Bacteria within you — which outnumber your own cells about 100 times — may be affecting both your cravings and moods to get you to eat what they want, and may be driving you toward obesity.
That’s the conclusion of an article published this week in the journal BioEssays by researchers from UC San Francisco,Arizona State University and University of New Mexico from a review of the recent scientific literature.
How your gut microbiome may control you
The diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.Some bacterial species prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. They vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — your digestive tract — and they also often have different aims than you do when it comes to your own actions.Bacteria may influence your decisions by releasing signaling molecules into your gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system, and the nervous system, those signals could influence your physiologic and behavioral responses — and health.Bacteria may be acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make you feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make you feel good.Certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior (in mice).Some strains of bacteria cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.
What you can do (with medical guidance)
Make changes in what you eat. There are measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change, evolving on the time scale of minutes.Take appropriate probiotics. One study showed a drink containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.Kill targeted species with specific antibiotics.Acquire specialized bacteria that digest your favorite foods. (Bacteria that digest seaweed are found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.)See previous KurzweilAI posts on gut bacteria
The co-authors’ study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society, the Bonnie D. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin.
Jim Manske’s insight:
On our trip to Korea two years ago, I started eating Kimchi regularly. (There are hundreds of varieties of Kimchi consumed there other than the cabbage Kimchi commonly found in some US grocery stores.)
I noticed an almost immediate positive effect on my digestive process as I increased the probiotic supply. Now, I wonder what other effects the members of my "biome" may be influencing. And I am grateful that we have learned to make our own kimchi, and our refrigerator has an abundance in the moment!