Defy the microbe overlords

We harbor the notion that we’re sentient beings … but recent studies provide a new perspective, challenging just how much control we truly have when it comes to our cravings. … there is in fact a very direct and causal connection between our intestinal microbial ecology and the way we think. That, in fact, these microbes message our brains, effectively telling us what to eat.

—  Rich Roll, author of Finding Ultra

I suppose a defeatist could interpret Roll’s comments as yet another example of why it’s “impossible” to lose weight. He disagrees, suggesting that the process can work in reverse as well – if you feed the bacteria in your gut healthier foods, then the microbes that thrive on that diet will proliferate at the expense of the junkfood-craving critters.

Image from

Image from

It’s a creepy thing to think about, I’ll admit. (According to another book I’ve been browsing lately, The Perfect Health Diet by a couple of scientists, Paul Jaminet and Shou-Ching Jaminet, bacteria outnumber human cells 10 to 1 — adding up to “a few pounds” of body weight.)

I don’t like the idea of housing all those microbes, especially knowing they contribute to the number I see on the scale. On the other hand, I LOVE the idea of being a food god, choosing who thrives and who dies in my bacterial ecosystem.

Microbes may very well “instant message” my brain about what THEY think I should eat, but I’m the one who physically puts food into my mouth. If I think in terms of a “craving” – a word that comes with baggage from my fat years – I’m far too likely to give in.

But if I think of it as a bossy command from an overbearing microbe, it becomes MUCH easier to deny the request.

Based on my own experience, I do think you lose the taste for certain foods if you quit eating them for several weeks. I haven’t eaten French fries in 3-4 years and don’t miss them at all. A book that inspired me during my weight loss — Cutting Myself in Half: 150 Pounds Lost One Byte at a Time, by then-teen author Taylor LaBaron —  referred to this concept as “killing dinosaurs” by “exterminating cravings.”

Turns out LaBaron may have had the right idea, but the wrong species.


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4 Responses to Defy the microbe overlords

  1. mybodymytime says:

    Great post thanks for sharing

  2. I recently finished reading The Alchemy of Murder, a Nellie Bly mystery in which Ms Bly meets that microbe hunter Louis Pasteur. In the novel, Pasteur seemed to want to eradicate all microbes. They were all killers waiting for a host. Now science knows differently.

  3. tischcaylor says:

    That sounds like a book I’d enjoy. I’ll have to check it out.

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