How gut bacteria influence comfort eating.
You really ‘need’ to eat that whole tub of ice cream. You’ve had a bad day. Do you lack willpower? Or is your physiology working against you? There are plenty of physical issues that result in comfort eating, rarely does it have anything to do with will power. Your gut bugs are all powerful, they can influence your weight, your mood and the tendency to comfort eat.
We have seen in animal models how simply changing the gut flora, with no diet changes, can result in weight loss. A shift to less bacteria from the firmicutes (a gram positive group of bacteria) towards the bacteroides (a gram negative group), over a period of eight weeks, with NO change in diet whatsoever resulted in lean mice. The gut flora are powerful microbes that exert their influence way beyond your digestive system.
Gut flora and serotonin production.
The wrong kind of flora can lead to gut inflammation, this affects serotonin production. Lowered serotonin levels leave us struggling with low mood and susceptible to searching for reward stimulating foods at the end of a tough day. In fact stress, or the way we respond to stress can alter out gut flora too. Stress depletes good gut flora, causing a vicious cycle, where serotonin production is lowered and we are more susceptible to stress in general. Poor gut flora has also been associated with higher anxiety levels and anxiety heightens our bodies response to stress. All of this makes us more likely to seek comfort from food.
Increasing the right kind of gut flora can reduce appetite and stabilise blood sugar making evening binges less likely. It will increase serotonin production, minimise the likelihood of ‘leaky gut’ and food intolerances which can also bring about the tendency to comfort eat. Probiotics can be used in therapeutic doses to change the gut flora. Other factors can influence the gut flora too.Take a look at our infographic to see what factors affect our gut flora. It is a good idea to rule out food intolerances too and to make sure your levels of stomach acid and digestive enzymes are adequate or your gut flora won’t flourish.