Craving a delicious cupcake or slice of apple pie while at the same time trying to stick to a healthier diet? You know you should stick to the great lunch you brought to work, but something inside of you is whispering “chocolate” or “French fries” non-stop throughout the day until you break down and run out to get your fix.
It turns out, that “something” inside of you, nudging you to eat those not-so-great options is real and not all your lack of willpower. It’s your microbiome.
How the Microbiome Affects Your Cravings
The microbes that make up our microbiome need specific foods to thrive in our GI tract, and their health and numbers are directly related to our health on many levels that we still don’t fully understand. Research has shown that our microbiome plays a critical role in our immune system, helps produce certain vitamins, impacts our mood, informs our weight and even plays a role in what you crave.
In a “bioessays” on eating behaviour and our gastrointestinal microbiome, researchers found that our microscopic passengers (aka our gut microbes) can manipulate what we put in our mouths. Just like when we are hungry and crave chocolate, our microbiome does the same and science is showing us that this has a major impact on our cravings and satiety, mood and (potentially) weight gain and loss.1-3
Researchers at first thought that cravings were coming from nutrient shortages (which can be the case for some cravings), but this is not the case for the cravings manifested by the gut.4,5 This helps to explain why sometimes after a time of abundance, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, you still have intense cravings that should have been satisfied by the variety of foods consumed.
With this new intel, efforts are now going to be looking at ways to over-ride these unhealthy urges by altering the gut microbiome with beneficial supplementation and proper food recommendations. The good news is, it won’t take you years or even months to regain control of your cravings. Good follows good in this case and, within 24 hrs6, you can positively impact your gut and start to get it back on track to helping, not hurting your healthy eating goals.
How to Create a Healthy Microbiome
- Eat a diet high in prebiotic foods: prebiotic foods are the fuel our good bacteria thrive on. To ensure you are providing good food for your gut microbiome, make sure to include lots of prebiotic foods into your diet. Great examples of prebiotic foods are garlic, onions, berries and apples.
- Consume a high-quality probiotic daily: Bio-K+ contains three unique strains that not only provide you with 50 billion healthy probiotic bacteria but also work together to create an environment that helps other good bacteria grow while keeping bad bacteria in check.
- Cut out sugar: Unfortunately, just like many of us, the bad or harmful bacterial colonies love sugar! They feed and thrive on it…so here is another reason to add to your list for reducing added sugars in your diet.
- Get Some sleep: Research has looked at the link between our gut bacteria and sleep. Much like our gut-brain connection, this appears to be a two-way street; our gut bacteria can influence our ability to rest, while rest impacts the health of our gut bacteria. It seems melatonin, our ‘sleep hormone’, not only puts us to sleep but has also been shown to play a key role in maintaining our gut health.
Our microbiome is a living, thriving community full of over 10,000 species of bacteria, along with yeast and fungi. Survival is competitive and thriving means getting the food and nutrients you need to make it in the big bad world (aka our gut). As we learn more about the critical and influential role our gut bacteria play in our health, it seems fitting that they would be able to communicate to us exactly what they are looking for in terms of diet. Thinking about cravings as ‘weaknesses’ or lack of willpower underestimates the power that our bacteria have on the way we feel, both mentally and physically. If you’re looking to reduce cravings for more unhealthy foods, like those high in sugar, balancing your gut microbiome is a critical step on the path to healthy eating.
If you have questions about microbiome and intestinal health, let us know in the comments below. Join our community for more healthy tips. To stock up on Bio-K+, click here. Contact us or follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
1. Norris V, Molina F, Gewirtz AT. Hypothesis: bacteria control host appetites. J Bacteriol. 2013;195:411–6. [PMC free article][PubMed]
2. Lyte M. Probiotics function mechanistically as delivery vehicles for neuroactive compounds: microbial endocrinology in the design and use of probiotics. 2011;33:574–. [PubMed]
3. Wu GD, Chen J, Hoffmann C, Bittinger K, et al. Linking long-term dietary patterns with gut microbial enterotypes. 2011;334:105–8. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
4. Smith MI, Yatsunenko T, Manary MJ, Trehan I, et al. Gut microbiomes of Malawian twin pairs discordant for kwashiorkor. 2013;339:548–54. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
5. Pelchat ML, Schaefer S. Dietary monotony and food cravings in young and elderly adults. Physiol Behav. 2000;68:353–9.[PubMed]
6. Hill AJ, Weaver CF, Blundell JE. Food craving, dietary restraint and mood. 1991;17:187–97. [PubMed]