Food cravings — why do you have them? We tend to think food cravings are normal and there is not much we can do about them, but there is much more to it than this. This is a time of change. A time to look at the way we function in this world and do it differently than ever before. It’s a time to understand and use our body as a tool to teach us and help us. It’s not hard once you understand how to work with your body and your trillions of microbes. They were put inside of you for a reason, and what a difference it can make when you understand how to make these changes.
A Power Struggle Inside the Gut
How can tiny microbes, and remember we have trillions of them inside us, change whether you crave chips or broccoli? Researchers at Athena Aktipis, at the University of San Francisco 1 found that the bacteria in your body can sway how full you feel and can also tap into the nerve pathways that link your stomach and your brain. The vagus nerve plays a major role in brain-gut signaling. This nerve acts as a major highway in the brain-gut connection by connecting over 100 million neurons in the enteric nervous system to the medulla (located at the base of the brain). Microbes can produce neurotransmitters in the gut which affect the brain. Research 2 has shown that therapy using a vagus nerve blockade can lead to marked weight loss, while vagus nerve stimulation is known to trigger 3 excessive eating.
Many gut bacteria can manufacture special proteins 4 (called peptides) that are very similar to hormones (such as leptin and ghrelin) that regulate hunger. Humans and other animals have produced antibodies against these peptides. These microbes can directly influence how we eat and they do it through their peptides that mimic hunger hormones or indirectly through antibodies that can mess with appetite regulation. So not only can microbes tell your brain what to crave, but they can also change your taste receptors, making some foods seem more appealing than others. Microbes have ways to manipulate us into eating or not eating certain foods. So, if you have a gut filled with microbes that depend on sugar, those microbes would then be under strong pressure to get you to eat more of what they depend on, potentially leading to cravings for those foods – sugar in this case.
Microbes cause cravings
Different bacterial species need different nutrients to survive. Bacteria cause cravings based on how many are present and what foods you eat. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system, those signals could influence our behavior. This most certainly has happened to me. For instance, some bacteria prefer fat and others prefer sugar or carbohydrates. They have a little contest in your gut to see which ones will dominate. So, often your cravings and food choices are coming from within you based on your own bacteria. To me, it felt like something was controlling me from within – and it was.
The exciting part is that we have some control in this by altering what we eat. You can change your gut in as little as 24 hours by eating certain foods high in probiotics and prebiotics that thrive on healthier foods, thus replacing the microbes that crave unhealthy foods. All of the foods I talk about (those loaded with probiotics such as kefir, kombucha, and cultured vegetables – along with fruits and veggies that are loaded with prebiotics) can make a big impact on your gut flora.
Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that trigger the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, while probiotics are beneficial live microorganisms contained in foods and supplements. If you eat prebiotic foods (certain vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fruits) you will feed those new microbes and make them grow and multiply. This will start you on your way to changing over your gut flora. By adding cultured foods and prebiotics (food for bacteria) and by removing highly processed foods and sugar, we cause our bacteria to change; and in turn, they change our desire for certain foods.
Why you crave certain foods
Here are some more insights into why you crave specific foods.
Do your microbes crave salty foods like chips? When our adrenal glands are overtaxed, cortisol will be running high and this is a process that requires lots of sodium to keep the adrenaline going and the cravings for salty foods is a big sign that your adrenals need some support. Adrenals need tons of vitamins B and C – and guess what foods have a lot of B and C vitamins? You got it – cultured foods supply lots of B and C vitamins and having the right gut flora is crucial to absorbing B vitamins. Without these vitamins, you’re just struggling and craving foods high in salt.
Do you have a lot of microbes making you crave sugar? One of the fastest ways to help this is to support your body with extra minerals and cultured foods. Often the first sign of an out-of-control blood sugar level is strong hunger. Minerals and probiotics are crucial to calming this down and bringing your gut back into balance. Eating sugar will make you crave sugar like crazy. It sets up dopamine receptors in the brain that cry “MORE” along with making sugar-loving microbes that start to demand you feed them more! Sugar can even change the expression of taste receptors, making certain foods taste better; while all the while releasing hunger-inducing hormones. It’s a hard battle to win if you keep eating sugar. It can take about three days to calm all this down if you restrain yourself from eating sugar. Adding cultured foods and lots of minerals to your diet will be a huge help!
How about fat – do you love fatty foods? Different species of bacteria have been shown to have a preference for fats. For example, Bacteroidetes has been shown to want specific fats. All microbes require a steady stream of substrates to grow and reproduce and each one can have a preference for different food nutrients. Not all fats are created equal. Fats such as olive oil and avocado and coconut oils are some of the fats that have made a huge difference for me and my health. Hydrogenated fats are the worst for your body and should be avoided. It’s okay to have fat in your diet – just pick the good ones and make sure you keep it in balance with lots of prebiotic and probiotic foods.
foods that change your cravings
Let’s go over the foods that will help you change your cravings: The Trilogy
Kefir (a fermented milk or non-dairy drink that is much stronger than yogurt) is loaded with B vitamins and C vitamins, and kefir has over 50 strains of beneficial microbes. This food helps you absorb nutrients from the other foods you eat with it. Combine some kefir with prebiotics like a fruit smoothie and you’ll quickly start building new microbes. This is the place I started and what I benefited from the most.
Adding a glass of kombucha (a fermented tea) will not only help feed your microbes but also help you eliminate the harmful ones. It powerfully assists the liver in detoxifying you and you’ll get some big help in changing your gut flora. If you need a pickup in the afternoon or evening, a glass of kombucha can give your body just what it needs. It’s one of the most effective tools I use for eliminating food cravings. Check out my podcast and article on this topic.
Cultured veggies will go a long way in doing a sweep of your gut flora. They’re extremely powerful and loaded with tons of C and B vitamins. They will support your adrenals and I have had many people tell me they helped with eliminating food cravings and even weight loss. They support your immune system because they contain large amounts of vitamin C. A few spoonfuls of cultured veggies can give your body just what it needs. It keeps hunger at bay, so try some and see for yourself what just a spoonful will do.
Prebiotics are powerful weapons against food cravings. Everybody knows fruits and veggies are so good for you and your microbiome thrives on them. Juicing is a huge rage right now – did you know that the soluble fiber your microbes feed off of is in the liquid portion of the juice? This is why it’s so effective in helping so many people change and become healthier. But you can also find these special fibers that microbes love in many foods such as berries and broccoli, leeks, garlic, kale, bananas, nuts, and seeds. Check out the link below to see them all. You will go a long way in changing food cravings by adding more fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds to your diet. Your body loves them!
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