Bugs In Your Gut

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It may sound like science-fiction to many, but your gut bacteria may have more of an influence than we think. A recent study involving mice and microbiomes shows a link between our gut bacteria and appetite, showing that what we eat today has a future effect on our cravings and hunger tomorrow!

Bugs in our Gut

Our guts are immensely complex systems that contain many species of bacteria; in fact, bacteria genes outnumber human genes by 100 to 1!  Many gut bacteria manufacture special genes called peptides that can regulate and influence hunger. An interesting study shows that people who desire chocolate have a different microbial breakdown, despite eating identical diets. Another study shows that mice raised in a germ-free environment prefer more sweets and have more sweet receptors. While more research is needed, this shows how important the food we choose to consume is to not only our overall health but also our craving and food tastes.

But, Our Brains Too?

Scientists have long known that microbes live inside us. Still, it is only recently that science sees a connection between our mental health and microbiome and the role it plays in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and autism.

Evidence shows that the bacteria in our stomachs influence our minds, also contributing to depression and isolating feelings. Scientists discovered differences in the amygdala, a region that is responsible for processing social emotions, between mice and germ-free mice. One study shows that mice that were given fecal transplants from depressed humans also became ‘depressed,’ giving up when captured much earlier than the control mice, showing how our gut microbiomes influence our mental state.

Additional studies show that children with autism have different patterns of microbial species in their stool, signifying that there is a link between our stomachs and our minds. As much of the studies have yet to prove cause and effect fully, more research is needed. Still, scientists are confident that bacteria play an essential role in our mental health.

What’s Next for Research

Doctors hope to continue to gain a better understanding of how our microbiomes influence our brains to treat psychiatric and neurological conditions better and clear up some of the misconceptions about the science. More clinical trials are needed to assess the influences guts have on various conditions.

What Can We Do About It?

Understanding how an ecosystem of microbes impact our stomachs and our overall health is an important step in educating ourselves to the importance of diet throughout life. As we are germ-free when we are born, our gut bacteria are influenced by the environment and what we consume. This means that we can change our microbiomes, reducing inflammation and positively influencing our mental health.

What You Can Do to Alter Your Microbiome

Well, studies show that one of the most important factors in reducing disease and improving the gut microbiome is diet. Good thing it is one of the most accessible factors that you can control in your life. Understanding the adverse effects a western diet has on your health and gut is vital to both your physical and mental health. A study of mice shows that after just 12 weeks of a western-style diet made them both obese and diabetic, doubling their weight – only 12 weeks! Their colons were dominated by pro-inflammatory bacteria, and their entire bodies showed signs of inflammation. Do you still want that bowl of Cheetos now?

The Bottom Line

Our guts play a more significant role in our overall health than we had known. With more attention to our diets, we are able to positively change our microbiome. By eating a diet rich in leafy greens, lots of vegetables, and removing packaged and processed foods, your gut will thank you, and it looks like your brain will too

Christopher James Lawrence is a Co-Founder of the Healthy Transformations Program with Dr. Mike Breen.  He is also the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching — a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind.  He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”.  Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker that truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him here.

 

How to Deal with Food Cravings

Four Ways To Finally Kill Your Food Cravings

You’re sitting at your desk going on and about your daily activities when suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re overwhelmed with the need and urgent desire to devour a full plate of salty French fries. Your mind couldn’t stop thinking about the treat. So you think “maybe I’ll have just a bite. Or maybe I’ll eat all of it and skip dinner later tonight”. Life will be a lot easier if our mind is wired to crave healthy food, but it’s a daily struggle to hold ourselves from junk food. The problem arises when you have little to no control over your craving on a daily basis, you’re basically setting yourself up for serious health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, etc. Every time you give in to a craving you re-enforce the neural pathway to eat this way. Meaning, it makes it more difficult to stop giving into the cravings. You don’t have to go down this road, food cravings do not have to rule your life, and there are scientifically backed methods to deal with cravings effectively.  There are four schools of thought on dealing with cravings and I suggest you implement parts of them all.

#1 Distract Yourself

The first is to distract yourself with another activity (walking, reading, TV, etc.). TV usually isn’t the best choice if you associate TV with mindless eating. You can also take a series of deep breaths, do a quick workout, dance to an upbeat song, take a brisk walk or even jog. Exercise has been shown to release Dopamine the “feel good” hormone that can actually help suppress the craving.  To be honest with you, this is more of a short term tactic and doesn’t often create lasting results BUT it can still be useful.

In a study recently conducted, researchers found out that spending at least 10 seconds thinking about something else apart from the cravings actually works effectively in getting rid of the craving altogether. Moreover, cravings usually last about 10 minutes, so distracting yourself by engaging in a visually interesting game interferes with the mental processes that support that craving. Jackie Andrade a psychology professor at the University of Plymouth pointed out that such visually engaging activity like playing a game on your phone can actually reduce your carving levels to about 20 percent. He concluded by saying it’s difficult to think about something vividly while simultaneously engaging in another mentally stimulating activity.  Just distract yourself with anything. The activity does not matter, what does matter is engaging in an activity that takes your mind off the craving.

#2 Mindfulness

The other, and in my opinion, more important and effective route is to actually sit with the discomfort of the craving without running away from it. This is a mindfulness activity. While this experience can be uncomfortable, it has been shown in research to be very effective and have long-lasting effects. Mindfulness is generally the practice of been self-aware and being in the present and it can be used to effectively deal with food craving. A research study at Indiana State University focuses on the effect of mindfulness before eating when or when cravings occur. The focus is on an individual’s awareness of beliefs, behaviors, and emotions associated with food intake. There are several ways by which you can practice mindfulness. My favorite way of doing this is to grab a pen and paper and write out the following:

  • What am I noticing about my emotions right now?
  • What am I noticing about my thinking right now (what thoughts am I experiencing)
  • What do I notice in my body (what sensations might I be experiencing)
  • What does my intuition tell me (the gut check)

Then observe. Watch how these things shift and change, become acutely aware of the shifting and changing and notice that by not giving in to the craving that the world is okay. At first, this will feel very difficult, but with regular practice, you can turn these cravings into milli-second automatic responses and move onto healthier choices.

In other words, do not rush through the cravings and or ignore them but rather be with them, make friends with your cravings. Just like an enemy, keep your friends close but your enemies’ closer. The more you know your cravings the less control they have over you and the less myterious and unexplainable they become. Then if your cravings still persist ask yourself the questions contained in this article:

https://healthytransformations.ca/4-important-questions-to-ask-yourself-before-eating-anything/

Remember, just because you have a craving doesn’t mean you need to act on your thoughts. It is also important to have healthy alternatives to suppress cravings. You can develop different strategies to overcome the urge to eat. For instance, you can think about the long-term negative effects or the immediate reward you gain by sticking to healthy food choices. Focusing on both your long-term and short-term health goals can also effectively help to curb the cravings.  I would suggest creating a plan around cravings. For example,

“When I am craving popcorn I will do [fill in the blank with lots of ideas of what you can do, including the two suggestions above].” Writing plans out has been shown to be more effective than thinking about them.

#3 Bacteria in the Gut

It is also important to note that cravings can also be caused by the imbalance in gut bacteria. Gut bacteria are known as “microbiome” and they are a critical part of the digestive system. These bacteria play an important role in the body by contributing to your overall well-being. However, not all bacteria in the body are harmless, specifically, there are some strains of bacteria that can cause you to crave what they need to survive such as sugar, carbs, candy, etc. that can be easily broken down and absorbed.  To deal with these harmful bacteria, you need to starve them off by minimizing the intake of sugar and carbs in your diet while consuming a probiotic supplement regularly to keep off the harmful bacteria.

#4 Tracking & Planning

I have found out that planning and tracking your food in a journal can be an effective way to curb food cravings. Endeavor to write down everything you eat throughout the day in a food journal. Most times we tend to consume food quickly and forget about them especially if we’re motivated to eat by cravings. But remembering that you’ll have to come back to your food journal may actually reduce your desire to eat it in the first place. With constant practice, you will find out that your ability to resist cravings will become stronger over time— just a muscle that is consistently trained. Think deeply about your habits and nutritional needs to find out whether there are some observable risk factors that can be eliminated to curb cravings and have a more satisfying appetite.

References

http://www.eecs.qmul.ac.uk/~ahsu/papers/Chi_iCrave_PostReviewFinal.pdf 

More Questions?

Feel free to reach out and ask us.

More About Christopher James Lawrence

Christopher James Lawrence is a Co-Founder of the Healthy Transformations Programwith Dr. Mike Breen.  He is also the Chief Value Officer and Founder of Change My Life Coaching and Co-Founder of Change My Business Coaching — a fast growing whole-life, leadership and business coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind.  He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”.  Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker that truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him here.