What Do Your Bacteria Eat?
Diet changes your microbes quickly
You are what your bacteria eat. It sounds like a science fiction movie, that deep within our gut is an entire ecosystem which is affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want.
Is that crazy or what? But it's true. Some of these microbes want fat and others want sugar, and they fight for nutrients. They do this so they can stay alive and dominate the gut by sheer numbers alone. They influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Since the gut is the second brain and linked to our immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system those signals influence our physiological and behavioral responses. Let's face it - we all know we should eat more healthy foods. You have to be living under a rock to not know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, so why don't we do this? Well, the makeup of your bacteria is a huge part of who you are. You're 99% microbial more than anything else, and what you feed these trillions of microbes will greatly affect your life, your cravings, and your mood.
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. Carlo Maley, Ph.D., director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer says, "Bacteria within the gut are manipulative. There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not. Fortunately, it's a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberately altering what we ingest, according to Maley, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.”
There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed found in humans in Japan where seaweed is popular in the diet. These bacteria are unique to them as their microbes adapted and multiplied because of their diet.
You can easily change or manipulate bacteria
One of the cool ways that microbes affect our moods and gut is through the vagus nerve. This nerve connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.
Dr. Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology says, "Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good."
You can easily change or manipulate bacteria that reside within by ingesting prebiotics, probiotics, and cultured foods; by taking antibiotics; and making dietary changes. This isn't just researching to me - I've lived this in my own personal life and I manipulate my own diet to change food cravings. The change happens in less than a day. Cultured foods have a huge impact on how you feel and what you crave; but combine them with prebiotic foods (fiber and food for bacteria) and you'll be shocked how much control this gives you over your life.
Remember the arcade game PAC-MAN, where the yellow PAC-MAN eats his way through a maze of dots? I'm going to relate this to prebiotics and probiotics within your gut: PAC-MAN is the probiotic and the dots are prebiotics. Makes more sense now?
Foods That Change Your Bacteria
Here are some of the foods that have changed my bacteria and food cravings the most. You might be surprised by some of them. Vegetables, and especially greens, are a huge source of fiber which is food for bacteria; but certain ones are better than others such as carrots, beets, celery, broccoli, leeks, onions, jicama, garlic, kale and more. Your bacteria go crazy for these foods. It's interesting, I would ferment my garlic and couldn't understand why it was so crazy bubbly and hissing at me in the fridge. Lo and behold, it's a huge source of prebiotics which gave the bacteria tons of food to eat, thus making it super bubbly. I have found juicing my greens to be one of the fastest ways to change my gut flora. My craving for foods will change quickly. Most people think you lose the fiber and are losing the prebiotics when you juice, but this isn't true. The soluble fiber remains in the liquid and this prebiotic feeds your microbes like crazy. They love it. Onions and leeks make your microbes grow like crazy. Leeks, especially, are huge prebiotics. You've got to learn to eat a lot of leeks if you want to change your gut flora. They're crazy delicious and Jeff Leach from the human gut project eats them every day. He actually tested himself for the impact that leeks had on his microbiome and found he could change his ecosystem in a day just by having some lightly sautéed leeks.
Some more prebiotic fibers that I love, and also help us, are fruits such as berries and apples and lemons. Make a kefir smoothie with these fruits and oh my, what a difference it can make for you each day.
Coffee is a Prebiotic
Now here is another prebiotic food that has had one of the biggest changes in my microbiome in regards to cravings and feeling satisfied. It might surprise you, but it's coffee. I love coffee but thought it was bad for me because, good grief, they're always demonizing foods in the media. What I noticed was I started getting hungry all the time and couldn't figure out why until I read Dr. David Perlmutter's book, Brain Maker. I have found that drinking coffee makes me feel full and satisfied for hours. I never understood why this was until now. Researchers found that the microscopic (prebiotic) soluble fibers in coffee form a gel in the gut that makes you feel full and satisfied. It's so important to have lots of fiber. You can't digest it, but your bacteria can and it helps your good bacteria grow and flourish. But that's not all. Researchers in Germany did studies on microbes and found that microbes love the microscopic fibers in coffee. As these microbes grow, they cover the intestinal walls and keep harmful pathogens from colonizing. They also lower the gut's pH to an acidity that causes most germs to die. These soluble coffee fibers are food for bacteria and make the beneficial Bacteroides microbes experience up to 60% increase in growth. Soluble fibers, which are prebiotics, do so many things. They improve insulin sensitivity, allow you to absorb more calcium, convert some plant fibers into Vitamin A, and much, much more.
Decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's
He also talks about coffee and a study in Finland which followed 1,409 people between the ages of 65 and 79 for an average of 21 years. They found that those who drank moderate amounts of coffee had a 65 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's as compared with low- or non-coffee drinkers. He goes on to say that researchers are finding extensive evidence of protective qualities in coffee and it all begins with the microbes in the gut and the coffee fibers they ingest. These microbes can lower the risks for Type 2 diabetes, strokes, Parkinson's disease, and even cancer and cardiovascular disease. It does this by consuming the coffee fibers (soluble fibers) in the brown liquid and using this as fuel to grow and multiply and can shift the ratio of Firmicutes bacteria to Bacteroidetes bacteria. This shift is associated with a reduced risk for diabetes and obesity as well as reducing inflammation.
When I added coffee back to my diet, I felt full and satisfied and my cravings shifted back to healthier foods. I drink organically grown and naturally decaffeinated coffee so I won't get the jitters. It makes such a difference in my life and I really enjoy it. We also made a coffee kombucha which is crazy bubbly and never knew why until now, it was the fibers feeding the good bacteria and it is really delicious too.
If you're not a coffee drinker, there are wonderful alternatives that have lots of prebiotics in them. We actually used these special faux coffees to heal my daughter's gut when she had IBS along with cultured foods. They worked so well for her that we recommend them to you as well: Teeccino Herbal Coffee and another herbal coffee called Faux Joes. Each of these delicious drinks has a blend of the prebiotics barley, dandelion root, and chicory root along with just a touch of carob, coconut, and cinnamon. Check out this article for more information.
Another great way to get prebiotics is to consume a powdered version. In our store, you will find Prebio Plus which you can sprinkle in any food be it kefir, cultured vegetables, your tea, salad dressings, or your coffee. It works to feed your microbes and repopulate your gut along with the colonies of bacteria in cultured foods.
So these are just a few of the things I do that help me feel balanced and stay balanced. This keeps my hitchhikers - all 100 trillion of them - fed and happy which in turn keeps me happy too. You must use the science and wisdom in your own life or it doesn't work. Try a few of these things and see how you feel. You are made up of 100 trillion bacteria and you might as well embrace them and work with them. They have been waiting for the day you do just this.
Listen To My Podcast
There is no one size fits all for the perfect diet. We are unique and diverse, but so are our bacteria. Our genes aren't what matters, it's our microbes and they can adapt. They evolve depending on what you feed them and this determines your health and well being. Discover how important this is for you!
Are you on the list?
Sign up today and I'll send you my free Getting Started Guide!
Each week I'll send you updates, tips, recipes, and more! You might even be a winner of my weekly giveaway! (starter cultures, memberships, and more!)
Come be a part of my cultured food family!