Ask Ayurveda: Healthy Cravings Vs Unhealthy Cravings

Big dark pink Lotus Flower photoAsk Ayurveda:

“When someone has an aggravated Dosha (or an imbalance in the body), why do they still have no urges or cravings toward changing behavior or diet in order to pacify the dominant Dosha (or imbalance), relieve the condition and return to Balance? Namaste” Craving Conundrum

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Dear Craving Conundrum: 

Thank you for sending in your question!  Cravings are definitely a curious and telling phenomenon.  According to Ayurveda, when we are out of balance we can either experience a “healthy craving” or an “unhealthy craving”.  In this sense, it can most definitely become confusing as to which type of craving it is at any particular time.  Luckily, with a bit of self-awareness and exploration we can begin to differentiate the two, listening to the healthy and overcoming the unhealthy. 

Before I get into the determining factors of what makes a craving manifest as healthy or unhealthy, let me first explain the difference between them.  A healthy craving is a craving that will bring the body back into balance.  As an example, a person that is experiencing the first stages of a cold may begin to crave ginger tea, warm soup and a hot bath.  This is considered a healthy craving, since listening to these urges will warm the body, burn toxins, increase immunity and help to prevent the cold from manifesting further. 

On the other hand, another individual that is on the verge of getting a cold may have cravings, but this time for ice cream, salad or a cold fruit smoothie.  Although the body is indeed craving these things, if one is to listen to them at this time it will most likely further the sickness and accelerate the cold.  Therefore this would be considered an unhealthy craving and should not be listened to.

Now that we know what a healthy and unhealthy craving is exactly, we then come to the question of, “Why do we sometimes have healthy, balanced cravings while other times we experience these unhealthy ones?”.  I mean, “Why don’t we always have the cellular intelligence to find balance naturally through healthy cravings?”.

The answer to these questions is this.  The greatest determining factors when it comes to these two types of cravings are the stage of the disorder or imbalance, as well as the amount of toxins in the system.   

According to Ayurveda, there are five stages of disease.  If a condition is in one of the earlier stages, generally the first or second, then the craving will typically be healthy as the body is still fairly strong and balance has not been too disrupted.  By the third stage, the doshas (Vata, Pitta and/or Kapha) have left their homes and are now circulating throughout the body via the bloodstream.  Their strength is greater, their presence has proliferated, and the system therefore becomes weaker.  At this point cravings may become unhealthy, especially if the individual has a fair amount of toxins in their system already present. 

This now comes to the other powerful determining factor of our cravings, and that is the toxin factor.  Toxins, also called ama in Ayurveda, carry the quality of sticky, slimy, viscous, cloudy, heavy and dull.  If a system has accumulated a large amount of these toxins in the bloodstream or in a localized area of the body, the cells may contain a layer or coating of these toxins, which begins to effect the cellular intelligence and communication.  This is a major reason for many disorders including cancer and autoimmune conditions (in later stages); but in this case it will also negatively effect the intelligence of the cravings, and unhealthy cravings can emerge.  These toxins may have come from the condition at hand, but also may have already been in the system before the disorder manifested.  Either way, they can distort our natural intelligence and lead to craving things that will further accelerate disorder, increase toxic build-up and manifest disease. 

So Craving Conundrum, these are the main reasons in which our cravings are sometimes to our disadvantage, as they are not always coming from a place of intelligence rather from toxins and disease that have temporarily taken over the system’s communication.  The more we can keep our systems in balance and free of major toxic accumulation, the better the chances are that our cravings will remain healthy and in our favor. 

The next time you experience a strong craving, take a look at it and examine it thoroughly.  If it is the middle of winter and you are craving a cold smoothie or worse yet ice cream, maybe this is coming from an unhealthy source.  This is a simple example, but if we can begin to look deeper at our cravings and the entire picture involved, we can then begin to differentiate the healthy vs the unhealthy cravings, and therefore discover ways of naturally restoring balance. 

Thanks again Craving Conundrum.  I hope I was able to shed some light on this really great question.   The next time a craving comes your way, look it in the face and try to see what’s below the surface value! 

Namaste,

Ask Ayurveda

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