Food Cravings and Nutritional Deficiencies

Although most food cravings during pregnancy don’t signify anything other than hormones, hunger, or suggestibility, some experts believe that strange food cravings may actually be a sign of a nutritional deficiency. These unusual cravings for inedible non-food items are known as pica, and they affect a very small number of women.

Normal Cravings During Pregnancy

Most pregnant women will experience some sort of craving for a food or beverage at some point in the pregnancy. Fluctuating hormones are generally to blame. Food cravings can be just as much emotional as physical, especially during pregnancy when those hormones are causing emotions to run high. Certain foods may bring a sense of comfort or security.

Many women will notice that they seem to be very suggestible during pregnancy. A commercial for or mention of a certain food can set off a very strong craving for that item.

Generally, food cravings during pregnancy are for normal foods, although not always the healthiest choices. Some women do crave very healthy foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, but most crave junk foods such as potato chips, baked goods, or ice cream. While not all of these cravings are a good idea to indulge regularly, they don’t indicate any sort of problem and are a completely normal part of pregnancy. Most often, a food craving is not for a food that contains any special amount of nutrition, so it seems very unlikely that the body is trying to tell you something by craving a food that won’t supply much nourishment.

The main problem that might arise from this type of craving is causing a certain level of irritation to the father to be who is sent out in search of a certain food at random times of the day and night!

Abnormal Cravings

While most women will crave completely harmless foods, a small percentage will experience a condition known as pica. This term is used to describe a craving for something very unusual, non-nutritive, and generally unsafe for consumption. These cravings can include dirt, soaps and detergents, and other odd choices.

There are some people who believe that this type of craving may be related to a nutritional deficiency of some kind, however there is currently no strong evidence to confirm it. Presently, no one really knows what actually causes pica.

If you have reason to suspect you have some sort of deficiency in your diet, you should talk to your doctor. Most pregnant women who are eating a balanced diet and taking a prenatal supplement daily are not at risk for a major nutritional deficiency. The most likely nutrient to become too low during pregnancy is iron, and this is indicated by symptoms such as fatigue, and not by food cravings. Although you may often hear people say things like “I am craving meat, my iron must be low!” there is no evidence to support pregnancy cravings as being connected with low levels of vitamins or minerals.

If you are craving a healthy food, go right ahead and indulge it. It probably doesn’t mean you were low on the nutrients provided by that food, but it certainly can’t hurt to consume a little more. On the other hand, cravings for unhealthy or junk foods should be satisfied carefully and in moderation, to keep your diet healthy and balanced.

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