You probably read that title and thought, “How can there possibly be a psychology of gut bacteria?” After all, the little guys don’t even have brains! But we’re not talking about single-celled organisms sitting on a therapy couch, here – we’re talking about the humans who host them in our bodies, and how we think and feel about the critters who do so much of the work of digesting our food for us. We humans have a complicated relationship with the collection of bacteria known as our microbiome, but as Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, explains, science is now discovering that the bacteria in our gut are incredibly important for our well being, and even for our survival. If your attitude toward your friendly bacteria could be a little, well, friendlier, we hope you’ll check out this fascinating new video from #IPEtv!
In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!
Below is a transcript of this week’s video:
Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the psychology of eating
Today’s Topic: The Psychology of Gut Bacteria
What does that even mean?
Well, when we begin to think psychologically – which is really a beautiful tool to have – we learn a tremendous amount about life. We deepen. We become infinitely more effective. We become smarter. We get wiser. We can see more. And we can navigate the world in a much more exciting way.
So, there is a psychology in how we relate to this thing called “gut bacteria.” And that psychology will powerfully inform our health and our well-being. To that end, it’s a great idea to examine the psychic forces that drive us in relation to anything that’s important in our lives.
So here’s the first thing to take note of:
There is an explosion of scientific research in the realm of gut ecology. This means the vast and intricate community of bacteria that live in our digestive tract. And by vast I mean that there are more bacteria in your gut that there are people on planet earth. The average person can have as much as a quarter pound of gut bacteria. We are literally a planet – and the bacteria inside our gut are all of our inhabitants. These gut bacteria, as we are learning more and more, have profound effects on the health and functioning of virtually every organ system and every metabolic process in the body.
As it turns out, we absolutely need these gut bacteria to reach even our base level of healthy functioning. They impact the immune system, digestion, nutrient processing, mood, energy, weight, bone density, heart health, and so much more. The scientific community is unbelievably excited about all the breakthrough research that’s happening in this realm.
So here’s where some good psychology comes in:
We have been trained to think of bacteria, in general, as bad. Clearly, if there are any bacteria around, then by all means – destroy them, kill them, make sure they’re dead, and make sure they never come back to town. Indeed, ever since bacteria were first discovered, they were seen as these tiny, shocking little monsters that were found on our skin, in our mouth, and inside our body. Surely these must be dangerous. And as germ theory developed, science became clear that so much of illness and disease were caused, so it seems, by tiny little organisms that attacked the human body, and gave us such things as the plague, mass deaths, colds, flus, all kinds of parasites, viruses, and the list goes on.
It makes sense, then, that humans have essentially come to view bacteria as bad. We don’t believe in friendly organisms for this reason. So when you hear the term “friendly bacteria” – it almost seems contradictory. They can’t possibly be friendly. They wreak havoc on health and society.
Some further psychology of gut bacteria is that we have no “control” over tiny organisms – we can’t see them. You can see your dog, your cat, you can see animals and birds and squirrels in the great outdoors, and in this way, we can have some control over them. But if you can’t see the creature, if it’s invisible, then it’s way easier to fear it – and thus try to destroy it.
Furthermore, we don’t usually think of ourselves as symbiotic creatures – we believe we are each a lone human. Symbiotic organisms in nature literally need each other for health and survival. They’ve learned how to develop in tandem over eons of evolutionary time. Symbiotic organisms have learned how to cooperate with one another and create a mutually beneficial relationship. Our gut bacteria do all sorts of wonderful metabolic functions for us. In return, we feed them, and give them a nice warm home, rent free.
So, as more and more research comes out about the gut microbiome, we need to confront our prejudices around microbial organisms.
We need to examine our intensive use of antibiotics: as the name implies, such drugs kill a full spectrum of organisms – including healthy bacteria.
This is a scientific strategy that’s actually driven by a misinformed psychology.
The massive overuse of antibiotics has had a ruinous effect on health around the globe. Medical science is just beginning to catch up to this understanding that’s been known in the alternative medical community for decades.
So as we grow more and more aware of the primacy of these creatures, we can become more of their advocates and caregivers – really.
We need to learn how to invite these tiny creatures into our bodies – meaning an exploration to determine which foods and which supplements are best.
We can learn to be a little friendlier to our friendly bacteria – literally.
We need to get to know their needs, their habits, what supports them, what harms them, and how we can make their lives better so our lives can be better.
It’s kind of like having a lot of little pets.
I hope this foray into the psychology of gut bacteria has been helpful for you, my friends.
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Again that is psychologyofeating.com.
This is Marc David, Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
Thanks so much for your time and interest
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