Skip to main content

We all have cravings and while some are more intense than others, we should be aware of all of them. When it comes to traditional Chinese medicine, everything we crave overall reveals something about us and what we need or lack. 

Dr. Lauren Keller has touched on this topic on her website and the things she’s mentioned are well worth noting. She notes that each of the 5 organ meridians correspond with different ‘flavors’ of foods. For instance, if you’re craving salty foods you could be dealing with fear when it comes to emotions and highly stressed as a result.

These 5 ‘groups’ of foods/cravings are broken down as salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy. As someone who craves a lot of spicy foods frequently, learning about all of this has aided me tremendously. Dr. Keller also within her writing has broken down the different things we can consume to balance these cravings and that in itself is very important. If we ignore these cravings or refuse to read between the lines they’re drawing we overall are seemingly neglecting ourselves.

Below I am going to break down each craving area a bit and add in some of the information I to have noticed throughout my years. While for some of us our cravings could be stemming from some kind of underlying issue, that is not the case for everyone when it comes to ‘health’ related things. If you’re experiencing intense cravings do consider consulting with your doctor to see if perhaps there is something deeper going on that TCM may not be able to help with.

TCM World wrote as follows further explaining the ties between TCM and our bodies as a whole:

Tastes are tied to the energetic functioning of our organs. Sweets, like chocolate, sugary foods, and even carbohydrates, signal the Stomach. Don’t forget what you learned in school! All of those carbohydrates eventually break down into sugars.

Does this mean something is wrong with the way the organ functions? Absolutely not. Your physical organ may be working perfectly fine. These tastes correlate to the way the organ functions on an invisible, energetic level. So, if you constantly crave pasta, your Stomach is asking for a little extra energetic support.

How about salty foods? The Kidney loves salty foods, and as the water element, it also loves saltwater fish. If your cravings tend toward salty foods, give your Kidney some added support.

Bitter Cravings

Bitter cravings are generally associated with a lack of happiness in your life. When we crave something bitter like coffee or things of that nature it could be because we’re restless and need more stimulation. According to Jade Integrated Health, this could indicate someone has some kind of cardiovascular issue or imbalance. Many people relate these kinds of cravings with blood pressure issues or things of that nature.

Salty Cravings

When we crave salty things it relates back to fear as noted above. This meaning we may be dealing with some kind of stress on a severe level. These kinds of cravings relate back to the liver itself and remind us that perhaps we need to place more focus on our bladder health overall. 

Sweet Cravings

A lot of people seem to have cravings for sweet foods and don’t know why. This could have something to do with your pancreas or even your spleen. A lot of people with stomach issues seem to deal with these kinds of cravings. Now, on an emotional level, they could have something to do with your unsettled feelings. You could be worrying about something or overall in need of some TLC. 

Sour Cravings

Sour cravings are something I have noticed a lot of people in my life seem to have and when it comes to TCM they relate back to anger and frustration. If you’re dealing with a lot of stagnant energy you may really crave something a bit sour to counteract them. While that might sound odd it is quite common and if persistent you should note that you may have some kind of gallbladder issue present. 

Spicy Cravings

Spicy or ‘pungent’ food cravings are often associated with the lungs and as a result, we should consider whether or not we’re taking care of ourselves properly when we get them. In TCM this craving tends to be associated with sadness or grief which should also be considered. While TCM might not solve all of our problems, it can give us a good look at where to begin figuring things out.

What kind of things are your cravings trying to reveal about you? Perhaps you’re struggling in an area you were not even aware of? I for one think that looking to TCM sometimes can benefit us in unexpected ways.