We tend to believe that we are in control of our bodies. After all, we can decide the amount of exercise we get, how we think, and what we eat and drink.
But the truth is there's a tiny “puppeteer”—actually billions of them—inside our bodies, pulling our strings and telling us what to eat. Those “puppeteers” are microbes in the gut that manipulate our behavior and moods by changing the nerve signals that connect the digestive tract to the brain.
The idea that microbes in the digestive tract could control our food cravings may sound a little farfetched, until you take a closer look.
We all have very diverse communities of microbes in our guts, and their one primary goal is survival—their survival, not ours. And different species of gut bacteria prefer different nutrients.
Some gut bacteria like sugar, others prefer fat. Rather than waiting for whatever food we eat to reach our gut, these bacteria “program” the nerve signals the brain uses to monitor activity in the gut. By releasing certain chemicals, they can change taste receptors, inducing cravings for the foods they want us to eat.
These bacteria also release toxins that make us feel bad when we consume a food that’s not to their liking—which is why they’re the “puppeteers” that control our food cravings. As long as our guts contain beneficial bacteria, there’s no problem. But when the wrong bacteria control the gut, we can experience mood disorders and anxiousness.
Fortunately, can “fight back” against the gut bacteria that are making us crave unhealthy foods with probiotics.
The warm, moist environment of the gut is the ideal growing environment for bacteria. (If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’ve experienced how quickly bad bacteria can take hold!) It only takes a small amount of probiotics (good bacteria) to change the bacteria in your gut for the better. Just be sure to replenish these bacteria regularly, because the beneficial bugs are under constant attack from our water, food supply, and lifestyle factors – and you don’t want those bad bacteria pulling the strings!