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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.