This is the real reason behind your food cravings, according to a dietitian

It’s not just a phenomenon reserved for pregnant women. It can happen to all of us.

When I think about the food I want – I think about the taste, the mouth feel, the energy it’s going to give me, and how it’s going to serve my body’s structure and function (I am a dietitian after all).

But I am only human and sometimes I crave salty crinkle cut plain chips, orange juice and Vegemite toast. I wonder why I crave these foods?

I know that they’re not all that good for me… And why do I only crave them sometimes?

Yes, they are delicious, but am I eating because I’m stressed? Do I need a high GI energy hit? Maybe it’s because I’m a bit dusty from last night?

It actually might be that my gut bacteria are out of balance. This is called dysbiosis.

It happens when you haven’t been eating as many of those prebiotic foods as you normally do, and maybe those few too many beers last night might have killed off some of those good bacteria meditating in your gut.

(Note: I’m a dietitian and I don’t eat or drink anything unhealthy. I only eat raw-organic-GF-DF-XYZF foods, all the time. But I don’t really. I’m pretty normal like everyone, but I’m also pretty healthy).

Turns out, the old cliché “you are what you eat” is being redefined by new evidence. In actual fact, you are more than what you eat – you are what you digest, ferment and absorb.

A refresher for you: your body is shared by trillions of bacteria – your gut alone, houses about 2kg of them known as microflora. These guys outnumber your body cells by 10 to 1.

These bacteria are tiny, but oh so fundamental to your health. Without them, you’d be suffering. I often get asked in my clinic: “I thought bacteria made you sick, like vomit and diarrhea sick?’’ – Yes… this is true for the bad (pathogenic) bacteria out there like E.Coli or Salmonella, however there are a whole lot of good bacteria, too.

So your gut bacteria living in your intestine right now – touch your belly button, they’re just under there – they may be influencing your food cravings.

There is a growing body of scientific evidence to support this.

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Research has found that people who crave chocolate have microbial breakdown products in their urine that differ from those who don’t crave chocolate. So, chocolate lovers may have altered gut bacteria, which could be causing those sugary cravings. Mind blown.

You can carb those cravings though. Here are my top 5 tips for healthy gut bacteria, and a healthier weight.

1. Prebiotics – eat more of them from foods

Your gut bacteria require around 50-60g of special non-digestible carbohydrates, called prebiotics, each day to keep them healthy. Prebiotics occur naturally in foods such as leeks, asparagus, chicory, artichokes, garlic, onions, wheat, oats and soybeans.

2. Probiotics – eat more of them from foods

These are live microorganisms that when consumed in adequate amounts confer health benefits. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, soft cheeses and tempeh.

3. Refined sugars – consume less of them

Foods like soft drink, lollies, sweet breakfast cereals, sauces and fruit juices can facilitate the growth of opportunistic (bad) bacteria e.g. C.difficile and C.perfringens. Best to keep your intake of these food and drinks low. But maybe you crave them which causes more bacteria that makes you crave them? Start by limiting them and working on the above two tips.

4. High fat diets – watch out for them

Excessive consumption of fat can not only contribute to direct weight gain, but also can alter your gut bacteria. Recent research has found that high fat diets generally lead to a decrease in Bacteroidetes and an increase in Firmicutesalterations that have been associated with obesity. Potential mechanisms for weight gain from the above mentioned bacteria species include, your body gets better at harvesting and storing the energy from the foods you eat, and your gut becomes more permeable and inflamed.

5. Alcohol – you know what I’m going to say – ps. It’s makes you drunk which makes you crave

The intestinal tract harbors a significant number of bacteria, including pro-inflammatory triggers such as endotoxins (i.e. LPS). Alcohol consumption can cause systemic (whole body) inflammation in two ways: (i) changes the gut bacteria composition and/or function (aka dysbiosis), which results in an increased production of those pro-inflammatory toxins, and (ii) disrupts the guts intestinal barrier, which ends up letting more of the inflammatory endotoxins into the systemic circulation. Best take it easy.

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How to Lose Weight: 10 Fast, Easy Tips

You know the drill when it comes to losing weight: take in fewer calories, burn more calories. But you also know that most diets and quick weight-loss plans don’t work as promised. If you’re trying to drop a few pounds fast, these expert tips will make it easy for you to lose the weight quickly.

1. Write down what you eat for one week and you will lose weight.

Studies found that people who keep food diaries wind up eating about 15 percent less food than those who don’t. Watch out for weekends: A University of North Carolina study found people tend to consume an extra 115 calories per weekend day, primarily from alcohol and fat. Then cut out or down calories from spreads, dressings, sauces, condiments, drinks, and snacks; they could make the difference between weight gain and loss.
Need major weight-loss motivation? Here’s the secret weight-loss advice used by the folks on The Biggest Loser and other reality shows.

2. Add 10 percent to the amount of daily calories you think you’re eating

If you think you’re consuming 1,700 calories a day and don’t understand why you’re not losing weight, add another 170 calories to your guesstimate. Chances are, the new number is more accurate. Adjust your eating habits accordingly.

3. Get an online weight loss buddy to lose more weight

A University of Vermont study found that online weight-loss buddies help you keep the weight off. The researchers followed volunteers for 18 months. Those assigned to an Internet-based weight maintenance program sustained their weight loss better than those who met face-to-face in a support group.

4. Get a weight-loss mantra

You’ve heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you keep focusing on things you can’t do, like resisting junk food or getting out the door for a daily walk, chances are you won’t do them. Instead (whether you believe it or not) repeat positive thoughts to yourself. “I can lose weight.” “I will get out for my walk today.” “I know I can resist the pastry cart after dinner.” Repeat these phrases and before too long, they will become true for you.

5. After breakfast, stick to water

At breakfast, go ahead and drink orange juice. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of juice or soda. The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year—or 25 pounds! And research shows that despite the calories, sugary drinks don’t trigger a sense of fullness the way that food does.

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6. Eat three fewer bites of your meal

…or one less treat a day, or one less glass of orange juice. Doing any of these can save you about 100 calories a day, and that alone is enough to prevent you from gaining the two pounds most people mindlessly pack on each year.

7. Watch one less hour of TV

A study of 76 undergraduate students found the more they watched television, the more often they ate and the more they ate overall. Sacrifice one program (there’s probably one you don’t really want to watch anyway) and go for a walk instead.

8. Wash something thoroughly once a week

Whether that’s a floor, a couple of windows, the shower stall, bathroom tile, or your car, a 150-pound person will burn about four calories for every minute spent cleaning. Scrub for 30 minutes and you could work off approximately 120 calories, the same number in a half-cup of vanilla frozen yogurt.

9. Wait until your stomach rumbles before you reach for food

It’s stunning how often we eat out of boredom, nervousness, habit, or frustration—so often, in fact, that many of us have actually forgotten what physical hunger feels like. If you’re hankering for a specific food, it’s probably a craving, not hunger. If you’d eat anything you could get your hands on, chances are you’re truly hungry. Find ways other than eating to express love, tame stress, and relieve boredom. 

10. Sniff a banana, an apple, or a peppermint when you feel hungry

You might feel silly, but it works. When Alan R. Hirsch, M.D., neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost—an average of 30 pounds each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it.

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