Are Gut Bugs Driving Your Food Choices?

Every time I turn around there is more research being published which shows the impact, therefore importance, of the microbes (let’s call them bugs from now on) in your body. It’s not surprising when it is thought that the genes of bugs outnumber our own genes by 10 to 1 – i.e. there’s a lot more of them than us in our body. Much of the research has been on the impact of bugs on our immune system but now there is a wave looking at the role of bugs in food choices and weight management.

A paper published in the journal Bioessays in 2014 entitled “Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms”* suggests that our gut bugs can drive our food choices as a way to help them stay strong with the goal to conquest and take over the gut. It’s suggested that they may do it in two ways:

  1. Drive cravings for foods that fuel their growth or that kill off their competitors
  1. Create mood changes, such as anxiety, low mood and/or agitation, until we eat the foods that help them survive and grow.

Yep you read it right; our gut bugs can manipulate our food choices!

The take home message of the paper is that the larger the range of species of bugs the better. If you have a small range of species then this is when the manipulation of food cravings and mood is at its peak. A vicious cycle of poor food choices feeding the ‘bad’ bugs keeps the weight going on.


Break the cycle and take back your gut

The bugs can have the power if you let them but I’d rather take back my gut and work to get the bugs back into balance. The paper states that prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, food choices and fecal transplants (not generally available in Australia) can get the body and mind back working for you rather than the bugs.


If you live with gut that’s trying to tell you it’s not happy then start listening and acting to help it help you.   Whether it’s issues with constipation and/or diarrhoea, bloating, gas and/or pains it is worth investigating what’s going on in your gut. The naturopaths at Vibe use a range of tests to assess the gut health which include:


o   Complete stool analysis – this comprehensive test looks for the level and balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bugs, yeasts and parasites in your gut plus a range of other gut health parameters. It’s the only test we’ve found that tests for over 200 types of bugs and lets you know what needs topping up or culling to get the balance your gut needs for you to be in charge.


o   PCR test – this stool test looks for the DNA of 5 of the most common bacteria and 5 parasites that cause havoc in the gut. If any are detected then they may be hijacking your gut and mind and treatment to eradicate is recommended.


o   Food elimination and re-challenge, especially the high FODMAP foods, can help you decide on the best food choices for your body going forward. Alternatively a finger prick blood IgG/IgA food intolerance test can reveal which of the 96 common foods that are tested could be causing your gut issues, and
potentially fuelling an imbalanced bug environment.


More than just a probiotic

It is great to know that there are supplements, medications and food choices to support your gut but please don’t put all your eggs in the probiotic basket. Probiotics are great to top-up once you’ve addressed any overgrowth issues, with either herbal or orthodox antimicrobials, optimised digestion and repaired the gut walls. As naturopaths we create thorough Digestion System Repairs / ‘Detox’ programmes that address this range of facets for optimal gut health.


So make a new years resolution to work with us to work with your gut to keep the bugs in balance so that you have control over your food choices, your mood, your immune function and have a quiet belly.





* Alcock J, Maley CC, Aktipis CA. Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms. Bioessays. 2014 Oct;36(10):940-9. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400071. Epub 2014 Aug 8. PubMed PMID: 25103109.


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