Get your mind out of the gutter.
Oh, maybe the title should have been “use both of your brains.” Or “use both of your nervous systems.” But that wouldn’t have had nearly the ring nor the click-bait appeal. So, here we are.
80% of the genetic code in your body isn’t human.
One way of dividing up the body is the Central Nervous System and the Enteric Nervous System. The CNS is your brain and your spinal cord; functions like heart beat, respiration, voluntary and involuntary muscle contractions, and the five senses are all run by the CNS. The Enteric Nervous System (ENS) is one we don’t pay nearly enough attention to, but maybe we should; your ENS is responsible for digestive function, and it has a continuous feedback loop up to the CNS.
The 80% of you that isn’t you is the bacteria in your gut.
The bacteria in your gut is responsible for digesting your food so that you can absorb it. Your enteric nervous system responds to the environment of your gut, as created by the bacteria, and sends signals the CNS (which in turn talks to the conscious “you”).
Your get bacteria creates cravings.
Have you ever gone for a month without any processed sugar? Here’s the way it usually goes: something happens and you decide to give up sugar. For a few days, things aren’t too bad – you’re feeling good, proud of your resolve and able to avoid bad decisions. And then you hit a wall – cravings show up in a big way. If you can resist the cravings, they fade away over a couple of days, and then the overall strength of those cravings are pretty low, until/unless you indulge in sugar again.
Your gut bacteria has cravings, too.
Think of it this way: the first few days of our sugar-free example were powered by willpower, discipline, and pride. Then, as those started to wane, your sugar-eating bacteria started to get hungry, and they made their demands known, which led to signals being sent from the ENS to the CNS. If you didn’t eat sugar (e.g. you didn’t feed them), then they die, or their population is at least vastly decreased.
It’s really, really, really hard to change your gut bacteria.
But it’s possible. There’s research connecting gut bacteria to moods, depression, anxiety, and more. There’s research being done testing fecal transplants to improve insulin sensitivity and combat obesity. (Yup, a fecal transplant is exactly what you’re likely thinking.) I’m not advocating fecal transplants – more research needs to be done. But I am advocating consistency and patience, and especially, getting to know your gut bacteria.
You gut likes what it likes.
And it’s easy enough to tell if it’s working. Are you gassy? Burpy? Still digesting 3 hours after a meal? Unable to get into a fight with a sandbag or a kettlebell at the gym, or into a fast pace on a run? Are you not regularly happy, hungry, and horny? Yeah, something’s not right. The first step is to figure out what’s not working, and start to make adjustments.
Need help figuring out what works (and doesn’t) work for you?
Reach out. Let’s talk.