Are Gut Microbes Driving Your Thoughts, Cravings, And Desires?

We know our guts and brains are connected through our microbiomes, but just how much control do microbes have over our moods and more?

In This Article

The Gut-Brain Connection

Your gut and brain communicate both physically and biochemically through the gut-brain axis—a bi-directional communication pathway.

If your gut microbes change, your brain and mood, and the health of your immune system (which is housed in your gut) can change. Conversely, if your mood is altered by stress, crowds, noise, sleeplessness, hunger, or even changes in temperature, your microbiome can be dramatically altered.

So, who is driving the chariot? Is your microbiome holding the reins of your immunity, thoughts, actions, desires, and physiological functions, or is it your mind? And what can you do about it?

Is Your Gut or Your Brain in Charge of Mood, Immunity, and More?

According to the many studies your microbes seem to be quietly and invisibly holding the reins.

And bad bacteria and viruses have learned how to game this system. For example, to ensure its own survival, the polio virus rides on the back of beneficial gut bacteria to systematically gain access to the body and wreak havoc on the nervous system.

The single-cell parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes toxoplasmosis or flu-like symptoms in humans, but can only sexually reproduce in cats.1,5 If it infects a rat, it suppresses the rats fear instinct and replaces it with a kind of sexual attraction to cats—making it easy prey for the cat. Parasites are microorganisms that live off the host of another and have interplayed with the gut microbiome for millions of years of evolution. These interactions, like bacteria-virus interactions, can be either beneficial or harmful—it all depends on the balance. According to Ayurveda and emerging science, the outcome of these interactions is largely dependent on the host environments, how much food they consume, and the quality of their digestion.

See also Rev Up Your Gut Immunity and Microbiome with this High-Fiber Protocol

Gut-Brain Communication

The area of gut-brain communication is still in its infancy. How a stable of gut bugs can make you crave a Snickers bars has been mapped by tracking linear pathways via the vagus nerve, which connects the gut and brain. Studies however, have seen these same gut-brain connections even when the vagus nerve has been severed, suggesting alternative pathways.

There is also an area of research based on a level of quantum communication where information is carried from the gut to the brain and back at the speed of light via ultraweak photon emissions called biophotons released from out DNA as well as the DNA of bacteria viruses and parasites.

New studies have found that these biophotons are affected by intention and may be responsible for intention, desire and cravings as well. This area of research suggest that as soon as you can think it, you brain, gut, and body can respond to it. Watch out for those Starbucks logos! Your brain can manifest that desire at the speed of light!

See also The Healing Power of Prana, Intention, and Biophotons

What You Feed Your Microbes Makes a Difference

It is very clear that your gut microbes feed on different foods. Some love fats, and others feed on carbs, starches, and sugars.

The diet you eat is directly feeding and helping to flourish a certain type of microbiome, which in turn affects your mood.

For example, if you have a sweet tooth and indulge quite often, you’ve likely created a large population of gut bugs that love to consume sweets. So when your gut bugs get hungry, they send a message up to your brain for you to crave sweets. Once those bugs get their sweet fix, they can release the hormone dopamine, the reward hormone, to deliver a feeling of pleasure from the sweet. It’s like a little “thank you” from the carb-eating microbes.

While this might construct a cute visual, the problem is that craving too much sugar comes with some serious health consequences. Most of us have created entire stables of microbes in our guts that are very skilled at delivering sugar into the bloodstream—an efficiency linked to a greater risk of pre-diabetes.

This is the critical reason why changing your diet with each season is so important. Feeding a new stable of microbes with each changing season prevents your system from being overwhelmed with one type of food that feeds only one kind of bug.

Winter foods and herbs that are typically warmer, heavier and fattier have also been shown to protect the nervous system from winter sadness or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Fall and winter harvested herbs like ashwagandha and bacopa are known brain derived neurotrophic factors (BDNFs) that build brain cells and support mood stability during the winter months when the sun is not strong enough to provide enough mood stability and immune support. The fall and winter harvest make up for the lack of sun and allow us to thrive in the winter as well.

See also Good Mood Food: Ayurvedic BDNF + Serotonin Boosters

 Ayurveda recommends what is called a sattvic lifestyle to support populations of beneficial, positive, thought-provoking microbes, which were described as krimi in ancient Ayurvedic texts.2,3

The microbes that live on our foods and in our guts were described in detail, and the proliferation of bad bacteria or krimi was blamed on poor hygiene—a concept that was 2,000 years ahead of its time.2

To battle the risk of krimi, Ayurvedic diets and lifestyles were developed. Thousands of years ago, the Ayurvedic texts described positive behaviors, non-violent lifestyles, and healthy foods that can genetically alter the proliferation of gut bugs in a positive way.8 And now modern Western science has shown that these diets and lifestyle protocols specifically support the healthy proliferation of beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract, respiratory tract, and on our skin.2,4

There is ample evidence to suggest that stress and violence will negatively affect one’s microbiome, mood, immunity, and bodily functions.1

To create a stable of life-supporting, or sattvic, bugs, they suggested living a lifestyle that includes, but is not limited to, eating whole, seasonal foods; avoiding stimulants and violence; practicing loving kindness, peace, and rest; and following daily and seasonal circadian cycles of nature and much, much more.1,6

Science is suggesting more and more that our behavior breeds microbes, and those microbes breed behavior.

See also Overstimulated & Overwhelmed? Learn the Ancient Practice of Pratyahara

References

  1. Yong, ED. I Contain Multitudes. 2016, Harper Collins. Ney York. P.71-76
  2. http://www.jahm.in/index.php/JAHM/article/viewFile/353/pdf_143
  3. https://www.exoticindiaart.com/book/details/parasitology-in-ayurveda-NAE342/
  4. https://www.ancient.eu/The_Vedas/
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/faqs.html
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28388917
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5423040/

7 thoughts on “Are Gut Microbes Driving Your Thoughts, Cravings, And Desires?”

  1. So, if we stop eating sweets, we will eventually kill off the sugar craving microbes? We also have to break the habit of emotional eating. How long does it take to get rid of them?

    Reply
    • Yes and no, Kristin. The shortest answer is “not usually, but maybe.” The longer answer follows. (I got carried away! My real answer is at the very end.)

      How the body adapts during withdrawal from a particular food item is all very complex, as are microbial adaptations to the same. On one hand, the body will attempt to regulate microbes to maximize digestive processes – meaning through immune responses, changes in secretions, etc, it will attempt to eliminate/discourage, feed/encourage, and modify microbes in such a way as to suit its needs. During withdrawal of a habitual food item, there’s usually a period of time where the body and microbes are in a sort of “expectation mode,” and few changes will occur. During this time, the body may also be eliminating pathogenic bacteria, as usually – except now its efforts are paying off more, because the pathogens haven’t had time to fully adapt to life without one of their favorite foods! Due to the gut-brain connection and the struggle of in imbalanced and stressed out microbiome (+ pathogenic influence), you may desire foods similar to the thing you cut out. For cane sugar, this might mean craving fruit, fried rice, double-cooked starches (such as toast), etc.

      The full elimination of pathogenic microbes causing undesirable or unhealthy cravings depends on a lot of factors, including how much “substitution” you’ve done (as above, ex: sugar–>bread, etc), the strength and coordination of your gastrointestinal immune responses, the health of the tissues are organs responsible for digestive/protective secretions, and even extraneous factors, which have a strong collective effect on the gastrointestinal system, nervous system, immunity – just about everything related to the microbiome and cravings. (These factors include things most people consider unrelated, like the weather and what time of year it is, number of daylight hours, scents, sights, and sounds experienced, on and on. This is why traditional ayurveda includes directions on how to best incorporate and account for these environmental factors in order to maintain health.)

      Taking the above into account, and then stepping back to see that most people are desperately struggling with subduing unwanted cravings, it’s clear that simply “cutting out” a food is far from a solution.

      To complicate matters, there are two more things. First, even beneficial bacteria can grow accustomed to undesirable foods. And second, what’s considered “undesirable” by logic or science is generally not seen as so by the body. Sugar itself does no harm; but its major strength as a food is also its greatest drawback. Sugar – like many things consumed in excess today – is very STRONG and direct in action. All things consumed that have strong, direct actions are habituating, even downright addictive, to those people who don’t frequently practice internal awareness. Without a strong presence of mind, strong, direct, habituating, addictive substances eventually destroy the body, because nothing is being done mentally, emotionally, or physically to counterbalance the effect. And generally speaking, these things are then consumed in such large quantities that the body’s innate feedback loop undermines its own health, furthers dependence, and twists perceptions.

      The above is clearly exemplified when comparing dissimilar groups of people. Alcohol is like sugar – it’s strong, direct, and habituating. In old ayurveda, many alcoholic drinks are nearly considered panaceas. In fact, they’re also considered sattvic, essentially “holy” food items. The ancient sages were encouraged to drink wine and mead. The same was seen in ancient health and religious practices from Northern and Western Europe, China, South America, on and on. But when these drinks were used by amoral common folk of the same peoples, as a regular food item, invariably addiction and health declines were noted. And so the dichotomy exists; sometimes alcohol is a sacred health elixir, and sometimes it’s toxic, presumably as a result of mental weakness or preoccupation. Whatever the case, strong substances like sugar and alcohol aren’t simply good or bad.

      All that to repeat: the body doesn’t view sugar as a deadly enemy, and neither do bacteria. Therefore, eliminating sugar-craving microbes will happen indirectly, over time, and not generally as a result of immune activity, but through a more general cleansing process wherein the body seeks to lower overall bacterial colonization as a result of caloric restriction, among other things. This happens largely as a result of craving modification, tilted toward dietary antimicrobials, fiber sources, and increased bowel motility and lubrication.

      So if a person is keeping the above from happening naturally, by eating three times per day, snacking, losing sleep, stressing out, eating sugar-like foods, by refusing novel food items, by finding disgust in bitter and astringent tastes, etc. – and mind you, that’s the case most of the time – then the answer is….

      No; for most people, the microbes will hibernate relatively unchanged for a long time, and after a couple doughnut breakfasts (or prolonged consumption of sugary health foods) they’re back to stage 1. How long to get rid of them on a healthy, intuitive diet: this varies greatly, but will be difficult to fully accomplish for most people.

      Hope this helps!

      Reply
    • I found it impossible to stop eating sweets on my own. Willpower was ineffective as I would soon cave in to my desires. When I started drinking kombucha, however, I found that after a while, the desire for sweets stopped. This fermented drink, when consumed daily, will alter the microbiome to a healthier state. Your cravings will stop. Just be sure not to eat sweets strictly out of habit. Hope this helps.

      Reply

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