So far today you've had a breakfast made in your Vitamix Blender consisting of a well rounded mixture of dark leafy greens and a variety of other plants to ensure that you have all the essential nutrients to power you through your day. It's lunch time and your smoothie is a thing of the past, so it's time to head to Whole Foods and refuel at their incredible salad bar to push you through the rest of your day, avoiding the cheese and sticking to pure olive oil or vinegar as dressing. But there's a problem. Chipotle is right next to Whole Foods and you haven't had a bite of meat, cheese, or even anything resembling a simple carbohydrate or sugar in 2 days. Just the thought of a Chipotle burrito gives you that weird burning tingling feeling in your stomach that you KNOW a salad just won't satisfy.  That's what we're talking about. That Feeling! What IS that feeling! The highly informed nutrition researcher inside your head knows that the super salad you were going to build has more than enough nutrition to power you through the day, but your stomach insists that it needs some white rice NOW and wants the animal protein you have been so effectively starving it from. It turns out, there is a reason for this and that feeling is real and can be stopped. 

It's the Microbes
We all know that our body is made up of billions of cells and we would like to believe we are getting pretty good at understanding how those cells interact with each other, or at least the microbiologists are doing it for us. A topic not so commonly discussed outside of the Kombucha drinking nutrition fanatic community are the billions of micro organisms that your body is a host for. We all know about the bad bacteria that cause infections and make a two day old cheeseburger extremely unappetizing, but it turns out there are extremely normal and perfectly healthy bacteria that reside on your skin, in the saliva and oral mucosa (cells in your mouth that tell your stomach what's in your mouth by releasing hormones) in the conjunctiva (inside of your eyelids), and the gastrointestinal tracts. These little buggers have a massive impact on everything from infections to acne and dry skin, as well as the way food tastes to you and what you crave for lunch. I would love to cover all of them, but I doubt you would read a 50 page blog post, so I'll focus on those responsible for your cravings. 

Why did my food die?
Let's start at the beginning of the process. When you leave a Twinkie sitting on the counter for a few days unpackaged, it will likely dry up and turn a bit more rubbery than usual, but that's about it. The moment you remove the skin from a fruit however, it begins to turn against you. Two days later you have a completely degenerated food product that you wouldn't dare to use for anything but the compost bin. So why did your food die? Well, you're not the only one that knows fruits and vegetables are nutritious. Granted, there are numerous processes taking place helping the food to compost itself, a major component of that is all of the microbes that are feeding on it. Does that mean that you eat those microbes when you eat that food? Yep.

Eww, I ate how many microbes?
Don't worry, as long as your food is good food, your microbes are good too (let me know if there is an exception do this). Here's my best "Microbes for Dummies" explanation of what takes place. When you take a bite of your food, your saliva immediately begins reacting chemically with that food and your mouth releases enzymes into your saliva that your oral mucosa tell it to. At the same time, existing micro organisms test the water and see if that food works for them. Some of the micro organisms decide they can eat that food, and help you break it down, excreting waste products that are either helpful or harmful to your body, depending on the food and the microbe. Others decide that it's not for them and opt to wait for something that suits them better. A nearly identical process, with regard to micro organisms, takes place in your stomach. Don't forget though, the food brought some micro organisms with it. Some of these will decide to stay and help, others will decide to stay and fight, and some will simply die when they hit the various chemical soups in your body.

So why do I still want Chipotle? 
Remember that confusing word I keep using called oral mucosa, well I would like to double down and introduce its cousin the gastric mucosa. These mucosa are glands that make up a layer in the surface of their respective body parts (mouth and stomach) and they are the ones responsible for releasing hormones into your bloodstream to tell your brain what to do next in the digestive process. Well it turns out they are also responsible for keeping your brain in the loop on what your body wants to eat today. Where do they get their information? You guessed it, from those hungry little micro organisms living in your body. So the micro organisms that came in with your Twinkie and managed to survive and thrive, well they want more Twinkies! But those that entered your body by hitching a ride on a stalk of broccoli would prefer you stick to the greens and they are willing to fight for it. Crazy huh?

Time to starve those little buggers.
Now that we understand that annoying hunger feeling, we can finally start to manipulate it. You would be surprised how much easier it is to stick to your healthy regimen in those first 3-7 "cleansing" days when you know that there is an end in sight. You are literally starving to death the micro organisms that were helping you to break down your junk food (and then asking for more) and stocking up on the health food craving types. At first, this can feel like you are starving right along side the bad micro organisms though, because they are fighting like hell to get you to put that junk food in your mouth so that they can feed. Don't give in, you'll find that the worst of it is usually about 3 days unless you prolong the process with what you may have previously considered a "harmless" snack. On day 4 or so you will wake up feeling refreshed, lacking hunger, and when it comes time to eat you'll be happy to scarf down a giant salad.

In conclusion, it always comes back to the fact that the foods we always knew were healthy still are. But sometimes it's handy to have some nice ammo when your friends aren't exactly supporting your food choices by claiming that you're starving yourself without meat products. Enjoy!

10/25/2012 08:24:28 am

This is news to me, but since I started your green plan (without the 3-7 day cleanse) I have had no desire for meat of any kind, and definitely no desire for Twinkies.


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