Food Relationship, Wellbeing

Is your gut flora making you eat sugar?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 10 years, the world has been talking more and more about the ‘good guys’ in your gut, called your microbiome. And it certainly is for a good reason, since the last decade showed tons of research that your gut flora plays a key role in your overall health.

And I mean anything from sleeping well, to getting through the flue with a breeze to excelling at studies and keeping a strong, resilient body.

But did you know that it may also be responsible for manipulating your food choices? (1) Perhaps it’s not your willpower that’s driving you to binge on Oreos, but an imbalance in your gut bacteria (dysbiosis)?

What is the microbiome?

The microbiome is a collection of microbes, a whole ecosystem of bacteria that live inside the human body. The biggest amount of these is located in the gut. Imagine a whole city inside your gut, which is filled with different types of inhabitants that each have a role to play.

Although we cannot see them with the naked eye, there are billions of different bacteria inside, that can influence our moods, nervous system, mental health and even weight. So in plain language, a strong and balanced ecosystem inside your gut means ‘the bad guys’ like years and microbes cannot overgrow and take over.

Research confirms (2) that people who eat a balanced diet and people who go over their daily sugar requirement every single day have very different makeup of microbiome, with different microbes being dominant.

Can it affect my food choices?

The past decade of mass curiosity and obsession with finding out what else the human microbiome is responsible for has uncovered some pretty interesting knowledge, which means that instead of our weak willpower we can now easily blame ‘our weak gut balance’ (hmmm, doesn’t sound much better, does it?).

It appears that overgrown microbes and yeast have the ability to manipulate our food choices and send the host (that’s you and me!) signals and cravings to feed them. You may have already heard of candida and this is just one of the typical symptoms. Here come the cravings for sugar, processed foods and simple carbs.

And technically it’s not you- it’s them.

What affects your microbiome health?

The human body is this magical all-connected piece of art that it means that whatever is happening in our body internally and externally also affects our microbiome.
Here are the main offenders that may be imbalancing harmony in your personal ‘city’:
  • Antibiotics
  • Excess sugar, processed foods, sweeteners, additives
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Chlorinated and fluoridated water
  • Lacking nutrients and balance in your diet
  • Lacking fibre and whole foods in your diet
  • Too much time indoors and around technology
  • Lack of movement and activity
  • Lack of sleep
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Alcohol (3).
So if you can tick two or three of the list on a daily basis, it’s worth considering giving your gut some TLC.

Where can I find probiotic bacteria?

If your gut flora needs a little bit of rejuvenation, luckily there are foods that have probiotics in them for some extra reinforcements. You may have heard or even tried some of them, for example, kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir (both dairy or water), apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and yoghurts with no additives (ideally from organic milk from grass-fed cows).
If you’re getting these in a shop, you want to make sure that they’ve not been pasteurized as beneficial bacteria is sensitive to heat. I often see sauerkraut that has been pasteurized- really beats the purpose, unless you love the taste.

How about supplements?

It can be beneficial to boost gut colonies even if you are taking some fermented foods there and there, but would perhaps feel like you’re in a particular time of poor balance (stressful or emotional time, a stretch of poor diet, strong cravings).
Luckily, there are plenty of choices out there to get additional support with probiotics. With a sea of choices available, you want to make sure that you choose the most suitable one for you.
If you’d like an extra boost and get one step closer to super-human, try taking a mixture of some common strains.
However, if you prefer more specialized support, below are the strains to familiarize yourself with and discover their potential benefits.
Lactobacillus acidophilus- contributes towards a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, supports strong immune function, helps produce B6, B12 and folic acid in the gut and may help reduce inflammation.
Lactobacillus Brevis- often find in live quality yoghurts, sauerkraut and some pickles. Supports smooth and effective digestion and helps boost immunity.
Lactobacillus Plantarum- plentiful in kimchi and sauerkraut, these little guys are helpful in reducing sugar and simple carb cravings, as well as supportive for digestion and vitamin absorption and production.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus- especially helpful to help reduce anxiety and stress and make you feel more relaxed. Also helps reduce the risk of UTIs for women.
Lactobacillus reuteri- especially beneficial for women’s health and may reduce the risk of UTIs. (4).
Bifidobacterium longum- may support healthy bones, weight management, gastrointestinal upset and support immunity and healthy bowel transit.
Bifidobacterium lactis- particular research (5) showed that this strain helped manage a healthy body fat mass and keep cholesterol in a good healthy range.
Saccharomyces boulardi- although it is not a bacteria, but rather a type of yeast, saccharomyces boulardi has shown to be extremely effective in managing candida overgrowth and helping restore balance.
Looking after your gut health is a little bit like looking after your garden- if it was abandoned for a while, it will take some time and care to weed it out. But once it’s done- it will bring you daily joy, strength and inspiration. Not to mention a resilient mind, body and spirit. Yes, it really does start in the gut.
For a full list of references please contact Milda.

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