If you’ve ever felt like your body and mind have been hijacked by food cravings, you’re not alone.
Food cravings are common, sometimes driving behavior as much as addiction. But where do food cravings come from and why we have them?
While many experts agree that giving in to food cravings is a way to manage stress and feel pleasure, new research tells us that bacteria living in the digestive tract have a say in what we eat and in what foods we crave.
Trillions of microbes live in the gut. These microbes are able to communicate with the nervous system and with the brain. Connecting the intestines and the brain is a superhighway called the vagus nerve. A lot of information travels across this highway, including signals from gut bacteria and yeast.
According to a new study in Bioassays, microbes living in the gut are able to manipulate our behavior so that they can thrive.
For example, bacteria and yeast:
- Change biochemical pathways that signal reward and pleasure
- Change our mood with toxins
- Change taste receptors
Food cravings may seem like unhealthy eating habits—but this is just part of the story. The reason why unhealthy eating habits have such a strong hold on our behavior is because of the bacteria and yeast that live inside the body.
Fortunately, we can reclaim our body.
Carlo Maley, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer explains, "Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut. It's a whole ecosystem, and it's evolving on the time scale of minutes."
In order to change this ecosystem and get rid food cravings, we must do two things:
1. Starve The Bad Bacteria and Yeast. The best way to starve harmful microbes is to remove all added sugars from the diet.
Sour fruits and some sweet, starchy vegetables give good gut bacteria healthy fiber to feed on. But added sweeteners feed bad bacteria and yeast. This includes:
- Cane sugar (even organic)
- Beet sugar
- Coconut crystals/nectar
- Maple syrup
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
Instead of using added sweeteners, we suggest replacing them with natural, non-sugar sweeteners such as Lakanto™.
Lakanto™ is made with erythritol (from fermented non-GMO corn) and a medicinal fruit called luo han guo. Like the herb stevia, luo han guo contains plant chemicals that hit the sweet receptors on the tongue. On its own, luo han guo is 250 – 300 times sweeter than table sugar.
Lakanto™ is a natural sugar substitute that looks, tastes, and bakes like sugar. But Lakanto™ doesn’t raise blood sugar. And it doesn’t feed harmful bacteria and yeast.
2. Add Good Bacteria and Yeast. Good bacteria and yeast keep the bad guys in check, helping to ward off massive cravings.
We can increase numbers of good bacteria and yeast just by adding cultured foods—like sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented coconut water kefir—to our diets. Cultured foods have been fermented with strains of beneficial probiotics. In addition to combating food cravings, cultured foods support the immune system and help repair common digestive troubles.
At Body Ecology, we always say that when you’re craving something sweet—drink a glass of lemonade made with fresh squeezed lemon juice and stevia or Lakanto™. But the best long-term solution to conquering food cravings is to eat cultured vegetables and drink coconut water kefir. The sour taste of cultured foods naturally dampen the craving for sugary foods.
Alcock, J., Maley, C. C. and Aktipis, C. A. (2014), Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400071
University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). (2014 August 15). Do gut bacteria rule our minds? In an ecosystem within us, microbes evolved to sway food choices. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140815192240.htm
Dharmananda, Subhuti. Luo Han Guo: Sweet Fruit Used as Sugar Substitute and Medicinal Herb. Retrieved fromhttp://www.itmonline.org/arts/luohanguo.htm