How gut bacteria can control your mood, behavior and food choices
(NaturalHealth365) If you have ever had junk food derail your best intentions of eating healthy, you have probably blamed weakened willpower. But the real culprit fueling those cookie and chip cravings may have nothing to do with your brain, but more to do about gut bacteria.
Instead, it could be your own gut flora – those tiny microbes living in your intestinal tract – sending you strong signals to devour sweets, salty snacks or other less-than-desirable foods. As crazy as it may seem, the ecosystem of microbes thriving in your intestinal system is adept at promoting feelings of hunger, sparking dietary choices that match their own needs at the expense of competing bacteria.
Interesting revelation: What is really driving your desire for ‘bad’ food?
The microbes in your intestinal system are abundant, with scientists estimating that the average person has between 15,000 and 30,000 species of gut bacteria, fungi and other gut microbes. All that diversity leaves each microbial species with its own favorite food sources, in large part taking cues from available food sources over time.
A review published in BioEssays points out the power that bacteria can have over their hosts, and in the case of intestinal bacteria, far outnumbering human genes 100 to 1. At the same time, the bacterial species are varied, competing for nutrients and domination.
Could gut bacteria be controlling your bad habits?
Just as with other living species, your gut flora has its own strong drive for survival. This often includes sending signals to the host, demanding continual consumption of the processed, unhealthy food that allowed it to become overgrown in the first place. The result is a sort of power struggle initiated in the gut.
Scientists have proven the brain uses signaling molecules to influence gut bacteria, but there is now evidence that such communication is two-way, with your gut also directing your brain to tell you what to consume. There is evidence bacteria can synthesize chemical signals to control your behavior, and even manipulate feelings by producing compounds that turn into the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.
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How to effectively eliminate food cravings
While gut flora can play a huge role in impacting certain food cravings and behaviors, the good news is that you can change the make up of microbes in your gut at any time. Better yet, you can expect to recognize some results as early as 24 hours after making the changes.
The most efficient and effective way to combat the activities of undesirable gut flora is to make certain lifestyle changes, such as these:
1. Give a boost to desirable bacteria. Use probiotics to repopulate your healthy gut bacteria. In addition to probiotic supplements, food sources include lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi, as well as kefir, polenta, kombucha and other foods and beverages preserved with traditional methods.
2. Avoid pesticides and antibiotics. Carefully select organic, pesticide-free foods to avoid impurities that can raise havoc with healthy bacteria you are trying to sustain. Look for organic and grass-fed meats, organic free-range poultry, and wild-caught fish, which are free of antibiotics. Minimize the use of antibiotics for medicinal purposes, taking only when necessary.
3. Seek out natural probiotics. In the days of living off the land, people obtained much of their probiotic bacteria from the soil. Known as soil-based organisms, or SBOs, these healthy microorganisms were key to digestive health. Look for opportunities to consume fresh, organic veggies grown in healthy soils.
4. Nourish good bacteria and starve the bad. Types of fiber found in certain vegetables support healthy bacteria. Examples include onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and leeks. Bananas and blueberries are also known to aid in restoring healthy gut bacteria. As you incorporate more of these foods into your diet on a regular basis, work to eliminate sugar and processed grain, which fuel growth of adverse gut flora.
5. Squelch worry and anxiety. Your ancestors experienced periods of stress, but these were followed by periods of rest as well. Adopt a similar approach to life so intestinal micro flora can be influenced in positive ways. Don’t let the worries of modern-day living rob you of a healthy life.
6. Avoid bacteria-destroying substances. Select only filtered or spring water, to avoid consumption of chlorine, perchlorate and fluoride. Remove processed foods from your diet, especially those containing aspartame, sucralose and preservatives, which have been proven to destroy healthy gut bacteria.
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