Craving Sugar? Maybe Your Gut Bacteria Are To Blame
Written by Nutritionist Stephanie Malouf.
The human gut contains tens of trillions of bacteria, which means we are made up of more bacteria cells than human cells. Therefore it’s no surprise that these little bugs have a significant influence over our health.
When these bugs exist in a healthy balance, they provide many beneficial effects such as reduce inflammation, regulate our immune system, help us digest our food and convert the nutrients into their active form. When these bugs are out of balance, this can cause many unfavourable and sometimes detrimental health implications. Many chronic diseases are linked to bacterial imbalances in the gut such as type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune conditions and obesity.
In short, the positive or negative effects of these little bugs is largely dependent on the type that reside in your gut. One of the biggest effects on the composition of your intestinal residents is diet. The standard Western diet, high in processed foods, sugar and poor quality fats, stimulates the growth of the harmful bacteria and suppresses the good bacteria, throwing this balance out of whack. A diet that is high in fibrous fruit, vegetables and whole natural foods supports the growth of the beneficial bacteria and keeps our internal environment in a healthy balanced state.
What's even more interesting is that your microbial profile has the power to manipulate your food choices to create an environment in which they can thrive. Researchers are beginning to see how these bacteria can release toxins to make us feel bad when we eat something not to their liking, and then reward us by producing chemicals that make us feel good when we make the right choices according to their needs.
Your gut bacteria may also be driving your food cravings and choices; good or bad. The bad bugs thrive off unhealthy foods such as sugar and processed carbohydrates and the good guys thrive off healthy fibre rich and nutrient dense foods such as fruit, vegetables and legumes. By releasing certain chemicals, they can change taste receptors, inducing cravings and making us prefer one food over another. Further to this, these bugs might even have the power to manipulate your food choices by influencing your mood via the production or inhibition of certain neurotransmitters in the gut. Did you know that 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut? A healthy gut is essential for a happy mood. What do you crave when you are feeling sad and flat? Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice-cream anyone?
My take away from this is even when addressing my clients diet, weight loss or certain health conditions, addressing the gut and the microbial balance is an essential component. Unless you restore this balance, you might not be able to kick those sugar cravings...and extra kilos.