Food cravings! Are your gut bugs to blame?

by | Nov 12, 2023 | gut health and digestion

Do you suffer from food cravings? Do you eat plenty but are hungry all the time? Or, are you wanting to make healthy food choices but find it almost impossible? Did you know that the microbes in your gut could be the cause?

From the moment of our birth microbes live on us and in us. We know that many of those in the gut are helpful and beneficial to us. Protecting us from disease causing bacteria. They keep our digestive tract healthy and provide us with essential nutrients. They even help us digest and absorb our food.

In fact, we are still learning all the ways our gut bugs interact with us. We know for instance that they communicate with receptors in our gut. Sending signals to the brain via the vagus nerve. The so called gut-brain axis. Researchers now think some bacteria may use this gut-brain link to their advantage.

Bacteria were here long before humans. Evolving over millions of years and learning to adapt to every situation and habitat. Thriving and surviving despite our best efforts to eliminate them.

To survive in our gut they must find a space and compete for food. In fact, the type of food a person eats can greatly influence the composition of the microbe population, or microbiome. Allowing some species to thrive and outnumber others.

Now it seems that under certain circumstances bacteria can manipulate the host they live in. Changing the person’s mood, with symptoms of unease, anxiety or depression. Or changing behaviour and appetite causing overeating or cravings until their preferred food is eaten. They may even change our sense of taste so that we prefer different foods, or enjoy those foods more.

We know that cravings are not the same as hunger. Cravings are usually for certain types of foods such as sweet or salty flavours. Yet a bowl of sugar or salt is not going to satisfy that craving.

The answer lies in changing the composition of the microbiome. To create a diverse range of many bacterial species. Where no particular species is able to form a large population. Research suggests a more diverse population of bacteria creates a healthier environment. A diverse population means it is less likely that one species will outnumber others. A diverse microbiome means bacteria have to spend more energy and resources in competition with each other. So that there is less opportunity to manipulate their host.

We know that the microbiome can be easily changed. We can supplement with probiotics and prebiotics. The right dietary improvements can create a change in the microbiome within 24 hours.

A whole foods nutrient dense diet with plenty of fermentable fibre creates a healthy diversity of gut bugs. Helping us to make better food choices in the future.


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