Your gut and brain communicate both physically and biochemically through the gut-brain axis—a bi-directional communication pathway.
If your gut microbes change, your brain and mood can change, and if your mood is altered by stress, crowds, noise, sleeplessness, hunger or even change in temperature, your microbiome can be dramatically altered.
The health of your microbiome should be given special attention, as it has been directly linked to regulating 70 percent of the body’s immune system and most of its physiological functions. (1,7)
So, who is driving the chariot? Is your microbiome holding the reins of your immunity, thoughts, actions, desires and physiological functions, or is it your mind?
To answer this, I will take one page from science writer, Ed Yong’s book, I Contain Multitudes and another page from Vedic science.
According to the many studies cited by Ed Yong, your microbes seem to be quietly and invisibly holding the reins. While this concept is new, there are plenty of bacteria that have shown us their true colors.
For example, to ensure the survival of itself, the polio virus rides on the back of beneficial gut bacteria to systematically gain access to the body and wreak havoc on the nervous system.
There are many microbes that, once infiltrated, can take control of our minds. The rabies virus can alter the mood, aggression, and behavior of an animal so far as to scratch or bite another animal to further spread the virus.
The single-cell parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, causes toxoplasmosis or flu-like symptoms in humans, but can only sexually reproduce in cats. (1,5) If it infects a rat, it suppresses the rats fear instinct and replaces it with a kind of sexual attraction to cats—making it easy prey for the cat.
Many microbes offer us many different benefits, but when it comes down to it, they are out for their own survival. We are here to help them thrive, survive, and reproduce.
What Are You Feeding Your Microbes?
It is very clear that your gut microbes feed on different foods. Some love fats, others feed on carbs, starches and sugars.
The diet you eat is directly feeding and helping to flourish a certain type of microbe. If you have a sweet tooth and indulge quite often, you’ve likely created a large population of gut bugs that love to consume sweets.
So when your gut bugs get hungry, they send a message up to your brain for you to crave sweets. Once those bugs get their sweet fix, they can release the hormone dopamine, the reward hormone to deliver a feeling of pleasure from the sweet. It’s like a little “thank you” from the carb-eating microbes.
While this might construct a cute visual, the problem with this is that we have created a dietary culture where we overly crave sweets. Most of us have created entire stables of microbes in our guts that are very skilled at delivering sugar into the bloodstream—an efficiency linked to a greater risk of pre-diabetes.
This is the critical reason why changing your diet with each season is so important.
Feeding a new stable of microbes with each changing season prevents your system from being overwhelmed with one type of food that feeds only one kind of bug.
So, who is driving your thoughts, cravings, actions, and desires? Do you actually have free will, or are you being controlled by trillions of microbes that are out for themselves first?
Let’s see what Ayurveda has to say about this…
“Brahma bhavati sarati” is a Vedic quote that means God is the Charioteer, suggesting that we should live our lives in the best way possible in the image of God—and that all rules from all religions apply.
Ayurveda recommends what is called a sattvic lifestyle to epigenetically support this principle and the populations of beneficial, positive, thought-provoking microbes to ensure the results.
The understanding that we are not alone and the fact that visible and invisible microbes co-exist with us was documented thousands of years ago in Ayurveda.
Microbes found on foods, like milk, butter, utensils, in water, the soil, body and numerous other locations were described as krimi. (2,3)
The microbes that live on our foods and in our guts were described in detail, and the proliferation of bacteria or krimi was blamed on poor hygiene—a concept that was 2000 years ahead of its time. (2)
To battle the risk of krimi, Ayurvedic diets and lifestyles were developed. Diets and lifestyles that we now know specifically support the healthy proliferation of beneficial bacteria in our digestive tract, respiratory tract, and skin. (2,4)
Thousands of years ago, the Ayurvedic texts described positive behaviors, non-violent lifestyles and healthy foods that can epigenetically alter the proliferation of gut bugs in a positive way. (8)
There is ample evidence to suggest that stress and violence will negatively affect one’s microbiome, mood, immunity, and bodily functions. (1)
To antidote and create a stable of life-supporting or sattvic bugs, they suggested living a sattvic lifestyle.
This includes but is not limited to eating whole foods, seasonal foods, no stimulants, no violence, loving kind gestures, peace, no excessive activities, following daily and seasonal circadian cycles of nature and much, much more. (1,6)
Science is suggesting more and more that our behavior breeds microbes, and those microbes breed behavior.
Ayurveda predicted the dangers of violence, dishonesty, lack of integrity, and care for others. Now the science is telling us the same—perhaps it’s time to listen!