Almost everyone has food cravings at one time or other. Whether these urges arise from hormonal changes, pregnancy, or emotional changes, the fact is that at some point we have some kind of particular food desire. In most cases we are used to craving sweet stuff such as candy, a piece of vanilla cake, or ice cream. It all depends on your guilty pleasures. On the other hand, another percent tends to be craving lemons and other salty, bitter, or savory stuff. For many, this is weird and not normal.
Most people may classify lemon cravings under weird cravings. It is because most individuals do not believe that you can crave something that bitter. But is craving lemons weird, or is it usual? Again, what does such a food urge signify?
This article will unveil some of the reasons why there are individuals who are always craving lemons. We will get into what such urges indicate and how you can overcome such cravings. Stick around to learn why you may no longer have a sweet tooth but a bitter food urge.
I’m Craving Lemons: Is It Normal?
There is a common misconception that an individual can only have sweet food urges. That said, when one is craving lemons and salt or craving pickles and lemons, they tend to question if they are okay.
The reality is that your taste buds can desire to have anything, regardless of whether it is sweet, sour, or bitter. Most people are used to having sweet food cravings, especially women who are menstruating or are pregnant.
Since most people have sweet food urges, they develop the notion that having a bitter or sour food urge is not normal. On the contrary, it is. You may once in a while crave these zesty citrus fruits regardless of your age and gender.
Reasons You Are Craving Lemons
Why lemons and not a piece of chocolate cake? You might be asking yourself this question following an increased urge to eat a lemon or have some lemon juice. The thing is, some desires do not just appear out of the blue. Some occur to signify something more vital, such as an underlying health condition.
Scientists and food nutritionists have, over the years, come up with various theories to explain the reasons for lemon cravings. Some of these theories have been refuted, and others have been comprehensively researched and deemed possible reasons for lemon urges. These include:
- Low serotonin levels
- Vitamin C deficiency
- Iron deficiency anemia
How Do Low Serotonin Levels Lead To Lemon Cravings?
Serotonin refers to a neurotransmitter, which most people categorize as a hormone. According to Medical News Today, the body uses serotonin to send messages between nerve cells (6). The hormone, or neurotransmitter, plays several roles in transmitting messages between nerve cells.
It also plays a role in digestion, emotions, mood, and appetite. Serotonin also acts as the precursor for melatonin and helps regulate sleep-wake cycles (6). As mentioned, serotonin affects your mood and appetite. When you have low serotonin levels in your body, you get an increased desire for various foods. This will cause you to get food urges for either salty, bitter, or sweet foods. In the case of bitter food urges, you may crave lemons.
How Is Vitamin C Deficiency Linked To Lemon Cravings?
Vitamin C deficiency also causes a craving for lemons. Vitamin C is one of the fundamental nutrients that we need to properly maintain our bones, skin, and blood vessels (5). Our body does not store any vitamin C, so we are urged to consume foods rich in vitamin C (5).
If we do not get enough of this vitamin, some of our bodily functions are interrupted. These include the roles of vitamin C, which include (5):
- Production of collagen, L-carnitine, and some neurotransmitters
- Iron absorption
- Boosting of the immune system
- Wound healing
- Removal of unwanted substances from the body known as reactive oxidative species (ROS)
The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men and 75 mg for adult women (4). If you consume extremely low levels of this vitamin, you will suffer from severe vitamin C deficiency, leading to scurvy (4). Scurvy causes bleeding gums, poor wound healing, bruising, and anemia (4).
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Preventing Vitamin C Deficiency
Most people are advised to focus on getting enough vitamin C to avoid getting vitamin C deficiency. Some excellent sources of vitamin C include green and red peppers, oranges and orange juice, kiwifruit, grapefruit, tomatoes, strawberries, green peas, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables (4).
Once you add these foods to your diet, you will increase your daily vitamin C intake. Your craving for lemons will reduce with time, and you will prevent vitamin C deficiency, scurvy, and other related conditions.
How Do Lemon Cravings Indicate Iron Deficiency Anemia?
Craving lemons means you are likely suffering from iron deficiency anemia. According to experts, the compulsive desire to ingest bitter substances, both edible and inedible, is common in people with iron deficiency anemia (1).
Iron deficiency anemia is one type of anemia that entails your body producing few red blood cells due to lack of iron in the body (7). Medical News Today states that iron deficiency can be caused by any of the following factors (7):
- Vigorous endurance training
- Consumption of a diet low in iron
- Frequent blood donation
- Blood loss
- Your body’s decreased ability to absorb iron
- Several digestive problems, such as Crohn’s disease
- Medications that irritate the gut lining, for example, ibuprofen
Iron deficiency anemia takes a while to develop. Knowing this, you may not know that you have this condition until the symptoms are pretty severe. The most common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia you should look out for include (8):
- Extreme fatigue
- A fast heartbeat
- General body weakness
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Brittle or easily broken nails
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Poor appetite, mainly in young children
- Cold feet and hands
- Soreness or tongue inflammation
- Cravings for some non-nutritive things like ice, starch, and dirt
Preventing Iron Deficiency Anemia
You must seek medical assistance if you report any of these iron deficiency anemia symptoms. According to Medical News Today, mild cases of this condition can lead to more complications, including (8):
- Slow growth and developmental delays and problems in infants and young children
- Pregnancy complications, such as an increased risk for premature birth and low birth weights
- Heart problems, such as heart failure and an enlarged heart caused by compensations for lack of oxygen
Experts recommend implementing two methods to treat iron deficiency anemia to avoid these and other complications that may arise from this condition. Both involve increasing iron intake and treating other underlying health conditions (8). These methods include:
Iron Supplements Intake
Ingesting iron supplements will help you increase iron levels. Be very careful with these supplements because too much of them can be toxic (2). Remember that the iron you acquire from these supplements and your diet must be within the iron recommended dietary allowance (RDA) limit.
Similarly, be very careful with these supplements, especially if you are taking other medications and supplements. According to WebMD, iron supplements do not react well with some antibiotics, antacids, proton pump inhibitors, and calcium supplements (2). Make sure you let your doctor know that you are taking other drugs and supplements. They will know what to do to avoid these drug interactions.
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Another self-management treatment technique for iron deficiency anemia is eating a diet rich in iron. Some of the best high-iron foods to add to your diet include fortified breakfast cereals, white beans, dark chocolate, cooked oysters, and organ meats (3). The list also contains soybeans, spinach, lentils, tofu, and sardines (3). As always, remember to talk to a licensed dietitian or nutritionist before making any changes to your eating plan.
Both treatments will not only help avoid any iron deficiency, like anemia but also reduce your lemon urges. Remember that these conditions in the first place are causing these cravings. So, when you fight these deficiencies, you minimize these urges.
The Bottom Line
Although it is common to have various food urges, craving lemons may indicate deeper and critical health problems. It may show that you have vitamin C deficiency or iron deficiency anemia. Talk to your doctor if you have this food urge and report symptoms of either one of these conditions. Never ignore a persistent food urge, even if you do not report symptoms of any health condition.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Craving lemons: another form of pica in iron deficiency (2008, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Dietary Iron and Iron Supplements (2019, webmd.com)
- The top 10 high-iron foods (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Vitamin C (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Vitamin C: Why is it important? (2021, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What is serotonin, and what does it do? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What to know about anemia (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What to know about iron deficiency anemia (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)