Love Your Guts Part Four: How your gut controls your cravings

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I introduced the microbiome in my last Love Your Guts instalment, and today’s post we look into just how much control they have over us and what we eat. To grasp this crazy concept, we first must have to look at the kind of world that they’re living in. 

The Warzone

I used to think it was a harmonious little world down there, but the more I learned about the gut, the more I realised it’s a pretty cut-throat world down there. In Dr Michael Mosley’s book The Clever Guts Diet, he describes it as a warzone, and I love that analogy. I picture it now as a battle field, they’re all “co-existing” to an extent, but they’re all still competing for their own survival.

There’s “good” fighting “bad,” and every microbe just doing what it needs to do to survive down there. And to do so, they will go to any means, including mind control. Ok, I know this is starting to sound like a sci-fi movie (one I’d happily watch come to think of it), but there is some truth to this.

Mind Controlling Microbes, Really?

Yes really.

Whatever we consume, will either fuel the “good” guys or the “bad” guys and I like to picture it as sending aid to the right team in battle. We talked about prebiotics last time and they’re the right kind of care packages the good guys need for fuel, to grow and to proliferate. The bad guys? They love the refined, sugary, carby goods.

I briefly talked about the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) in my first post in the series, but it’s like the gut’s own unique communication system that links it to the brain and Central Nervous System so that the brain can tell the digestive system what to do. But the system has been found to also work the other way, where messages are sent back to the brain and it’s through this system that we can be controlled. There has actually research been done on mice that has shown that microbes can actually “hack” into this feedback system and send messages to the brain.

So for the “bad” guys, this can mean sending messages to your brain to eat certain things that they prefer to ensure their own survival. Isn’t that both amazing and creepy?

For eg. If you have an overgrowth of Candida albicans (the yeast that causes Candida), you may have strong cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugar, something that this certain yeast loves to feed off. And the more you eat, the more you want because you’re feeding the yeast and letting it grow.

So my cravings are just due to bacteria then?

No, not always. Sometimes cravings are due to nutrient deficiencies, are pregnancy related (for eg. pica) or we just simply want something for no scientific reason other than we simply want to eat it (that’s right, we can’t blame microbes all the time!).

How can I stop them from hacking into my brain and making me crave cheeseburgers?

The easiest way is to stop eating cheeseburgers.

Like I said before, it’s all a fight for a survival. So the easiest way to quieten them is to kill them. That can be done with the right nutritional and/or herbal support to help weed them out of your system, and also by starving the critters of their preferred food sources. All that refined stuff they love, eat less of it. All the prebiotics, veggies and delicious wholefoods that they don’t like but the good bacteria loves? Eat more of it. Start sending care packages to the right side, and starving the wrong side, and you might find that your tastes and cravings will naturally start to change with it as your microbiota start to change down there.

That’s it?

Yes, and no. While it is a great start to eat more good stuff, and eat less bad stuff, sometimes if the problem has been ongoing for a while and there are other issues at play, it can take a lot more work to bring balance to your gut flora. Next week I’ll be looking into specific ways we can do to heal the gut wall and lining, as well look into how it helps to support good gut health and the role it plays in helping to promote a good balance of gut flora.

 

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Laura x