Have you ever noticed that when you’re eating tons of healthy foods, that’s what you crave, and when you’re eating unhealthy sugar and fat, you can’t seem to get enough? Well, science might have something to say about this. In fact, your own gut bacteria may be controlling your mind. And no--this isn’t a science experiment.
Bacteria in the body outnumber our cells by 100-fold and this abundance of gut bacteria could actually have an impact on our minds. An article published in the journal BioEssays, with researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University, and the University of New Mexico analyzed data on the subject and found that microbes influence our eating behavior.
Certain bacteria favor certain nutrients in order to thrive in our systems rather than just living off what’s there. When you eat a lot of sugar, bacteria in the stomach may actually cause you to crave more sugar and when you eat a lot of fat the same can be true. And it goes both ways, if you eat tons of salads, more salads will you crave.
"Bacteria within the gut are manipulative," Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper said to Science Daily. "There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not."
It all starts with the vagus nerve, which connects to 100 million nerve cells in the digestive tract. Your digestive tract is closely linked to your immune, endocrine, and nervous systems all of which have an impact on your mind.
“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," Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, told Science Daily.
In mice, for example, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. This research also showed that these bacteria are ever changing. What does this mean? You can go from an unhealthy gut loaded with sugar-craving bacteria to a gut that craves seaweed. While you think that’s a joke, there are gut bacteria that specifically work on seaweed more prominently found in those from Japan that eat the stuff as a mainstay of their diet.
This study proves that what you eat not only influences what you’ll eat next, it also impacts your hormones and nervous system. All the more reason to eat the good stuff.
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