We are more bacteria than we are cells and thus it’s no surprise that these little bugs play a large role in our health. When in a healthy balanced state, they produce a plethora of products that have strong anti-inflammatory and protective effects. They also hold the key to unlocking beneficial compounds found in food as well as convert the nutrients we eat into their active form. Conversely an overgrowth of the bad bags is associated with diseases such as type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver, autoimmune conditions and obesity.
In short, the role they play whether it be positive or negative is largely dependant on the type of bacteria that reside in your gut. One of the biggest effects on the composition of our internal residents is diet. The standard Western diet high in processed foods, sugar and trans fat stimulates the growth of the harmful bacteria and suppress the good bugs throwing this balance out of whack. The Mediterranean Diet high in fruit, vegetables and legumes supports the growth of the beneficial bacteria and keeps our internal environment in a healthy balanced state.
What I find to be incredibly interesting is that we have now come to understand that your microbial profile has the power to manipulate your food choices to create an environment in which they can thrive. Therefore, your gut bacteria may also be driving your food cravings and choices; good or bad. The bad bugs thrive off unhealthy foods such as sugar and processed carbohydrates and the good guys thrive off healthy fibre rich and nutrient dense foods such as fruit, vegetables and legumes. What’s even more interesting is they may even have the power to manipulate our food choices by influencing our mood via the production or inhibition of certain neurotransmitters in the gut. Did you know that 80% of serotonin is produced in the gut? A healthy gut is essential for a happy mood. What do you crave when you are feeling a little sad and flat? Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice-cream anyone?
My take way from this is even when addressing diet, weight loss or my clients food choices, addressing the gut and the microbial balance is also essential. Unless you restore this balance, you might not be able to kick those sugar cravings...and extra kilos.