You may already know how important the microbiome — the massive collection of bacteria that resides mostly in your gut — is to health and well-being. You may also know that this ecosystem is so sensitive that it changes with every bite of food you eat. But did you know that these microscopic inhabitants of your gut can influence you as much as you influence them?
That's what a new study, published in the journal BioEssays, suggests. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco reviewed scientific literature on the microbiome and determined that, although what we eat can change the kinds of bacteria living in our gut, the bacteria themselves may be telling us what to eat; the sugar-loving bacteria want us to dig into that chocolate cake, while the fat-loving species prefer bacon, and so on.
But how does this happen, and what do these findings mean for our diet choices and health? Science Daily has more:
While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.
"Bacteria within the gut are manipulative," said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper." "There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not."
Fortunately, it's a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating (sic) altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.
Whew, that's a relief! We're not totally at the mercy of bacteria! So, the next time you find yourself wanting to chow down on that pepperoni pizza calling your name, remember that it's not really you who wants it — it's your bacteria.
If you're interested in learning more about the microbiome and what an important role it plays in well-being, check out the video below!
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com