Do Gut Bacteria Rule Our Minds?

It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us — which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold — may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.

In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.

Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — our digestive tracts — they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.

While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.

“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper. “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”

Fortunately, it’s a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.

“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said. “It’s a whole ecosystem, and it’s evolving on the time scale of minutes.”

There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.

Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.

“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” said Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology.

In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.

Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?

The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.

“Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating,” the authors wrote.

The authors met and first discussed the ideas in the BioEssays paper at a summer school conference on evolutionary medicine two years ago. Aktipis, who is an evolutionary biologist and a psychologist, was drawn to the opportunity to investigate the complex interaction of the different fitness interests of microbes and their hosts and how those play out in our daily lives. Maley, a computer scientist and evolutionary biologist, had established a career studying how tumor cells arise from normal cells and evolve over time through natural selection within the body as cancer progresses.

In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.

“Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health,” she said.

Cinnamon Coconut Water Kefir

Help heal your digestive system, cut sugar cravings, detoxify your body, support your endocrine system, and strengthen your immune system.


4 cups young coconut water—use 3-4 young coconuts

3 tablespoons rehydrated water kefir grains or 1 packet of kefir starter

1-Quart sterilized glass jar with lid

1 cinnamon stick ( my favorite cinnamon sticks)

Instructions HERE

Article outlying the benefits of Coconut Kefir:

The Healing Power of Coconut Kefir (Natural News)

Other tidbits:

According to a recent research, it has emerged that coconut water is rich in Cytokinins that help regulate growth and division of your skin cells. Also, it has abundant Lauric acid which can help minimize the aging of your skin cells, keep connective tissues strong and balance PH levels. All you need to do is apply coconut water onto your affected skin areas every night before going to bed.

An 8 ounce serving of coconut water contains more potassium than a banana, as well as the macrominerals calcium and magnesium


The Endocrine System

The endocrine system is the system of glands, each of which secretes different types of hormones directly into the bloodstream in order to maintain homeostasis (which from as far as I can tell, is basically the state of living and breathing.) 

Kinda like our nervous system, the endo system is an information signal system, sending messages all around the body. However unlike the nervous system, it’s a little slower off the mark and the effects are slower to initiate, but the responses can be prolonged, lasting from a few hours up to weeks. (This is why it takes about a month or two to check on your thyroxine levels when your dosage or weight changes) Lazy little sucker!

So your brain says, “close your eyes” your response is instant. Your thyroid says, “I’m in overdrive” it can take weeks for your body to react and let you know it’s in trouble. Got it? I think I do… 

So, the endo system is secreting hormones - hormones as all of us here know, are very powerful things as they regulate various functions such as our metabolism, growth, sleep, mood andtissue function. Hormones are substance released from the endocrine tissueinto the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, they sail on down to different targettissueand generate a response. Sounds like the quality of our tissue is pretty important for us ladies then. (a quick google search tells me that vitamin C, folate, spearmint and parsley are all helpful for tissue growth. Something to try!) 

Ok, so what bits of our bodies, or endocrine organs, are part of the endocrine system?   

Click here to read the full article at the source: http://www.health-hunter.com.au/blog/2013/9/26/the-endocrine-system-insulin-resistance-explained

I love the detailed graphic!


ADH - increases water re-absorption by the kidneys, decreases sweating (in large amounts causes vasoconstriction)

Result of ADH; decreases urinary output and increases BV and BP
Stimulus of ADH; nerve impulses from hypothalamus when body water decreases

Oxytocin - stimulates contraction of myometrium of uterus during labor and release of milk from mammary glands

Stimulus of Oxytocin; never impulses from hypothalamus as cervix is stretched or as infant suckles on nipple

Anterior Pituitary/Adenohypophysis - secretions are regulated by releasing hormones from the hypothalamus

  • GH - through intermediary molecules, IGFs, Gh increases amino acid transport into cells and increase protein synthesis, increases rate of mitosis, increases use of fats for energy
  • Stimulus; GHRH from hypothalamus
  • TSH (thyrotropin) - increases secretion of thyroxine and T3 by the thyroid
  • Stimulus; TRH from hypothalamus
  • ACTH (adrenocorticotropin) - increases secretion of cortisol by the adrenal cortex
  • Stimulus; CRH from the hypothalamus
  • Prolactin - initiates and maintains milk production by the mammary glands
  • Stimulus; PRH from hypothalamus
  • FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) - in women; initiates development of ova in ovarian follicles and secretion of estrogen by follicle cells - in men; initiates sperm development in the testes
  • Stimulus; GnRH from the hypothalamus
  • LH (Lutropin)- In women; stimulates ovulation, transforms mature follicle into corpus luteum and stimulates secretion of progesterone - in men; stimulates secretion of testosterone by the testes
  • Stimulus; GnRH from the hypothalamus
  • Corpus Luteum is a temporary endocrine structure in mammals, involved in production of relatively high levels of progesterone and moderate levels of estradiol and inhibin A.

to be continued….it’s official…I hate learning the endocrine system.

Hormone Chart because I love you guys

Preliminary information:  The pituitary is secretly 2 things, the Adenohypophysis and the Neurohypophysis. The Adenohypophysis is NOT directly connected to the hypothalamus however it does receive hormones via the hypophyseal portal system (it’s a bunch of capillaries). The Adenohypophysis is also known as the ANTERIOR BODY of the pituitary gland.  The Neurohypophysis IS directly connected to the hypothalamus via the infundibulum and isn’t actually a true gland.  It makes ZERO hormones, and is mostly made of nerves.  All the hormones it sends out are actually made by the hypothalamus.  It is also known as the POSTERIOR BODY of the pituitary gland.  COOL STUFF BRO.  You all should know by now that the hypothalamus makes up the walls and floor of the 3rd ventricle in the brain (assuming you guiz are in A&PI or II, and not a casual reader).


Dopamine when it’s not doing it’s business in our brain and affecting how we feel and perceive things emotionally and is circulating around our body is also PROLACTIN-INHIBITING HORMONE.  It’s made in the hypothalamus and inhibits the secretion of prolactin.  This means it affects the adenohypophysis.

There are a series of other inhibiting or releasing hormones made by the hypothalamus, but it isn’t super key in API or II and it IS key to know that PRL Inhibiting hormone is also dopamine. 

Antidieuretic Hormone (ADH) is made in the hypothalamus and sent to the neurohypophysis.  Its target organ is the kidneys and its effect is water conservation.

Oxytocin is made in the hypothalamus and sent to the neurohypophysis.  Its target organs are the mammary glands, uterus and the gonads.  Its primary effect is contractions, orgasms.  It also does bonding but that’s getting into neuropsychology and we’re not doing that here yo.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone is made in the adenohypophysis and its target organ is the adrenal cortex.  Its primary effect is adrenal cortex hormone production and release.

Follicle Stimulating hormone is made in the adenohypophysis and its target organ is the gonads.  Its primary effects are gamete production and testosterone production/release.

Growth Hormone is made in the adenohypophysis and its target organ is EVERYTHING, though primarily bones, at the epipheseal plates. It does growth.

Lutenizing hormone is made in the adenohypophysis and its target organ is the gonads.  It works with FSH to do ovulation, corpus lutenum maintenance, testosterone and androgen production.

Prolactin is made in the adenohypophysis and its target organ is the mammary glands.  It does lactation.

Parathyroid hormone is from the parathyroids and its target organ is bone.  It releases calcium ions in cases of hypocalcemia. 

Triiodothyronine (T3) is made in the thyroid follicular cells and it’s target organs are the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the nervous system and the digestive/excretory systems.  It raises metabolism/ “Calorigenic effect”

Tetraiodothyronine (T4) is the same as T3, except it is the less active hormone.  It’s the “travel” hormone and gets activated into T3 in different places.

Calcitonin is made in the thyroid’s C-cells and its target organ is bone.  It deposits calcium in cases of hypercalcemia.

Epinephrine is made in the Adrenal Medulla and it’s target organ is EVERYTHING, IT’S ALSO A NEUROCHEMICAL. Its effect is sympathetic responses.

Mineralocorticoids are made in the Zona Glomerulosa of the adrenal cortex.  Mineralocorticoids affect ion retention.  An example is Aldosterone, which conserves Sodium ions.  Its target organ is the kidneys.

Glucocorticoids are made in the Zona Fasiculata of the adrenal cortex and their target organs are muscle tissue and adipose tissue.  An example is cortisol which does glucose metabolism. 

Renin is made in the kidneys and it affects the kidneys and it is the first step in getting angiotensin to eventually be angiotensin II (it first converts angiotensin to angiotensin I).  In the long term it raises blood pressure.

Erythropoietin is made in the kidneys and liver and it affects red bone marrow.  Its effect is red blood cell production.

Calcitrol is made in the kidneys and it affects the small intestine.  Its effect is calcium ion absorption from diet.

Insulin is made in beta cells in islets in the pancreas.  It affects adipose tissue and muscle tissue.  It’s effect is that it encourages glucose deposits into muscle and adipose tissue.

Glucagon is made in alpha cells in islets in the pancreas.  It affects adipose tissue and muscle tissue.  Its effect is that it encourages glucose release from muscle and adipose tissue.


The Pineal Gland & The Endocrine System by Manly P. Hall

The Endocrine System and Testosterone, An Introduction

Testosterone is a steroid hormone seen in mammals, reptiles, birds, and other vertebrates and is one of the most highly conserved molecules in multicellular organisms. This will be an introduction to the chemistry, biology and mechanics of testosterone, a molecule that we’re almost all familiar with, yet don’t quite understand.

Starting broadly, let’s tackle the properties and important information about hormones and the endocrine system in general. The endocrine system is a lot like the nervous system and they both are the body’s two major communication systems. Unlike the nervous system where communication is rapid over short distances (think synapses), the signals sent by the endocrine system may have much longer delays, last for a much longer period of time, and travel much greater distances. While they both use chemicals as their messengers, the endocrine system utilizes the bloodstream as its highway while the nervous system does not (for the most part). 

The endocrine system consists of glands that secrete hormones that enter the blood and are carried to the target cells upon which they act. Different hormones have different target cells and one cell may secrete several different types of hormones! Overall, the endocrine system is a major player in your body’s control systems of metabolism and homeostasis.

Onto Hormones!

Steroid hormones are lipid based molecules made mostly of carbon and hydrogen making them nonpolar and have a very low solubility in water (ever wonder why your injectible testosterone is suspended in oil?). Steroid hormones are produced primarily by the adrenal cortex of the kidneys and your reproductive organs (ovaries and testes). In addition to testosterone, cortisol, aldosterone, cholesterol, and estradiol are steroid hormones as well.

All steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol. Cholesterol is stored inside the cell and once the cell is stimulated the free cholesterol is transformed by a myriad of chemical processes in several organelles into different hormones. Therefore steroid hormones and testosterone are made on demand. Once the final product is formed it diffuses (passively - remember the lipid bilayer and the fact that testosterone is a lipid based hormone? Yeah…) across the cell membrane and into the interstitial fluid and later into circulation. Again mentioning the lipid nature of testosterone it is not highly soluble in blood and thus is largely transported in the plasma bound to carrier proteins. *Something to note* Following the release into the blood steroid hormones may undergo further modification - testosterone can be converted into estradiol and vice versa. Thus, the major male and female sex hormones are not unique to males and females however the concentrations of the hormones vary substantially between the two.

Because hormones are transported by the blood they can reach virtually all tissues, which is what we mean when we say that testosterone acts “systemically”. The response to hormones, however, is very specific and involves only the target cells for that hormone. The ability to respond depends on the specific receptor for those hormones, in this case testosterone, on or in the target cell. Testosterone receptors happen to be within the cell and the binding of the hormone to a receptor leads to the activation (or in some cases the inhibition) of the transcription of certain genes - causing a change in the synthesis rate of proteins coded for by those genes.

With hormones already being a sort of broadcast molecule with long-acting and long-distance capabilities - this particular mechanism of hormone action is long even by hormone standards. But as you have probably seen, the effects of steroid hormones and testosterone in particular are profound.

This process is much more complicated than described here, but we hope this diluted version of anatomy and physiology 101 is helpful to some!

Much of this information was adapted from “Human Physiology: The Mechanisms of Body Function” 11th edition by Widmaier, Raff & Strang.