Try to recall the last time you’ve bought a piece of cake, pizza or any of your pleasure foods (e.g., candies, burger, pastries and chocolate-coated doughnuts).
Were you really planning to eat at that time? Or you just happened to pass by the food shop when your eyes were suddenly drifted towards that moist chocolate cake and thin crust dough topped with mozzarella cheese and chopped veggies. If you’re planning for that yummy treat in advance as a reward, congratulations! You’re not an impulsive eater. But if you have the habit of buying whatever food that looks and smells delicious then and there, it may be that your gut bacteria are the ones "pulling your strings" to dine.
The Yummy Vs Healthy Struggle is in the Gut
Yes, it’s true. According to a write-up published recently in the BioEssay journal, our gut bacteria may be one of the reasons for our food preferences and sometimes for uncontrollable cravings. Researchers from the UC San Francisco, University of New Mexico and Arizona State University have discovered that the microbes inside the stomach of human beings have a great influence on the eating patterns of the human host.
As per the researchers, bacterial species need different nutrients to survive, leading the researchers to say that these microbes have their own favorite staples. Specifically, there are species that love fatty dishes while there are also other types that thrive best on sugary and high-protein foods.These findings tell us that although it’s our head that’s doing the thinking, we actually choose our foods based on the demands of our gut bacteria – albeit in part.
Gut Bacteria, Food Choices and Mood
What’s noteworthy about the research is its proposition that gut health can also influence our mood and overall disposition. As mentioned by Athena Aktipis (who isthe co-founder of Center for Evolution and Cancer and is also the study’s senior author), “Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good.” Sounds interesting, right? And can certainly get us to think about the causes of our mood fluctuations. Our intestines actually house an ecosystem of bacteria that trigger some of our behaviors, especially cravings.
In another study focusing on mice, it was discovered that a certain microbe strain ups the animal’s anxious behaviors. In humans, taking in probiotics supplement with Lactobacillus casei has been proven to boost the mood of those who’re feeling down. These also help shed light on why people may have different pleasure foods and why our tummy reacts differently to specific dishes or staples.Overall, “Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal track. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health,” says Aktipis.
Lifestyle Changes to Make for a Healthier Gut
With all these scientific evidences, it is but right for us to be more concerned about our gut. Are we nurturing the right species of bacteria in our tummy? Are they helping you attain a long, healthy life by urging you to indulge in nutritious foods?
If you still crave junk foods, sugary desserts and fatty dishes more frequently than an occasional treat, today’s the perfect time to do the following lifestyle changes – these will help you increase the number of good microbes in your gut:
- Think first before you eat. This can help you buy some time to decide whether to eat or not and whether to binge on those colorful cupcakes or have a bowl of fresh fruits. Besides, dehydration can also give you the impression that you’re hungry. So it pays to think first whether it’s solid food you need or just water. Quick tip: Here’s how to get over your love for junk foods, if you find it challenging to resist these staples.
- Take in supplements and foods rich in probiotics and prebiotics. Our supplements containing probiotics can also become a worthy part of your daily diet. And to aid the growth of these good microbes, make sure to eat these foods rich in prebiotics, which are indigestible carbohydrates that serve as foods for probiotics. Garlic, soy beans, banana, aromatic veggies (e.g., leeks, onion and celery), rye-based breads, wheat bran, whole oats, yoghurt and barley are also worth loving for the sake of your gut’s health.
- Develop the right mindset. There are different reasons why dieting fails, one of which is the person’s inability to pick up the right mindset toward eating. Remember, depriving yourself will only lead to bingeing and guilt, which won’t do you any good. So instead of dieting, it would be best to learn to love healthy foods, especially whole foods, fresh fruits and veggies. Quick tip: UC San Francisco director and research Carlo Maley says a 24-hour diet change is a good start in resetting our stomach, especially the type of bacteria residing in our gut.
Have you ever heard of people saying they just can’t help but crave cakes, chocolates and pastries? Or have you met someone who seem to sound overly health-conscious with theirconsistent demand for veggies and fruits each meal? Now that you know the great sway gut bacteria has on our food choices, you’ll know that they also have a point. As backed up by clinical researches, what we choose to eat isn’t only a decision of our mind, but also of the microbes in our stomach.