Do you have uncontrollable sugar cravings?
Are your cravings unable to be beaten no matter how much will-power you try to use?
Are you constantly grabbing for the sweets, and feeling like you have no real choice in the matter?
What if I told you that you may actually have less of a choice than you think…?
There are theories going around that the micro organisms in our guts (collectively called the gut microbiome) can actually crave foods – and some ‘bad’ bacteria and fungus can be akin to parasitic organisms, using us and controlling our appetite in order for them to proliferate, by causing us to have cravings for the foods that they need to survive. Check out these links for more info: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/science/our-microbiome-may-be-looking-out-for-itself.html
One of the major contributors to sugar cravings, Candida albicans, is also one of the most common species that we are prone to having overgrowth of. It is a yeast/fungus that is naturally present in our bodies, in small amounts, but when fed too much sugars (all carbohydrates turn into sugars during digestion), they can overgrow and start causing a wide range of other negative symptoms. The more sugars we eat, the more of them grow, causing us to want to eat more sugar – it’s a vicious cycle!
It’s a bit of a weird concept – a bit sci-fi even – to think that the micro organisms in our guts are able to control our behaviour in this way. But there is so much about the gut microbiome that we are only just learning about, with so much territory still to be chartered and new discoveries being made all the time. It’s fascinating stuff, or at least I think so!
But the important thing to know is, there is something we can do about these sugar-craving micro organisms – we can take control of our bodies back! In order to do this we need to replenish the good bacteria in the gut, so they can fight the ‘bad’ guys and reestablish occupancy of the gut! That’s right, we need to declare an internal war in our guts…
So, how do we introduce good bacteria into our bodies?
One way is to start eating fermented foods. The probiotics (‘good’ bacteria) in the fermented foods, when consumed regularly, will overtake the ‘bad’ micro organisms in the gut, causing the ‘bad’ micro organisms to die-off. Depending on the amount of ‘bad’ micro organisms in your gut, you may go through a period of going through die-off symptoms (bloating, stomach-ache, diarrhoea, etc.). This part doesn’t sound like fun but persevere through this because it is only temporary and you will be feeling a LOT better than you did before once the war is over, and your gut is populated with an abundance of ‘good’ bacteria. Start with small amounts (1 TBS a day) and work your way up to more, if desired.
Once the symptoms have subsided, and your incessant sugar cravings have dissipated, it’s good to cut back to a ‘maintenance dose’ of fermented foods (once or twice a week) just to keep a regular supply of probiotics (‘good’ bacteria) and prebiotics (food for the probiotics) to your gut. As long as you keep the sugar containing foods down (which should be much easier now) and consume ferments every once in a while, your body should be able to keep a healthy microbiome flourishing. If the sugar cravings reestablish themselves, it’s a good indicator that your microbiome is out of whack again, and so you can start with daily doses of fermented foods again, until again the cravings subside.
How did I come across the connection between sugar cravings and the gut microbiome?
Personal experience. I had a mega sweet tooth. I had to eat something sweet to finish every meal (unless it was a sweet meal itself). I was buying blocks and blocks of chocolate and packets and packets of chocolate biscuits weekly, and getting through them no worries. To be honest, I didn’t even realise how much sugar/sweets I ate. The rest of my diet was quite healthy, and I exercised regularly, so I wasn’t seeing any obvious health issues.
Then I discovered fermentation and quickly became a little obsessed. I started by making a batch of sauerkraut, which is super easy (I followed this recipe, but bought a few Pickl’It jars for my new obsession, which I knew I would be getting plenty of use out of despite their price). So anyway, I started eating it little by little, every day. I had the usual die-off symptoms, but I persevered through them and then I started feeling good. I had more energy. The more sauerkraut I ate, the more of it I wanted to eat, and the less sweets I ate. But I hadn’t even noticed the change yet, that came later. I added some lactofermented carrot and cauliflower to my ferment stash, and again, the more ferments I ate, the less I craved sugar.
As time went on, I simply didn’t have the desire to eat so much chocolate. But I still bought it, because it was habit – it was part of my normal shopping routine. It wasn’t until my chocolate drawer, which was usually quickly emptied, was still full when I brought the next lot of shopping home, that I realised my cravings were on the way out. So, how did I make the connection? Well, adding fermented foods to my diet was the only thing I had changed. So I asked in a fermentation group I am part of, and there were a massive amount of people, from all over the world, who had experienced the exact same thing!
I didn’t even mean to do it, but I had stopped my incessant sugar cravings and my associated multiple-times-a-day chocolate eating habit simply by adding fermented foods to my diet!
It was actually harder for me to change my shopping habit of buying so much chocolate than it was to stop eating the chocolate itself! It took me quite a few shopping trips before I stopped visiting the chocolate and biscuit aisles, and right now my drawer is still full from the chocolate I bought months ago. I actually visited the biscuit aisle and only bought one packet of biscuits just the other day, despite them being on sale. That wouldn’t have been possible a few months ago, I would have bought at least ten packs!
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy my sweets these days – very much so. The difference is that now I am in control of how much of them I eat, and when I eat them. I now eat chocolate when I crave it, not when my micro organisms do! And you can too!
Just get fermenting!
Note: Many store-bought sauerkrauts, kimchis and other fermented foods have been pasteurised, thereby killing the good bacteria, or are made via a different method completely. As fermentation gains popularity, there are more and more probiotic rich fermented foods popping up around the place, but they are usually quite expensive. If you do buy them, be sure to read the package label to make sure you are buying something that does indeed contain probiotics. But it is cheaper, and much more fun, to make your own!
Big Love and Happy Fermenting…
Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Science
Currently studying: Master of Human Nutrition
But most importantly, Imperfect Mother
Photo credit: ccbarr – Fermentation Update