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We like to think that we are in charge of the decisions we make, from what we choose to eat to where we go on holiday.
But the truth is we make a lot of decisions subconsciously, guided by signals and cues that we are not even aware of.
Muffin - Way - Benefits - Costs - Coffee
Why did you eat that muffin on the way to work? Was it because you really, really wanted it, weighed up the benefits and the costs, and decided to buy it? Or did you see it when you went into the coffee shop and just picked it up on a whim? Most of us eat mindlessly, guided by habit and influenced by advertising.
But what about our gut bacteria? Is it plausible that tiny single-celled creatures lurking in our gut can also influence our decision-making?
Number - Scientists - Microbes - Opportunity - Tools
We think so, and so do an increasing number of scientists. Our microbes have the opportunity, motive and tools to manipulate us.
We’ve talked before about the brain in your gut — the enteric system that contains the same number of neurons as you’ll find in the brain of a cat, which communicates with the brain in your head via the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is like a telephone line. The enteric system talks to your brain and it talks back.
Plenty - Evidence - Microbes - System - Brain
Now, there is plenty of evidence that your microbes can hack into this system and talk to your brain via the vagus nerve. They also produce hormones and neurotransmitters that can reach your brain via your bloodstream.
Dopamine, for example, is a ‘feel-good hormone’. The micro-bes in your gut produce lots of it, possibly to reward you for doing what they want you to do (like eat more cake — see the sugar lovers below).
Microbes - Gut - Chemicals - Mood - Serotonin
The microbes in your gut also produce chemicals that control your mood, like serotonin (another feel-good hormone)...
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