IS YOUR GUT THE KEY TO YOUR CRAVINGS?

By Rhian
PHOTO: JEREMY PAWLOWSKI/STOCKSY

Food cravings and hunger are very different things. Hunger is our bodies’ biological need for nourishment in order to drive necessary human function. It is governed by our basic metabolic rate and need for energy. Cravings, on the other hand, are mainly governed by the brain when it is seeking out pleasure, comfort, distraction and reward. Nutrient deficiencies, poor sleep habits, hormone health and stress can all influence what types of food we crave, but researchers are now showing that your gut micro-biome plays a big part in your food choices, and may one of the most influential factors when it comes to what we crave. Bacteria produce different chemical byproducts as a part of normal metabolism, and these chemicals have been shown to directly influence our brain. The kicker is this - when we are in balance and eating good foods, the good bacteria prevail and the mixture of chemicals we produce set the stage for healthy, controlled behaviour. We feel balanced, well fed and don't think about food. On the flip side, when our gut is OUT of balance, the opposite can occur, and it can produce chemicals that spike appetite, anxiety, cravings and that intense hormonal-feeling hunger that inevitably leaves you standing over a giant, empty Haribo bag. So how do we combat cravings that start from the gut?

1. Treat the good guys to a fiber supplement

We know that the trillions of little bacteria that make up our microbiome have been shown to influence mood, appetite, energy metabolism and cravings by sending messages to the brain. When your gut processes bad food – like sugar and processed foods – it changes the signals that are sent to your brain causing cravings for more of these unhealthy foods. When you eat fiber rich foods on the other hand, bacteria produce signals that tell your brain you’re well fed, content, and no sugar is required. How can you break the cycle? If you’re already in the cravings cycle, try taking a fiber supplement like capsules, psyllium husks or ground flaxseed mixed with water & a bit of grapefruit juice morning and night before meals.


2. Add fermented foods

Fermented foods carry on the job of what fiber starts. Specifically, fermented foods produce short chain fatty acids in the gut which increase satiety signals from the brain. Studies have shown that foods producing SCFA’s reduce cravings and can results in 10% less food intake, which adds support to their use in weight & appetite control. The best choices? Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, pickles – just avoid ones high in sugar.

3. Reinoculate your gut

If a healthy microbiome is the key to a craving free existence, then a good quality probiotic is necessary investment. Taking an intensive course of probiotics can rest an unhappy gut quickly, especially if it comes with dietary changes that help nourish your newfound friends. Prebiotic foods will help probiotics thrive, so include foods like asparagus, artichokes, beans/legumes, broccoli, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, and onions. Probiotic wise – you want to look for a good quality brand like Biokult, Culturelle, Allergy Research Group or Nutri Ltd.

4. How you eat is just as important

This is the simple stuff - it's not easy, but it is simple, straightforward and it works. The best thing? It's free, everyone can start NOW and it makes a huge difference very quickly. I'm going to write it in capitals it's so important. CHEWING & EATING WITHOUT PHONE OR SCREEN TIME will give your gut a massive head start. Why? Our digestive systems aren't able to breakdown large pieces of food - no matter how healthy they are. The first and arguably most important part of digestion is mechanical digestion, meaning chewing food into a soft mush in your mouth. Put your fork down and go for it. Do it excessively for 1 week and I promise you - you will eat less, have more energy and feel far more balanced. You will also reduce fermentation in your gut, which causes some of the imbalances discussed above.

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