Living Now - - Inner Health Feature -

So we have our bi­ol­ogy, ge­net­ics, up­bring­ing, en­vi­ron­ment and emo­tions as po­ten­tial driv­ers for var­i­ous food crav­ings. But did you know the bac­te­ria in your gut can also de­ter­mine your food crav­ings? The av­er­age per­son has ap­prox­i­mately 1.5 kilo­grams of bac­te­ria in their gut. These bac­te­ria send sig­nals to the brain via the brain-gut axis and can im­pact our be­hav­iour and health. There is grow­ing ev­i­dence to sup­port the role of these im­por­tant bac­te­ria in in­flu­enc­ing our crav­ings for cer­tain foods.

Re­search has shown that mice bred in germ-free en­vi­ron­ments pre­fer more sweets and have greater num­ber of sweet taste re­cep­tors in their gut com­pared to nor­mal mice. Ad­di­tion­ally, many gut bac­te­ria can pro­duce pro­teins that are very sim­i­lar to hormones such as pep­tide YY and ghre­lin that reg­u­late hunger. This sug­gests that our gut bac­te­ria (or “gut mi­cro­biota”) may in­flu­ence our eat­ing be­hav­iour through pep­tides that mimic hunger-reg­u­lat­ing hormones.

Tar­geted pro­bi­otic and pre­bi­otic use is likely to be­come more com­mon as we bet­ter un­der­stand how gut mi­cro­biota in­flu­ence our bod­ily How many times have you heard some­one say, “I’m addicted to (in­sert cul­prit food)?” Whether or not true food ad­dic­tion truly ex­ists is still open to de­bate.

Sugar stim­u­lates the re­lease of opi­ates, which makes you feel good, and this has been demon­strated in ex­per­i­ments with rats. Opi­ates in turn stim­u­late your ap­petite for more sugar. Give rats enough sugar, and they be­come re­liant on it. The same mech­a­nism oc­curs in ad­dic­tions to co­caine, in both rats and hu­mans. When you take away sugar, an­i­mals ex­hibit anx­i­ety and other signs of with­drawal.

Is this ad­dic­tion? Have you seen any­one sell their baby or com­mit mur­der for more sugar?

Whether or not ‘ad­dic­tion’ is the right word, the com­pul­sion to con­tin­u­ally seek out cer­tain foods can be very painful. Rather than com­pletely avoid­ing the drug-like high you get from choco­late and ‘ just say no’ (pure de­pri­va­tion), it may be more re­al­is­tic to slightly shift your choco­late tastes by in­clud­ing dark choco­late, seek­ing out the highest qual­ity Bel­gian stuff, or mak­ing your own from or­ganic in­gre­di­ents.

Un­like other ad­dic­tions where we are told to give it up, we can’t stop eat­ing! On the con­trary, I think we should cel­e­brate nat­u­ral whole­food that makes us feel good. How do you know if your food ‘ad­dic­tion’ needs to be ad­dressed? Start by ask­ing, “Is my sugar/fat/salt/caf­feine habit caus­ing me harm?”

It’s im­por­tant for us to to re­learn how to en­joy food and eat­ing with­out be­ing con­stantly dogged by the need for more.

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