When we were talking in class about the hypothalamus and how it “tricks” our mind into eating what we need and enjoying it. One of the things I immediately related this too is cravings during pregnancy. The reason I thought these were related is because during the development of the fetus it will take the nutrients it need from the mother, and I thought the cravings were a way of saying you need more of this in your diet.
But upon further research a wife sending her husband to the store at two in the morning for ice cream and pickles is not vital for survival. Food cravings actually arise to satisfy emotional need, such as calming stress and reducing anxiety. When we eat we digest a common neurotransmitter, serotonin which has a relaxing effect. Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco did an experiment on rats in a high stress environment and they learned two important points.
First that the stressed out rats preferred to eat the fatty and sugary foods, and second when the rats ate this food their brain produced less of the stress- related hormones. The fact that the rates ate the food that calmed them and made them healthier reminds me of the flight or fight response. I guess in some cases the cravings in pregnancy could be from the hypothalamus that you are lacking a vitamin or mineral. The most likely explanation for this though is that pregnancy hormones that the body is still getting used to have a huge impact on a woman’s taste and smell.
Even though no one knows for sure why women have weird cravings during pregnancy the most likely reason is because of the hormones in her body and not the hypothalamus. The reason it is not the hypothalamus is because the function of the hypothalamus is to control eating and drinking and regulating body temperature and blood pressure on a need to live basis, and not giving in to your cravings during pregnancy won’t kill you.