Where pregnancy is not just a physical state and comes with a lot of overwhelming reactions as well, it is one of the most intensive body transformations that a person goes through in their entire lifetime. It is not just the belly that grows out but almost all the body parts of a person are experiencing changes in some way or the other. These body changes have a lot to do with your food habits and change in appetite. Pregnancy starts affecting your appetite right from the start, even before you could get a positive pregnancy test.
This change goes to such an extent that a person might crave for a food item that they never liked in their entire lifetime to not be able to tolerate your favourite food. This change can be really dramatic. With pickles and ice creams being the most popular and well known food cravings let us take a close look at what these pregnancy cravings are, what is the reason behind these sudden cravings and how can a person maintain a healthy relationship with food during pregnancy with Dr. Rahul Salunkhe, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.
What causes Pregnancy Cravings?
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Where cravings are the most infamous part of any pregnancy, it causes our meal habits and the way our plates look quite drastically. Here’s what Dr. Rahul Salunkhe has to say about the reason behind these cravings- “After one gets pregnants there is an increase in levels of hormones like progesterone and imbalance of hormones. There is something called leptin, that regulates appetite. The basic reason behind all these cravings is the imbalance between these different types of hormones.”
Although there are various theories behind what causes pregnancy cravings, here are a few reasons that will help you to understand the real cause behind the change in food habits and recurring cravings.
As said that pregnancy brings along many changes in a woman’s body, one of these drastic changes is the change in sensory behavior which makes the senses way more active than they were before. During pregnancy a woman tends to smell stuff from a mile away and get overwhelmed by this smell. These smells tend to affect the kind of cravings that a person gets and it has such a great impact on their appetite that a pungent smell coming from far away can be a turn off and can make a person not eat anything for a while.
Similar to this, some smells and fragrances can be so pleasing that they can change a person’s mood entirely and increase their appetite.
Hormonal functioning and hormonal changes are at its epitome at the time of pregnancy. Where the first trimester is the profound time for hormonal changes, these changes cause body changes and mood swings that are quite similar to what happens before periods but is a thousand times worse.
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These hormonal changes tend to affect your mood, sensory changes and hence determine the kind of food that you might like or crave for. Hormonal changes are said to be the main reason not just behind the different kinds of food cravings but behind the frequently changing mood as well.
Survival and Health
Well most of us are aware of the term “survival of the fittest” and know what exactly it means. Where one needs to be fit and healthy in order to survive in this world, the same implies on the health of a child and mother. Some of the cravings have a direct relation with the baby’s growth and a mother’s health. Many women tend to steer a clear distance from substances like coffee and alcohol as they do not feel like consuming these beverages and drinks. Where these drinks are not the only things, but some women also lose taste for foot items like meat. There are a few theories that state that this happens due to the protective mechanism of the body as these things are unhealthy and might affect the woman’s and the baby’s health.
Change in nutritional needs
When a woman is pregnant, there is an increased need of nutrients like calcium and iron to her body. These two nutrients not only help to keep a woman healthy but are also essential for a child’s growth and development inside the womb. If a woman craves food items rich in these nutrients it ight mean that her body requires these nutrients to function and there might be a probability of deficiency of these nutrients in her body.
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Adding food items such as green leafy vegetables, fish, almonds and other food items that are rich in calcium is important for a woman's health and baby’s growth during this period.
While comfort is what a person desires for, this desire turns into a need during the time of pregnancy. As during these times a woman experiences issues like nausea and vomiting and hence comfort food tops many women’s lists. Many people simply crave for food items that are sweet or have carbs in it whereas others might associate comfort with their childhood memories and turn towards their favorite childhood chocolate in order to satisfy these cravings.
How To Consume Healthy Food in Pregnancy?
Where most of the women crave for some healthy food items like ice creams, sweets, foods high in calories, oily pickles and animal fats, it is important to take care of health and the health issues that can be caused by consuming these food items. Where at the times of pregnancy mood swings and cravings are at the epitome due to hormonal changes and at this time a person needs to take most care of themselves and their health, the debate is all about finding the balance.
While talking about balance, how can one not talk about the importance of a balanced diet. Where the meaning of balanced diet is different in different contexts and a child’s balanced diet would differ from an ealderly person and their balanced diet would be way too different from a pregnant woman's. The reason behind these variations is the different nutritional needs of a person. Eating a balanced diet that fulfills your nutritional needs is a must as it ensures a woman’s and the baby’s health. One should pay special attention towards the eating habits and what all they are consuming during the time of pregnancy and should consult a nutritionist or a dietician along with their doctor in order to have a proper diet plan.
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Here are some of the essential nutrients that a woman might need and in some cases might crave for during pregnancy and food items rich in these nutrients and micronutrients
As there isa life that is being formed inside you in the form of a baby during pregnancy. Getting enough iron is important to make that extra blood for you and your baby. Not just blood formation but this extra iron also provides oxygen to the lungs and allows them to rest for a bit. Consuming enough iron during the times of pregnancy can help to keep issues like anemia caused due to iron deficiency at bay and help you and your baby to become healthy.
To get enough iron at the time of pregnancy one must consume food items like-
- Green leafy vegetables
- Kidney beans
Where most of us remember being forced to drink milk and consume other calcium rich food since early childhood, it is essential to get an adequate amount of calcium during pregnancy. It is important to fulfill the body’s daily need for calcium as your body takes care of your body which includes stealing calcium from your body. If not provided with adequate amounts of calcium, your body might steal it from your bones and use it for the growth and development of your baby. It is not just the development of bones and teeth that calcium is responsible for, but it certainly has some more important functions to play as well. Calcium helps in keeping your blood and muscles moving along with helping the nerves to send the message to your brain and from there to the other parts of your body. Some of the calcium rich food items that a person should consuming during the time of pregnancy are-
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Sesame seeds
- Dairy products
An essential nutrient that is required for increasing the blood supply in your body is and to protect your baby from conditions like neural tube defect, it is important to consume adequate amounts of folic acid on a regular basis to stay healthy and ensure your baby’s stable growth.
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Food items rich in folic acid are-
- Citric Fruits
- Green Leafy vegetables
Known as the building block of the cells, protein is one such nutrient that plays a key role in child’s growth and development during pregnancy. Protein not just helps in the growth of the baby but also helps to keep the pregnant woman healthy and repair the internal organs as well. Food items rich in protein that one should consume at the times of pregnancy are-
Food Items to be avoided
Are pregnancy cravings safe?
With inputs from Dr. Rahul Salunkhe, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynecologist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.