We don’t yet know all the details of the role of gut bacteria in our minds and bodies. But research keeps suggesting that these bacteria are plentiful and influential on everything from our moods to our cravings.
What is the gut microbiome?
The gut microbiome refers to the diverse community of microorganisms that live in the human digestive tract, particularly in the large intestine. It includes:
- other microbes.
These microorganisms play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the digestive system and the body as a whole.
The gut microbiota is estimated to contain over 100 trillion microorganisms. These microorganisms perform a range of important functions. Some break down complex carbohydrates and other nutrients, producing vitamins and other essential compounds. Others help regulate the immune system and protect against harmful pathogens. The composition of the gut microbiota can vary based on diet, age, medication use, and environmental exposures.
Research has linked imbalances in the gut microbiota to a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and mental health issues.
The role of gut bacteria in eating?
There is growing evidence to suggest that gut microbiota may influence
- our brain function and behavior
- our mood
- food cravings and preferences
Gut bacteria are known to produce neurotransmitters and other signaling molecules that can affect appetite and food preferences. They can also influence the way that the body processes and stores nutrients.
Some types of gut bacteria have been shown to produce compounds that stimulate the release of hormones like leptin and ghrelin which control appetite. Other types of bacteria can regulate the release of appetite-regulating hormones and promote feelings of fullness and satiety.
Gut microbiota may also affect food preferences and taste perception. For example, people with a high ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes bacteria in their gut often prefer high-fat and high-sugar foods. These, in turn, contribute to weight gain and other health problems.
Source: “Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms” — Bioassays (Academic Journal)