- They’re not passive – they’re interacting with you!
- Sometime they want different things than you do.
- They release carrot-and-stick toxins and endorphins into your system to get their way. Yikes!
All the little bugs inside your microbiome aren’t just sitting back and relaxing. Oh, no. They are active participants in this relationship, which is most definitely a two-way engagement.
Sure, you control the mouth of the superorganism, and when you eat, you make the weather for all the little critters inside you. But a recent study has shown that our gut bacteria influence our food choices in order to make us eat the things that they want, rather than just passively living off whatever nutrients we send their way.
Different bacterial species need different nutrients; some prefer sugar, and some live off fat. But they not only fight with one another for food and to retain a foothold in the ecosystem – they often want different things than we do, and they’re not shy about going after their goals, according to researcher Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.
“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” said Aktipis. 1
“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” agrees 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.”
Understand this, because it’s what makes it so hard to change your diet: the bugs inside you are playing you like a big marionette. They reward you for eating the things that they enjoy, and they punish you for not giving them the treats they want, by releasing nasty toxins into your system. It’s like a giant game of stick and carrot.
Fortunately, it’s a two-way street. We can change the population balance of the bugs in our gut by changing what we eat – if we can withstand their nasty little attacks while we do it. And once we’ve done the hard work and swung the balance in favour of the bugs that live off healthy things, they will help us by craving and rewarding our consumption of those things, instead of the sugary nasties. Firm but fair, right?
“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said. “It’s a whole ecosystem, and it’s evolving on the time scale of minutes.”
Because the microbes are so small, with such short life spans, we can alter the population inside the microbiome fairly quickly by changing our diet or by introducing specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, according to the authors of this study.
And that…is where the Good Skin Solution begins.