It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us – which greatly outnumber our own cells – may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.
Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem – our digestive tracts – they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions. Eating foods that motivate healthy bacteria to flourish (aka prebiotics) and good-for-you microorganisms (aka probiotics) will help ensure a happy and healthy microbiome.
Link to Behavior
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.
What to Eat
The most-important nutrients to promote gut health include fiber, prebiotics and probiotics.
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition supports that intake of dietary fiber has a favorable impact on the microbiome. Fiber-filled foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts are best choices since they are filled with other important nutrients as well.
Try to 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.
You can also ingest healthy bacteria directly from foods filled with probiotics; yogurt, kefir, cheese and other fermented foods like kombucha are some popular examples.
Researchers have spoken and according to them, gut health can improve quickly after diet changes are made, but consistency is key, so it’s imperative to make diet changes you can stick to.