF thyroid medication with proper diet and supplementation!

If you are on thyroid medication and you started to follow one of my thyroid protocols (click HERE to find), and you notice your sleep suffering, your stools are loose, you are having a touch of anxiety, your hunger is increased… basically everything is speeding up… you need to get your thyroid levels retested. You most likely are being overdosed with thyroid medication. Having too fast of a thyroid isn’t healthy and causes issues just as if you had too low of a thyroid.

4. Exercise

Due to the increase in blood sugar that intense exercise causes, there is a response of the blood sugar coming back down. Hunger happens when blood sugar is falling. You most often notice that hunger goes away when you start exercising but once you are done exercising, hunger is increased.  Hunger is increased after exercise also due to dehydration; before you grab food, drink water with added electrolytes.

If weight loss is your goal, you will benefit from the afterburn effect hours after a workout if you allow the human growth hormone to rise and do not eat right after working out. Read more about this in KETO: The Complete Guide to Success on the Ketogenic Diet. 


You may have heard this before but often times you are thirsty, not hungry. A good general rule of thumb is to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces each day. But getting electrolytes right and then just drinking to thirst is best for most people. Forcing water beyond thirst can remove more electrolytes from the body. However, do not drink with meals, it dilutes your digestive enzymes that break down food.


If you think that you are doing fine living off of 6 hours of sleep a night, think again! Lack of sleep causes many issues. Your hormones are balanced as you rest. Your thyroid and adrenal hormones NEED SLEEP!

There is a fascinating study on Army Rangers where they kept their diet the same but they limited their sleep to only 6 hours a night. After 3 nights, their cells started to look like a Type 2 diabetic!

I have many people ask me why their blood sugars are high despite eating keto. My first question is “how is your sleep?” Most often, they had a poor night of sleep.

Sleep helps with cravings, weight loss, blood sugar, moods and so much more! The cause of sleep problems is a complicated issue. If you can’t fall asleep, it most likely is low melatonin. Using quality BLUblox glasses is amazing for this! It helped me a lot; I start wearing my BLUblox glasses around 5pm every night.

Also, IN RARE occasions magnesium is energizing, try moving this to the morning if sleep is still and issue. It is energizing for me.

If you can’t stay asleep, it could be low salt or in most cases low progesterone in women.

Cutting ALL caffeine is very important for healing sleep issues.

Click HERE for sleep supplement help.

7. Caffeine

Caffeine increases blood sugar which is why it often stops hunger when you first start drinking it. On average, 250 milligrams will increase blood sugar about 8%. But what goes up, must come down. Once you stop drinking your coffee, hunger is increased even more before you started drinking it. Most clients comment that once they quit coffee their cravings are decreased tremendously!

Caffeine also increases androgen hormone and high androgen in a female body causes PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome) which is basically diabetes that effects fertility and makes weight loss very difficult.

Caffeine also dehydrates you and depletes you of electrolytes. Dehydration and low electrolytes increase hunger and cravings.


I often work with clients who tell me they are great during the week when they are busy, but on the weekends they find they eat way too much and it is often because they are bored.

Find new hobbies or fun ways to fill time instead of focusing on food. If I said I was bored as a child, my mom always gave me chores to do! lol

9. Low good gut bacteria

A healthy body has 2 POUNDS of good gut bacteria in the large intestine where the typical American has almost none! Could this be why there is so much depression, obesity, sleep issues going on? Serotonin comes from our gut! Low gut bacteria causes low moods, intense sugar cravings, poor sleep and even weight gain.

Children that crave bland food or plain noodles, are most likely low in good gut bacteria.

My whole family takes a Just Thrive probiotic daily! Click HERE to find and get 5% off your order!

10. Mineral deficiencies

Low magnesium (which you can’t test cell saturation for) causes chocolate and sweet cravings. Majority of children and adults are deficient because we once got magnesium from our water supply. Since most people drink filtered or bottled water, we are deficient in magnesium. Even if you are drinking well water, the soil is depleted of the magnesium it once had. My whole family takes Magnesium Glycinate (400-800mg daily).  Click HERE to find.

Low zinc causes salt cravings or wanting something sweet after a meal even though you are full. Many people are low in zinc because you lose a lot of zinc as you sweat. Low zinc can also cause acne or “back”ne (acne on the back). Birth control pills deplete you of zinc. IF you decide to start taking zinc, start slowly OR it will cause you to feel nauseous. Click HERE to find a liquid zinc that also has a test to see if you are deficient. 

11. Medications and Herbs

Craig is taking a whole medicine cabinet worth of herbs, supplements and 3 very powerful medications. Many medications and antibiotics can change the way your taste-buds register flavor and often dull the taste-bud response which cause us to search for more flavor. In this case we often need more sweet or salt on our food. Or we often give up and we lose our appetite because nothing tastes good.

I’m not telling you to stop your medications, but be aware that some medications, antibiotics and herbs can change taste buds as well as increase hunger.

12. Certain times of the year

Many times people tell me they crave an apple in the fall, or strawberries in the summer. People who have quit smoking often have set backs during the time of year or in a setting where they started smoking. These cravings stem from memories being triggered during certain times of the year.

People hold fast to food traditions. For example, if you crave apples in fall, you probably have good memories of eating apples fresh from an apple tree with your family, and your parents probably have similar memories with their parents before them.

13. Low Dopamine

Cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, as well as binge eating is associated with low serotonin and low dopamine levels. Serotonin and dopamine soothes and calms and brings about feelings of contentment. With adequate serotonin, you have a greater level of satiety when eating healthy foods. Do not be mistaken that sugar helps with low serotonin and dopamine levels. Sugar increases serotonin for a short time but with an INTENSE crash, causing a more intense low. The true help for brain neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine are animal proteins. Amino acids in animal proteins increase serotonin and dopamine naturally.

A few things can cause low serotonin and dopamine. One is not eating enough animal proteins. Another reason is having high histamines. High histamines block serotonin therefore often causing depression. Eliminating high histamine foods is step one. Adding a natural supplement called D-Hist (click HERE) is also recommended.

If you are NOT on an antidepressant, something called 5-HTP increases serotonin. 5-HTP helps many people decrease cravings, increase mood, as well as decrease PMS. 5-HTP is a metabolite of the amino acid tryptophan. You may know tryptophan as the agent in turkey that makes you feel like taking a nap after Thanksgiving dinner (in addition to a full belly). 5-HTP is a direct precursor of the important neurotransmitter serotonin, which is secreted in response to mood or emotion swings. It also helps with increasing QUALITY sleep.  Click HERE to find.

In rare occasions, clients have a hard time converting 5-HTP to tryptophan and in that case trying l-tryptophan is recommended. Start with 1000mg and move up to 4000mg as needed. Click HERE to find. 


14. Time of Day

I grew up on a bed-night snack and for 18 years of my life, my parents had us eat something before bed. This was the hardest unhealthy habit for me to break. My body wasn’t physically hungry at 8pm, but my mind thought I was.

If you start Intermittent Fasting and find it hard to not eat every few hours, is it that you are truly hungry OR it the clock telling your mind you usually eat at that time. This is a hard hunger habit to break. I had to stop looking at the clock and listening to my true hunger.


Hunger happens when blood sugar starts to fall. This is why eliminating carbohydrates and sugar is so helpful for intermittent fasting and helps with weight loss. But other things cause blood sugar to fall. What goes up, must come down. Caffeine, exercise and lack of sleep can all increase blood sugar, which will also cause a fall in blood sugar; in turn, causes hunger and increases cravings.

This is why I LOVE the carnivore lifestyle. There’s no need to count carbs or stress out about getting your macros right!

I love carnivore and sadly I see people think it is a limited diet. It can be if you aren’t inventive. So I jumped into the kitchen to create the most delicious carnivore recipes!


There are a lot of reasons that cause cravings and can increase hunger. Listening to your body and signals, you can determine if you are truly hungry or if you didn’t get enough sleep or caffeine is triggering you. Maybe you are deficient in electrolytes or minerals that are causing specific cravings. It took me decades to listen to my body signs and now that I have, I found peace with myself and I hope these tips help you too!


I was lucky enough to get to hug Christine in person last year! Check out her amazing testimony update below!

“Hi, Maria!

I have to give you an update…I messaged you in June to tell you that I had met my goal weight with a loss of 108 lbs. I’ve been trying to get into maintenance ever since, but apparently haven’t been too successful. Today, I got on the scale for the first time since June, and I’ve lost another 12 lbs!! My total weight loss is now 120 lbs  Since I saw you in Florida in late March, I have gone from a size 14 to a size 8.  This has been such a journey for me. In my early 40s, my body crashed. I suffered from constant pain and gained over 100 lbs. I was diagnosed with RA, fibromyalgia and hashimotos and ended up taking 26 meds per day, while I kept getting sicker and sicker.  

After 10 years of this, I learned about keto and you. I originally did a health consult and supplement plan with you four years ago and I had great success both in recovering my health and losing weight.  Then I got lazy (and complacent, in all honesty). Last July, I decided to recommit myself to this process. I redid my macros with your calculator and submerged myself in all things Emmerich – your books, your blog, and your Keto Facebook group. I’ve learned so much from you in these last 16 months! Besides learning how to find the right macros for my body and how to eat properly, I’ve learned about total wellness. The amazing success I’ve had since doing my reset comes not only from eating a well-formulated keto diet, but also from leaving a high-stress job, finding life/work balance, sleeping well, and adding important supplements (including CBD oil).

In many ways, I feel like I’ve just started living my best life! You and Craig change lives daily, and I’m convinced that there’s a special place in Heaven for you  You literally helped me save my life, and you will have a special place in my heart forever!” Christine

Most people I consult are doing keto totally wrong. Get fast results with the my NEW Keto School!

Click HERE to check out my NEW Keto School!



Maria Emmerich

Maria is a wellness expert who has helped clients follow a Ketogenic lifestyle to heal and lose weight for over 20 years. She has helped thousands of clients get healthy, get off medications and heal their bodies; losing weight is just a bonus. She is the international best selling author of several books including "Keto: The Complete Guide to Success on the Ketogenic Diet.".


  • Michelle says:

    Hi Maria,

    Do you think collagen powder spikes insulin? I notice when I consume it, I get hungry 30 mins after.


    • Maria Emmerich says:

      For some people that are sensitive, it can cause some hunger after. I would recommend taking with food in that case.

  • Marti says:

    Hi Maria, I love this article. I struggle on the regular with sugar cravings. I am going to take a look at some of these suggestions to see what I can start using that I might not be.

    Also, I was wondering if any of your cookbooks are written in Spanish. I’ve been looking for your 30 Day Cleanse in Spanish but have been unsuccessful.

    Thanks so much!

  • David says:

    How do statin drugs affect keto style eating?

    • Maria Emmerich says:

      They have many effects on general health including lowering testosterone, lowering CoQ10 (important for heart health) and being an antagonist for K2 which is why this study shows up to 4 times greater risk of osteoporosis when taking statins.

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