With the holidays quickly approaching, I’m sure visions of sugar plums are dancing in many heads— and visions like that can be difficult to ignore. Everyone is familiar with the feeling that seems impossible to shake when we are faced with a craving. However understanding where these unhealthy cravings come from may make it easier to deter or, at the very least, manage them.

In a 2014 study published in BioEssays researchers found that microbes, or bacteria, living in the gut have a direct influence on dietary choices, behaviours and consequently, cravings. These bacteria are single-celled organisms so tiny that they are only visible under a microscope.

Though small in size, they happen to have a big impact. These bacteria can be very manipulative as different bacterial species require different nutrients to live, such as fats and carbs. When we crave particularly sweet or salty foods that may be, shall we say, “health-challenged” it is because the gut bacteria are sending messages to our brain that they need these nutrients to live, regardless of whether it is what our body needs as a whole.

Many forget that our bodies act as a host to billions of bacteria and parasites. This specific community of microbes within our gastrointestinal system is referred to as the “gut microbiome” and it may influence our decisions by releasing signals that tell our brain what we think we want
even if it is not what we need.

Imagine your body is an apartment building and the gut bacteria are our tenants. While some are well-behaved, rule-abiding renters others are determined to trash the place and cause all kinds of trouble because they thrive off the excitement and only care about themselves. When these scallywag tenants begin to outnumber the respectful ones, the integrity of the building is put at risk. Similarly, when enough bacteria need a certain unhealthy substance to live, we begin to crave it too, putting our bodies at risk.

The good news is that while we are influenced by our gut microbiome we can, in turn, influence it. Diet has a direct impact on the bacteria population in our gut so simply put, the less we give into sugary cravings and replace them with healthier options, the less we will have these sugary cravings. One way of doing this is through the consumption of probiotic and prebiotic foods which provide our bodies with beneficial bacteria that help with digestion. These include things like organic greek yogurt, pickles, sourdough bread (for those that digest wheat/gluten), bananas, garlic, sauerkraut, kimchi and artichokes. While I don’t recommend tossing all those ingredients together at once (… artichoke yogurt, ew) they will contribute to a more balanced and healthy gut (individually). If you are dairy-adverse or have issues with candida, a better option for you may be a probiotic supplement like Floramend or Bio-K (rice).

In addition to cravings, our gut health has an impact on a number of other factors with increasing amounts of research being focused specifically on its correlation with mental health.

This kind of bacteria is known for also having an important role in manufacturing neurotransmitters, largely serotonin. Serotonin helps to regulate mood and is thought to be a contributor to feelings of happiness. A study at McMaster University found that by altering the gut microbiome with variables such as diet, there were changes in mood and behaviour, opening doors to new theories of how diet can impact emotions.

For our best overall health, it is no secret that a balanced and nutritious diet is essential. Including probiotics is attributed with better digestion, an increased metabolism and even brighter and tighter skin to delay signs of aging. Although it is strange to think about, our gastrointestinal system and the microbes within it are integral for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

After all, a healthy gut is a happy gut!

For a more deeper look into your nutritional needs and your gut microbe book an appointment with Dr. Kathy and/or our Nutritionist, Amy.

Call to book: 613 741 4348
Email to book: info@epicfitnessottawa.com