The brain knows that you will feel better with a little sugar or starchy carbs. Sweet, starchy carbs are really the best.  You eat the sugar, you feel better, but then you feel guilty because you know what ever you ate will be on your hips quicker than you can say, “I shouldn’t have eaten that.”

Sometimes there’s even a silent little sigh as the sugar rushes to the pleasure center of the brain and activates dopamine, a brain chemical that lights up when sugar is present.

Then the guilt floods in again and you know that whatever you ate will be on your waist in a matter of minutes.  The guilt and shame causes the brain to crave more dopamine…and on it goes.  Eating sugars/carbs equals immediate relief then, weight gain and guilt and back to sadness/depression.

What if there was more to these cravings than lack of self-control?
Well, there is!

The answer is in your intestines a.k.a. your gut. There’s a HUGE factory of chemical messengers in your gut that are the cause and the solution to your cravings and weight gain!  Yep, that’s right, the answer to the sugar cravings might be in your microbiome. The gut microbiome is a vast ecosystem of microbes that help us control our emotions, weight, fight infection, regulate our sleep, and so much more.

I have struggled with sugar cravings that high-jack the best laid eating plans, health regimes and all-out diets.  It was not until I understood my microbiome and what it was and wasn’t doing for my carb cravings that I started to take back control of my gut and my brain. 

The concept that the bacteria living in your intestines has a major impact on your emotions is a fairly new concept.  But the latest research estimates that over 85% of depression and anxiety starts in the gut. Ever heard of the gut-brain axis?  Your brain and gut are sending signals back and forth all the time.  One of the many jobs of the gut microbes is to send signals to the brain (neurotransmitters) that tell the brain to make the mood chemicals dopamine and serotonin.  When you don’t have enough of the good bacteria, the amount of signaling slows down and you need sugar and carbs to help make those brain chemicals fire.


Eat More Fermented Foods

Kefir: A fermented milk drink with a somewhat sour taste is made using a culture of yeasts and bacteria. There are several brands in major grocery stores now. Pick a brand without a lot of sugar. You can blend kefir with frozen fruit if you need a little more sweet. There is also goat kefir for people wanting a non-cow alternative.

Yogurt: There are several imports things to look for in your yogurt and the first one is not the price! 

1. Make sure that the yogurt you choose has the National Yogurt Association’s Live and Active Cultures seal on the packaging. The cultures must be added the heat processing or the cultures are not available for gut health.

2. Protein should be at least 6 grams and sugar should be under 15 grams. Most yogurts contain huge amount of sugars which just feeds bad bacteria and has the potential to pack on pounds, not take them off. The suggested sugar intake for a day is 20 – 25 grams. So if one yogurt contains a whopping 30 grams, you can eat no other sugar for the rest of the day. Many yogurts contain artificial sweeteners, so read labels carefully because you want to avoid those.

3. If choosing cow dairy yogurt, organic or grass-fed is always a better choice.

4. Alternative dairy yogurts are a choice for people choosing dairy-free alternatives.

Click here to see our top dairy-free yogurt picks
with high amounts of probiotics

Fermented Veggies: you might have heard a lot about fermented vegetables  these days and for good reason. These veggies are the hottest food trend! Fermented veggies feed the gut bacteria, or microbiome, and help keep our little critters happy. When your microbiome is happy, your sugar cravings will be less and you may even start to loose weight! Unlike pickled foods, fermented foods are made in a salt brine, not vinegar. So, if you see vinegar on the label, it is not fermented. Start with a tablespoon or two per day. You will start to crave them!

Kimchee is a salted, spiced cabbage product. It can range from mild to very spicy. It is used as a condiment and is very good in a wrap with other vegetables. You will be surprised how tasty it is!Sauerkraut has to be fermented, not pickled. Put some in your salad or on your next wrap.

Sauerkraut has to be fermented, not pickled. Put some in your salad or on your next wrap.

Other Fermented Vegetables: Almost any vegetable can be fermented and I haven’t had one that tastes bad.

Take LOTS of Probiotics

Take probiotics every day. The microbiome is made up of over 1,000 different species of probiota or good bacteria. These good bacteria are our immune fighters, protecting us from many illnesses and inflammation.

1. Look for multiple strains of probiotics. Less strains = less effective and cheaper.

2. Avoid probiotic brands with fillers, additives, artificial colors and preservatives.

3. Choose a brand that lists the substrains, this means the product has undergone testing and will be more effective.

You will see CFU’s on packages, which means Colony Forming Units.  Another way of saying how many good bacteria are in the product. But, not all probiotics products are the same!  The quality is determined by the strains of bacteria rather than the amount they advertise on the label. Look for these important qualities when choosing your probiotic:

Don’t rely on the cheapest probiotic or store brand, do some research, your happiness depends on it.

Eats Lots of Fiber Rich Foods

Your microbiome relies on fiber rich foods to survive and thrive. The more fiber in your diet, the more diverse your microbiome. Because we eat less than half the fiber in a day that our microbiome needs, our “critter population” is less diverse and makes us more prone to obesity, depression, anxiety and even Type-2 diabetes.

Download your copy of the Top Fiber Foods List Here

In summary, our microbiome is the key to sugar/carb cravings. If we have a healthy, diverse microbiome, the brain can receive signals to produce dopamine and serotonin. If the diversity and amount of good bacteria have been eroded by medications, stress, processed foods and environmental pollutants to name a few, the potential for reduced immune function, inflammation and of course sugar and carbohydrate cravings increases quickly. Eating a diet that is full of foods containing good bacteria, like yogurt and fermented foods while taking a quality probiotic supplement will greatly increase the health of your microbiome. Eating foods from the high fiber food list will also increase your microbiome diversity and happiness. A happy microbiome = a happy person.

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