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Does Your Gut Help Control Food Cravings?


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.

Food Cravings

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!

How to Make Kefir

How to Make Kombucha

How to Make Veggies

Prebiotics Food for Your Microbes

Listen To my Podcast!


  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140815192240.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5063945/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2597723/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18262391
27 Responses to "Does Your Gut Help Control Food Cravings?"
  1. Hi Donna i started a kumbucha as i was pouring in the scoby with the starter tea ilost all the starter tea will my kumbucha still ferment
    Mr Vally South Africa

  2. From Facebook:
    Debbie Danielson
    5 mins ·
    The person I most admire: Donna Schwenk of Donna Schwenk’s Cultured Food Life.

    The Gut Can Make You Crave Sugar Or It Can Set You Free
    It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m writing my blog and reflecting on 2014. I experienced so many changes in my life and business, blessings that I count every day, but…

  3. I have Celiac/Hashimoto’s. 2 autoimmune diseases. I have been drinking raw milk dairy which did improve my digestion a bit…and now am trying to make kefir. I just started but with all the brain fog from my diseases it is very hard to follow instructions. I have to read over and over again to retain it. If I can watch videos it is easier for me to understand and retain. Also seems like you need a lot of special equipment to ferment vegetables…lids and such. Where should I start?

    • You just need a canning jar and a lid to ferment veggies. You can use an airlock lid but you don’t need too. Just start off with a regular canning jar and lid metal will work but plastic is better. Thats all you need.

  4. Donna, I think this is your best post yet. I loved it all. You are giving such good advice and setting such a good example for us all. God continue to bless and use you to point people in the right direction!

  5. Hi Donna, love you name. I’m a retired RN and have several groups on FB…one of my group with over 1,500 members Diatomaceous Earth for body mind and spirit. After cleaning our gut I want to add the good bacteria and we are lost..I refuse to endorse store bought probiotics and we are trying to make out own..about 20 of us screwed up truing to ferment milk because we have to buy Kefir which is very. Is there any SIMPLE infor you can send us or visit our group expensive for Q/A thanks…Donna 😉 PS: love your name

  6. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for this post…..we all could use the encouragement! It truly is amazing how our bodies are designed and how the cravings can rule our lives! Your simple suggestions are worth their weight in gold…..thanks! I will try to eat cultured foods with my fruit from now on.
    Lately, with all the smoothie and raw food craze, I have been trying to incorporate healthier foods but find that they add so much sugar from fruits and agave as well as fat from nuts that I have to wonder if this craze will put peoples guts off balance.
    Have a blessed day,

  7. Hi Donna, I love your blog and all that I learn from you. I’ve been making kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut for the past 6 months. Lately, my sugar cravings have been really strong. I have not used much sugar lately until I began making kombucha. Even though I love it, I am concerned about the health affect of the sugar used to make kombucha. I am considering cutting out my use of kombucha for this reason. Would you have any recommendation for using another sweetener to make kombucha? What are your thoughts on this topic?

    • Your kombucha must have not been fermented long enough. Is it still sweet? Let it ferment longer until its tart and not sweet at all. Then you will know the sugar is gone.

  8. Thank you for inlighting us, I wanted to change (things)!!! in my life and I found your web site and it was on answered prayer. I am also trying??? to stop the sugar Merry go Round and its so nice to read about what you have done. I wanted to ask you what do you think about cultured fruit like berrys? I have started making Kefir even thought Its not as creamy as I would like. But Im not giving up, Im making Kefir Soda I love it and also Cultured Veggies, The next set is to start making Kambucha. Again Thank You All be ordering My( I call it The Scooby Doo,) today and I love being a Biotic pro member

  9. Hi Donna,
    Way to go! I am also sugar free along with gf,df and careful about candida and mold.
    I am so excited for you, your family and everyone you share with on your blog and web site.
    I have just started to make cultured veggies. Your web site is so helpful!
    Before I found you, I read Body Ecology and followed that eating guide. I felt good with the food combining.
    I tried making a simple cultured veggies recipe 3 times and wasn’t really pleased because I didn’t understand about how much salt to put in. The recipe didn’t call for any salt.
    I tried your Wisdom Krout and it was yummy. I am looking forward to trying more recipes from your site and trying the membership.
    Thank you for making it so affordable for people to learn from you!
    Blessings on you and your family,

  10. Donna, This has been one of my issues for too long. Sugar cravings hit me especially in the evenings. I enjoy my Kombucha, Kefir and fermented vegetables every day and
    have made the decision to remove sugar from my diet over the past several weeks and it doesn’t take long for the cravings to subside.

    Sugar is so addictive that you just have to make that conscious decision to stay away from it.

    I have learned so much about cultured and fermented foods from your posts and teachings and can’t thank you enough. You are a blessing to many and what you do for others will always come back to you.

    Yours in good health…

  11. Hi Donna, Thanks so much for all the advice. I have been making cultured foods for several months now, and I love it. Just embarking on kombucha now as my next step. Here is a wonderful combination I use instead of a “sweet treat”. I grate an apple and mix it with a few big spoonfuls of cultured cabbage/carrot mix. Then I add a good dollop of kefir. Soooooo yummy, and you absolutely will not want any sugar-sweets. I sometimes have it for desert, but most of the time with my breakfast.
    With love and thanks,
    Elles Taddeo, Atlanta, GA

  12. “just do this one thing – eat fruit with a cultured food. It’s as simple as that. Your body will be satisfied and you will be set free.”

    OK, will try that – and today is the day I start!
    Thanks, Donna 🙂

  13. I am inspired by your post. I have a few questions. Hoe does giving up sugar affect your cooking now with your recipes that have sugar in them? Do you omit sugar? When you say sugar free what sugars do you avoid specifically? Can you identify the bacteria that cause you to crave sugar? Thanks.

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