How The Bacteria in Your Gut Control Your Mood, Cravings and Mind

Those little parasites and bacteria in your gut are playing mind games with you!

A new study published by BioEssays and research conducted by Dr. Joe Alcock at University of New Mexico has confirmed that gut microbes are able to control food cravings, behavioral choices and personality changes.

We are made up of more bacteria than cells! Many of these bacterial colonies live in the gut where they use our food for survival. Bacteria within the gut are manipulative and can their interests are not always aligned with our dietary goals.

Microbes are intelligent enough to influence our cravings based on what they need for survival. Studies describe how the bacteria, Preveotella, grows easily on carbohydrates and how the bacteria Bifidobacteria gravitates to dietary fiber for its needs. They release hormones and chemicals via the vagus nerve that connects your brain to your gut.

The hormones then communicate with our brain to influence our cravings and choices ….that benefit their survival! Most bacteria are not that picky and can utilize whatever you eat for food, however even THOSE guys have a preferential treatment for a certain combination of nutrients and minerals. This is the epitome of “survival of the fittest.” They have also been shown to induce cravings based on what would suppress their competitors’ needs. This way they kill off the competition. They also can create dysphoria for humans when we eat their competitors’ favorite nutrients. Smart huh? They can make you feel ill if you eat something that does not benefit them!

The vagus nerve connects the brain to the gut for chemical messages.

Scientists believe we have a microbiome-gut-brain axis feedback loop which in a sense, increases or decreases cravings through nerve stimulation, hormone modulation and local chemical release. This is our second brain and contains it’s own enteric nervous system! This system can tell our brains, “We want candy or chips or anything bad for us!”

What connects the brain to the gut for these signals? Its our vagus nerve! It connects the base of the skull (medulla oblongata) to the enteric nerves in our gut. Gut micobes are responsible for how we feel when we are hungry and give us feedback info through happy hormones or toxins based on what we eat; microbes are responsible for expression of different receptors and genes as well as increasing or decreasing signals from the vagus nerve to the brain. I cannot stress enough. A healthy gut with beneficial symbiotic bacteria is a healthy, happy person. Did you know the gut contains 95% of the serotonin stores? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to our feeling of happiness.  This is why mental disorders are rampant in America. The standard American diet is largely responsible. Keep reading for dietary suggestions to get your gut healthy.

Why is the gut so important?

First I want to explain why is gut flora so important. You won’t have the incentive to eat properly and know how if you don’t understand the physiology. Plus these microbes are really intelligent!

Studies have shown that in rodents, the gut microbiome can influence neural development, brain chemistry and nearly all behaviors, including emotions, pain perception and how the stress system responds!

“Research has found, for example, that tweaking the balance between beneficial and disease-causing bacteria in an animal’s gut can alter its brain chemistry and lead it to become either more bold or more anxious. The brain can also exert a powerful influence on gut bacteria; as many studies have shown, even mild stress can tip the microbial balance in the gut, making the host more vulnerable to infectious disease and triggering a cascade of molecular reactions that feed back to the central nervous system.”-American Psychological Association

In fact, changing the scope of gut bacteria completely changed mice’s personalities. In one striking demonstration of the “microbiome-gut-brain axis,” published in Gastroenterology in 2011, researchers gave antibiotics to a strain of mice that are typically timid and shy. It dramatically changing the composition of their gut bacteria and subsequently their behavior. “Their behavior completely changed,” Bercik says. “They became bold and adventurous.” Some studies have even shown all that is necessary for behavioral change is ONE switch in bacterium type in the gut. Research also shows that certain benevolent bacteria like the famous lactobacillus, may even help down regulate anxiety. Our gut bacteria “fingerprint” is not only responsible for our food cravings and immunity (80% is in the gut), but also for our mental state. Your food feeds your gut and encourages growth of different strains of bacteria which then refer signals back to your brain about your physical and mental status.

95% of Serotonin Stores are in the Gut

Did you know that 95% of your body’s serotonin or 5-HT, an important neurotransmitter responsible for mood, is located in your gut? The microbiome-brain-gut access communicates regularly. SSRI’s, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, like the antidepressants, Prozac or lexapro, work by leaving serotonin around longer to have its effect…this effect occurs more in the brain supposedly, however 95% of 5-HTP is in the gut. Too much 5-HTP causes nausea/diarrhea/anxiety. (The anti nausea medication, Zofran, works as a 5-HTP antagonist, meaning it blocks too much 5-HTP).

Too little leads to constipation and depression. Normally serotonin is calming to the stomach, especially if the system is running as expected. SSRI antidepressants have the potential to completely disrupt or change our gut flora, for better or for worse, by this theory. (Moreover, SSRIs all contain oreganofluorines-supposedly broken down inorganic fluoride compounds in the body. Fluoride has been shown to lower IQ in studies done by Harvard and Lancet) The question is-does leaky gut from food/ bacteria trigger communication with the brain that creates depression? Or does depression trigger leaky gut through the brain communicating to the gut? How do SSRIs fit in with true gut health?

It is of paramount significance for everyone who understands this information to boycott any and everything genetically modified and massed synthesized with a gene gun, which puts bacterial DNA into the DNA of our food to breed for certain “desirable” traits. You should also now see that SSRI antidepressants have the potential to completely disregulate or improve our gut flora, as more 5-HTP will undoubtedly change the brain and gut environment and hence, the bacterial strains able to thrive there. How serotonin stores bodywide are effected and redistributed is unclear at this time.

The bottom line is that food can change our bacterial micro biome (or gut bacteria) which then influence everything else!

What do I need to do to start my journey to gut stability and health?

These facts are why I find it incomprehensible that other healthcare workers cannot see that food is medicine. You literally are what you eat. If you wish for a long, vital and exuberant life than please get your gut as healthy as possible.

1) Take probiotics & probiotics.

Probiotics come in pills and should be in a specialized container that prevents breakdown and need for refrigeration. There are also refrigerated forms, kefir, unpasteurized yogurt or fermented teas like kombucha. Fermented foods are a great source of beneficial flora (think kimchi). Pasteurization kills off any microbial strains that might be beneficial for gut health. Try to look for unpasteurized choices. Know that cheese and pasteurized dairy products we highly inflammatory and should be avoided especially in someone with leaky gut issues. They should contain a variety of anerobic & gut specific strains, especially lactobacillus. Prebiotics are indigestible fiber rich foods which help cultivate an ideal environment for beneficial gut bacteria. They provide a gentle breeding ground and hospitable barrier for symbiotic bacteria. (Chicory root, garlic, onion, bananas). It is very difficult to get all the Prebiotics you need in a day. Eat them liberally!

2) Cleanse the bowels.

Yep, microbe, heavy metal cleanses, and enemas are necessary. Don’t think microbes are responsible? H. Pylori, a gut bacteria is known to cause gastric cancer. The hepatitis virus causes liver cancer. Candida buildup cause tumors as well, especially in the lungs and respiratory tract . Emotional toxins & trauma can also be stored in the digestive tract and biliary organs, like the liver. You must cleanse yourself emotionally & physically.

3) Avoid antibiotics

They can be life saving at times, however, the majority of times they’re over prescribed. Antibiotics completely obliterate all bad AND good gut bacteria. So yes, the patient recovers, but without proper inherent immunity, they fail to recover chronically. Why do you think clindamycin, is the biggest culprit responsible for C Diff, the terribly contagious & resistant bacteria that causes profuse diarrhea? It wipes out good bacteria. All antibiotics cause vaginal infections due to obliteration of beneficial bacteria. Widespread use of antibacterial hand sanitizer safe also responsible for widespread bacterial resistance to antibiotics as well as destruction of good gut bacteria.

4) Chronic stress

You know how right before an important speech, your tummy can get knots in it and you can even feel nauseated? This shows you how your brain and gut can affect each other significantly. Stress is very important from this standpoint. Stress leads to decreased immunity and stomach or upset-even leaky gut! Don’t let stress derail your emotions enough to affect your health. Remember you will create suffering for yourself/others if you practice any negative emotions. Regardless of the situation, learn to be enthused, be inspired or learn to accept what you cannot change. All else will cause suffering and strife as you fight what you cannot change or accept! Emotional writing & poetry also helps those with sensitive immune systems due to early trauma and suppressed feelings. You may experience deep rooted & heavy emotions that you didn’t expect while journaling! Emotions are your friend. Bottling up sincere pain and turmoil will slowly kill your immunity-and your happiness. Tears are released grief and emotional trauma. Do not suppress it.

5) Eat organic REAL food

It is essential for health to eat REAL FOOD. Even if the chips you love are “organic,” your ancestors would not recognize that as food. Grains like wheat and gluten contain gliadin, which has been shown to induce and contribute to leaky gut.

Food grown naturally on earth contains vital nutrition not found in something made in a lab. GMO wreaks havoc on gut immunity and causes permeable holes or leaky gut, disrupting cell membrane integrity and therefore, immunity. Remember most biotech companies pay to conduct research on their products and then are able to have them published. Multiple studies show safety with gmo, however these studies as paid for big such companies as Monsanto or Bayer. For example, Bayer pharma wrote my Harrison’s internal medicine board review questions! Something is not right or ethical here. I have also not touched on the fact that conflicts of interest exist between the FDA and Monsanto as many of their employees have worked for both corporations. As food is medicine, no other avenues toward health will be permanent until you clean up your diet!

6) Cut Down on Alcohol or other Toxins

You can’t eat right but then drink excessive alcohol and hope that you won’t burn out your gut defenses. You will. Alcohol completely eats away at the stomach lining-or barrier to immunity. It leads to excessive acidity in the digestive tract and eventual ulcers and bleeding. Alcohol only in moderation please. Try to stop smoking or indulging in refined sugar and carbohydrates.

7) Mother Nature Provides Healing Herbs

Look into herbs and healing plants that are known to repair the gut lining and make your tummy more hospitable to friendly bacteria like-aloe vera, the amino acid L-glutamine, colostrum, slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, licorice, coconut oil, and fermented foods should be staples in your diet and quest for a healthy gut!
Keep your gut happy and healthy for longevity and extended health! You can become your own best doctor!

Much Love

Dr Jess