Weird Ways Your Gut Health May Control Your Habits – Zenwise Weird Ways Your Gut Health May Control Your Habits – Zenwise
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Weird Ways Your Gut Health May Control Your Habits

From a fascinating Netflix documentary to countless scientific studies, one thing is certain… the gut microbiome is having a moment. By now, most of us have an inkling about the importance of gut health in maintaining overall wellness.

However, recent research suggests that these tiny microbes might be exerting more control over our lives than we ever imagined. New studies reveal that gut bacteria can influence not just our physical health but also our cravings and social behaviors. How can that be? Keep reading to find out!


The Microbiome and Cravings

The idea that gut bacteria can influence our cravings isn't just a wild theory—there is growing scientific evidence to support this claim. According to a recent Netflix documentary, "Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut," specific types of bacteria in our gut can make us crave more junk food. But how does this happen?

Our gut microbiome comprises trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which coexist harmoniously in our digestive system. These microbes help break down food, absorb nutrients, and protect against harmful pathogens. However, certain bacteria can release chemicals that interact with our brain, influencing our mood, appetite, and food preferences.

When we consume foods high in sugar and fat, we feed these particular bacteria, allowing them to thrive and multiply. In return, they produce signals that make us crave more of the same types of food. This cycle can create a feedback loop where our diet continuously reinforces the presence of these craving-inducing bacteria, leading to increased consumption of unhealthy foods.


The Science

The gut-brain axis is a complex communication network that links the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain with peripheral intestinal functions. This axis allows gut bacteria to send and receive signals from the brain, influencing behavior. Research has shown that gut bacteria can produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, crucial in mood regulation and reward-seeking behavior.

A study published in the journal BioEssays explored how gut bacteria could manipulate our eating habits. The researchers found that certain bacteria could produce metabolites that influence the release of hormones associated with hunger and satiety, such as ghrelin and leptin. By altering these hormone levels, gut bacteria can increase our cravings for specific foods, particularly those high in sugar and fat.

“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,” says senior study author Athena Aktipis, Ph.D.


Sociability and Your Gut

While the influence of gut bacteria on food cravings is fascinating, their impact on sociability is equally intriguing. An article published by the BBC highlights how our gut microbiome might shape our social behaviors. The idea that microbes can affect our interactions with others is based on the gut-brain axis, which is crucial in regulating emotions and social behavior.

One of the key players in this process is the vagus nerve, a major component of the gut-brain axis. This nerve acts as a communication highway between the gut and the brain, transmitting signals that can affect mood and behavior. Studies have shown that altering the composition of gut bacteria in mice can lead to significant changes in their social behavior.


The Research

In one study, researchers found that germ-free mice—mice raised in a sterile environment without any gut bacteria—exhibited abnormal social behaviors compared to their normal counterparts. These behaviors included reduced social interactions and increased anxiety. However, when these germ-free mice were given specific strains of bacteria, their social behaviors improved significantly.

Another study found that certain gut bacteria could influence the production of oxytocin, a hormone associated with social bonding and trust. The researchers discovered that mice with a healthy gut microbiome had higher oxytocin levels and were likelier to engage in social behaviors.

The Big Picture

These findings have profound implications. If gut bacteria can influence our cravings and social behaviors, then maintaining a healthy microbiome becomes even more critical. Diet, probiotics, and prebiotics can all help nurture a balanced gut microbiome.

For instance, consuming a diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods can promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics, which are live beneficial bacteria, can be found in supplements and fermented foods like yogurt and kimchi. Prebiotics, however, are non-digestible fibers that feed these beneficial bacteria, helping them thrive. Learn more in Six Daily Habits That Impact Your Gut Health.

The growing body of research on the gut microbiome highlights the intricate relationship between our gut bacteria and various aspects of our health, including cravings and social behaviors.

Understanding this connection opens new avenues for improving mental and physical health through diet and lifestyle changes. So, the next time you find yourself craving junk food or feeling particularly social, remember that your gut bacteria might be calling the shots.



Craving more support for your beautiful gut? Zenwise® offers a complete line of digestive health supplements that are scientifically proven. Reach our customer service team at or M-F from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST at (800) 940-1972.

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