Is Your Gut Bacteria Controling Your Appetite? – What To Do About It

Is Your Gut Bacteria Controling Your Appetite? – What To Do About It post image

We know that the amount of gut bacteria out number the amount of cells in our body by a ratio of ten to one – ten bacterial cells to one human cell. It’s been shown that gut microbes do a lot for us and in return, it appears that they have a say in what they like to eat and in doing so, create cravings and weight issues for some people.

This translates to a hypothesis presented by Vic Norris et al in the Journal of Bacteriology in 2012. The researchers set out to investigate the relationship between inflammation and gut bacteria and how these microbes influence the food choices made by the host.

The composition of a person’s gut bacteria is specific to each individual and subject to the influences of diet, environment, exposures and other modifications. It is clear that the microbiota are intimately intertwined with issues of nutritional status, behavior and stress response in the host.

Vic Norris et al assert,

… If a bacterial species, or group of bacterial species, could manipulate host preferences, it should be fitter than those that have not. The first issue, then, is whether bacteria are capable of having acquired such a capacity. It seems reasonable to suppose that bacteria have had both the time—millions of years—and the formidable adaptive machinery needed to control their hosts.

…It is now becoming clear that the gut microbiota may play a role in diseases other than those usually associated with the gut—and that this entails bacteria influencing host signaling pathways. These diseases include thyroid disease, cancer, and metabolic syndrome. There are, therefore, several ways in which bacteria can manipulate their hosts.

Researchers are finding out that the diversity of the colonies and which specific species are present or absent play a part in the physiology of the host and their ultimate food preferences.

The Second Brain

What is emerging in the research indicates a complicated relationship. So much so, that scientists are now referring to the gut bacteria as a microbial organ that interfaces with the part of our nervous system that innervates the gastrointestinal tract, called the enteric nervous system.

The enteric nervous system is embedded throughout the gastrointestinal system and consists of millions of neurons that bring information from receptors or sense organs to the brain. They also carry information from the brain to the organs and include all the interconnecting neurons in between.

The main carrier of all this communication is the vagus nerve.

Additionally, the enteric nervous system uses over 30 neurotransmitters, most of which are the same as those used by the central nervous system, including acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin.

Furthermore, many of these neurohormones, neurotransmitters, and their receptors— such as, corticotropin and GABA — are very similar in structure to those found in microorganisms (source).

What this means is that the gut microbiota may influence the brain via these bacterial neurotransmitters.

The Brain Influences the Gut Microbes

Conversely, we know that the brain can impact the gut bacteria in terms of changes in gastrointestinal motility and secretion of hormones and digestive enzymes via signaling molecules along the vagus nerve circuit (source).

Mood disorders such as bipolar, ADHD, depressive disorder, IBS, insomnia, etc. have been associated with an imbalance in the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and have been found to normalize with increased populations of Bacillus infantis (source).

How Your Food Choices Affect Your Gut Bacteria

Certain types of food encourage the growth of colonies of specific species of bacteria. For instance, this study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  compared the fecal microbiota of African children with a high-fiber, low-fat diet to the fecal microbiota of European children with a modern diet revealed that the former had more Bacteriodetes and fewer Firmicutes bacteria and an abundance of bacteria of the genera Prevotella and Xylanibacter. The authors hypothesize,

that gut microbiota coevolved with the polysaccharide-rich diet of BF {Burkina Faso} individuals, allowing them to maximize energy intake from fibers while also protecting them from inflammations and noninfectious colonic diseases. This study investigates and compares human intestinal microbiota from children characterized by a modern western diet and a rural diet, indicating the importance of preserving this treasure of microbial diversity from ancient rural communities worldwide.

Additionally, it is widely accepted that microbes such as yeast (Candida) feast on sugary foods.

I have personally experienced sugar and carbohydrate cravings when I was struggling with a chronic Candida infection. That was a long time ago, but even today, if I eat too many carbs or sugars (not a lot by most standards), I get into that vicious cycle of cravings.

I call them the yeastie beasties that are struggling to survive. It seems that science is finally catching up with the experience of many sufferers of cravings and disease.

Studies of the Microbiome of Isolated Cultures

María Gloria Dominguez-Bello, a microbiologist at New York University, is studying the gut microbiome of hunter gatherers in the Amazon in order to determine what a clean microbiome would look like.

We want to see how the human microbiota looks before antibiotics, before processed food, before modern birth… These samples are really gold.

She is finding that these samples have much greater biodiversity and higher levels of prevotella bacteria (these like fiber) than in the West. Interestingly, these Amer-indians have much lower rates of allergies, asthma, atopic disease and chronic diseases.

No surprise there.

Jeff Leach is busy mapping the diversity of the human gut with his American Gut project. He is also studying the Hadzabe hunter-gatherers in Tanzania and will be able to compare those findings with the microbiome of Westerners from the American Gut Project.

The Hadza folks still hunt and forage many of the animals and plants that their/our ancestors ate, are covered in the same soil, drink the same water, and follow more or less a seasonal hunter-gatherer lifestyle that dominated the last two million plus years of human evolution – before the problems associated with civilization.

Feed Your Microbiome

We know how to feed our microbiome already — real food eaters have been saying this for years. Jeffrey Leach at American Gut has several suggestions for us based on his own research.

Of critical importance is the addition of fermented foods and beverages that add strains of bacteria and yeasts.

Start to introduce homemade yogurt, coconut milk yogurt, kefir, kombucha, beet kvass, sauerkraut, and pickles just to name a few. Incorporate these fermented foods into your diet in small portions at first as they pack a powerful amount of bacteria that can set off a Herxheimer reaction, or die-off, if introduced too quickly.

Those folks with a severely damaged microbiome may need more targeted treatments that restore the microbiome, such as Helminthic Therapy and Fecal Microbial Transplantation. Hopefully these will become easily available in the future.

What You Can Do Now To Improve Health and Weight

Science is clearly beginning to show the critical importance of good diversity and balance in our gut bacteria for overall good health and for normalizing weight and mood.

It appears that obesity and being overweight is much more complex than just portion control, exercise and diet. There is a complex interaction between the host and their microbiome.

A good diet of nutrient rich real food will support balance in gut bacteria.

Find out much more about weight loss and all the issues around this topic at the Weight Loss Solution coming October 21!

If you are struggling with your weight – you will want to learn what 40 of the top experts have to share about weight issues.

Register here for the Weight Loss Solution

Shared at: Hearth & Soul Hop

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Leave a Comment

  • Sophie from A Squirrel in the Kitchen October 18, 2014, 8:44 pm

    I have indeed experienced myself increased sugar cravings when I had too much candida. The cravings disappeared with treatment. Since then, I don’t have anymore problems to control my weight. Great article! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  • Anna@Green Talk October 21, 2014, 11:20 am

    I didn’t click through the pickle link but most people make pickles using sugar. Does this add to craving problems?

    Reply
    • Jill October 22, 2014, 6:44 pm

      Hi Anna,
      There is no sugar in fermented pickles.

      Reply