Where Do Food Cravings Come From?



How Your Gut Bacteria Can Help Stop Your Food Cravings

July 6, 2016

Previous research showed that a fiber called inulin can stimulate the gut bacteria to produce a short-chain fatty acid called propionate, which can in turn signal to the brain to reduce one’s appetite. In 2013, another study also showed that inulin-propionate ester, which induces the gut bacteria to produce even more propionate, can help volunteers prevent weight gain even more than inulin. To determine where propionate is acting in the brain  to curb food cravings in humans, researchers from the Imperial College London, the University of Glasgow, and University of West Scotland administered a milkshake to 20 volunteers containing either inulin or inulin-propionate ester. Then they monitored the volunteers by MRI imaging while they were being shown pictures of food. They found that, compared to people to drank inulin, people who drank the inulin-propionate ester have less activity in the reward center of the brain called the caudate and the nucleus accumbens when they were shown high-calorie but not low-calorie foods. This latter group also rated the high-calorie foods less appealing and ate less food per meal. This study clearly illustrates how feeding high-fiber foods (e.g., beans, fruits, and vegetables) to gut bacteria can influence eating habits and health.

Areas of the brain associated with food cravings. The areas marked in blue and yellow – called the caudate and the nucleus accumbens – showed reduced activation to high-calorie foods when the volunteers took the propionate food supplement.

Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

Byrne CS, Chambers ES, Alhabeeb H, et al. Increased colonic propionate reduces anticipatory reward responses in the human striatum to high-energy foods. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;104:5-14. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115

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The China Study’s Top 10 Takeaways!



Lisa Elaine Held



reading the china study
Photo: Pexels

The China Study is one of those weighty, important books that is perhaps more talked about than actually read. It’s easy to see why: At 417 pages packed with nutrition facts and research stats, it’s a lot to digest—not exactly a beach read.

the china study book
Photo: The China Study

But it is worth knowing about, since the book is based on one of the largest comprehensive studies of human nutrition ever conducted, launched via a partnership between Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventative Medicine, with data collected over a span of 20 years. In The China Study, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II, MD, discuss and analyze the results from the study (and other influential nutrition research) and recommend their protocol for the best diet for long-term health.

In the 10 years since it was published, it inspired influential figures like Bill Clinton to go vegan, a plant-based nutrition certificate program at Cornell that’s popular among chefs, nutritionists, and health coaches, and the documentary Forks Over Knives.

Of course, like all nutrition advice, there are many criticisms of the research and conclusions, especially among Paleo Diet advocates. We read it cover-to-cover for you, taking notes along the way, so you’d be in-the-know about the authors’ claims, whether you choose to forgo beef for broccoli or not.

Here is your 10-step cheat sheet to The China Study’s conclusions.

Originally posted September 23, 2011, updated June 7, 2016.


Photo: Martins Zemlickis via Unsplash

1. American health statistics are scary.

You may feel pretty fit, but the country as a whole is, well, not so great. The researchers spend a lot of time citing frightening stats on obesity, diabetes, and heart disease that point to the need for an American diet shake-up. Americans also pay more for health care than any other country—and don’t have better health to show for it. It’s probably the one section of the book no nutrition expert would argue with.




research testing
Photo: Pixabay

2. The conclusions are based on a lot of data.

They’re not talking about one small study on mice. After years of controversial lab results on animals, the researchers had to see how they played out in humans. The study they created included 367 variables, 65 counties in China, and 6,500 adults (who completed questionnaires, blood tests, etc.). “When we were done, we had more than 8,000 statistically significant associations between lifestyle, diet, and disease variables.” They also incorporate a wealth of additional research data from other sources.




Photo: Pixabay

3. Animal protein promotes the growth of cancer.

The book’s author T. Colin Campbell, PhD., grew up on a dairy farm, so he regularly enjoyed a wholesome glass of milk. Not anymore. Dr. Campbell says that in multiple, peer-reviewed animal studies, researchers discovered that they could actually turn the growth of cancer cells on and off by raising and lowering doses of casein, the main protein found in cow’s milk.




produce strawberries
Photo: Pixabay

4. You should be worried about poor nutrition more than pesticides.

The food you eat affects the way your cells interact with carcinogens, making them more or less dangerous, the authors explain. “The results of these, and many other studies, showed nutrition to be far more important in controlling cancer promotion than the dose of the initiating carcinogen,” they state.




healthy food
Photo: Pexels/Kaboompics

5. Heart disease can be reversed through nutrition.

The authors share the work of other respected physicians that they say supports their own data’s conclusions, and some of the most interesting is on heart disease. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., M.D., a physician and researcher at the best cardiac center in the country, The Cleveland Clinic, treated 18 patients with established coronary disease with a whole foods, plant-based diet. Not only did the intervention stop the progression of the disease, but 70 percent of the patients saw an opening of their clogged arteries. Dr. Dean Ornish, a graduate of Harvard Medical School, completed a similar study with consistent results. But hey, this is actually encouraging—heart disease can legit be reversed.




bread carbs
Photo: Pexels/Jan Vašek

6. Carbs are not (always) the enemy.

Highly-processed, refined carbohydrates are bad for you, but plant foods are full of healthy carbs, the authors say. Research shows that diets like Atkins or South Beach can have dangerous side effects. While they may result in short-term weight loss, you’ll be sacrificing long-term health.




plant foods
Photo: Unsplash/Webvilla

7. Cancer isn’t the only disease plants can ward off.

It’s not just cancer and heart disease that respond to a whole foods, plant-based diet, the authors say. Their research showed it may also help protect you from diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, bone, kidney, eye, and brain diseases. Are you getting that plants are pretty miraculous by now?




food restaurant
Photo: Unsplash/Jay Wennington

8. You don’t have to tailor your diet for specific health benefits.

Eating healthy can seem segmented—broccoli will prevent breast cancer, carrots are good for eyes, and by the way, did you get enough vitamin C today? “Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board,” the authors explain.




Photo: Unsplash/Monstruo Estudio

9. Animal-based foods are not necessary.

“There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants,” the authors say. Protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals—you name it, they’ve got it, along with major health benefits.



Plant based food
Photo: Unsplash

10. The takeaway is simple: Eat plants for health.

“People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest,” the authors state. Whether you’re going vegan or not, they suggest putting as many plants on your plate as possible at every meal.

Ready to start cooking more vegetables? This is the best way to do it. Or how about sipping more plant-based goodness? Check out these smoothies (that will give you a healthy glow).


Diagnosis: hypochondriac

I am self- diagnosed as a hypochondriac. According to Wikipedia the definition of a hypochondriac is a health phobia or health anxiety, refers to excessive preoccupancy or worry about having a serious illness. The definition goes and I can identify to every word. I guess the ironic part is that my health has been amazing yet I have been really struggling lately with anxiety. Kind of sad.

In a previous post I talked about when doctors diagnosed me with lupus it was my biggest fear come true. For as far back as I can remember I always was worried something serious was wrong. If I had a headache I was worried I had a brain tumor, if I had chest pain I thought I was having a heart attack at 17! I know this is so crazy, not logical and such a disconnect from the positive happy person that I am. When I get into these anxiety flares they are all consuming. I focus on the issue all day or just have a general fatigue of anxiety that follows me. It actually makes me sad to feel this way. I don’t like waking up feeling anxious, I don’t like feeling there is something wrong. As many people tell me I’m fine it just doesn’t sink in.

For a person not dealing with anxiety I realize it’s so difficult to understand the struggle because it seems it should be easy to move through. Right? I’m being told by doctors, intuitive’s, my homeopath, my family that nothing is wrong but I can’t seem to find peace yet. I’ve walked through this very difficult health journey and have made it! I’ve made it out to such a beautiful place, I have everything I want, I have a wonderful supportive husband, beautiful healthy little boy that I get to play with everyday and all day, amazing family, great friends, I feel so grateful everyday but the major disconnect is I can’t fully enjoy my dream I’ve created because I am stuck. In every yoga class the teacher talks about letting go of what doesn’t serve you. Recently during my yoga class I set the intention of letting the anxiety go, just leaving it on the mat because clearly it’s not serving me. I can’t seem to get away from this motto of letting go because even at home the popular song, Let it go from the movie Frozen plays on repeat. Just let it go!

I haven’t written in a while because I haven’t felt the inspiration that brings me to write. The other day I was talking to my intuitive who said this is what you should write about.  So maybe as my therapy or maybe to help someone else I decided to share this part of me as I wait at preschool for my biggest inspiration to finish up. Currently I am working with my homeopath, working with my intuitive, mediating, practicing yoga and as always playing with Jake because there is no time for anxiety when there are Legos to play with.

Tuesday was beautiful and Jake and I spent the afternoon outside with friends. I felt so great for the first time a while. I even told Jake at one point just to look up and look at the beautiful blue sky, take a deep breath of warm air- what a happy afternoon! It felt so amazing to get that taste of spring! I will keep you posted on what works for me, I’ve already had lengths of conversations with myself so I’m hoping that I start listening soon!






I am a few weeks late but, Happy New Year!

So many people make New Years resolutions. You can’t turn the channel without hearing a weight loss commercial, a gym commercial, financial help… the list goes on. Gyms, yoga, barre, spin and Pilates studios get extremely crowded.  I always have found though that in about a month things seem to settle down, become a little less crowded again. There is so much pressure on a new years resolution, one mistake and some just stop all together. I don’t like New Years resolutions, I never did. For one, I was never someone that liked to follow the crowd but I really  prefer to check in with myself everyday. I will make lifestyle changes, completely change how I am doing something if it’s not working for me or serving me anymore.

Every evening I think about how my day had been, I am constantly checking in with myself to see how I’m feeling, I check in to see how I’m doing as a mommy and a wife. Depending on what comes back to me I decide to make changes and I make them fairly quickly depending on what it is.  Why hold on to something if it’s not serving you anymore. If something is not supporting your true self then it’s best to let go. I know this is easier said then done at times but with checking in daily and deciding to make a change so much beauty will  be opened to you. For instance, when I felt my health was kind of stuck I started investigating ways to move things forward. My health wasn’t awful but it just wasn’t moving forward. Through that I found a plant based lifestyle and yoga. I have since made more modifications to what I eat but have loved the yoga. I do lots of research before I begin a new regimen to find what feels best. I followed a lot of yoga studios and found Focus Fitness Main Line, which I love. They are a more spiritual studio, love the instructors and owner Allison Sobel. It has become a happy place for me. I feel myself getting stronger physically and spiritually which helps in all aspects of my life. I now eat gluten free, dairy free, no red meat, some days no animal protein at all and if I do only once a day and I will only buy organic whole foods. If I don’t know what a ingredient is I won’t buy the item. I eat very little sugar and soy too. This lifestyle ( I don’t like the word diet) seems to work best for me. Gluten and Dairy are very difficult to digest for most people and cause inflammation,  a lot of animal protein is packed with hormones and chemicals so its best to buy organic food with no added hormones.  As I mentioned I always check in to see how I’m doing as a mommy and wife. I feel very strong and stable in my mommy role. of course I’ve made mistakes but I’ve learned to stay very true with who our family is and what Jake needs. I think it’s so easy to listen to all the advice and what “we should” be doing  but I do my best to follow my intuition and specifically what works for Jake. You have to do what works for your child, you are their best advocate.  I’ve also recently made changes to my wife role. I am trying to make Jamie feel more connected. I feel so blessed that Jamie provides this beautiful life for us, a life which allows me to be with Jacob everyday. I want him to feel more included in our day. These are just a couple of changes I have made throughout the year. If I realize something isn’t working for me I don’t want to wait long to make a change.

I think there is a lot of pressure that goes along with Resolutions. You have waited so long to begin your new journey, maybe waited months to New Years Day and then you cheat on your resolution.  So many people are so devastated by this cheating that they stop their resolution all together. When Jamie and I go out to dinner alone ( which isn’t often), there are times I will eat something I don’t usually eat and then the next day I go right back to eating gluten and dairy free. I have found what works for me. I love the way I eat. I don’t find it difficult because I love the way I feel. If it didn’t feel right I may need to check in again to see what I should change. When I started to workout again I hired a personal trainer to come to my home. Couldn’t be easier but I didn’t feel great about it, I didn’t feel excited to workout. I then found yoga and barre and now I am so excited to go! What I am trying to say is that you have to find what is right for you. Maybe you made a resolution for yourself to loose weight but how you are going about it isn’t exactly right. Your intention is right you just need to find the right path to get you there. Once you are on the right path, you will know it. You will feel happy and excited! You won’t want to cheat and if you do you will just go back to eating great the next day!   For other people,  I have found they waited so long to start until New Years that they don’t even begin, they wait until another date in mind.  Why wait? One thing that I have learned through my journey is to focus on today.  I always try and make this day full of happiness and love, that is the reason why we are all here. We are supposed to be happy, we are not supposed to be sad and angry. Actually, your emotions are a great indicator of how you are doing. If you find that you are sad, tired, anxious it is a good time for a check in to see whats going on and to see what you can do to create happiness in your life. Many times I find I already know the answer but fear holds me back. Fear of the unknown. I have tried to turn that fear into excitement and also try to feel confident in that everything has always worked out when I follow my intuition. I am also so lucky because I have a amazing team around me to support me on my journey. My team consists of my family, friends, my homeopath: Dr. Falkner, Mary Sheehan, My reiki master: Terri Carine and my doctors who have become like friends and see me as a person and not just another patient. I would suggest creating a great team around you that will share in your happiness, that will cheer you on, that will help guide you in your true direction.

I am also constantly visualizing and manifesting what I want. By creating visualizations I then find myself on the path to make things happen. Different people or opportunities manage to come into my life to support what I am trying to achieve. It’s possible they would have come into my life anyway but I may not have perceived them in the same light. I can honestly say things have always worked out for me and I think this is one of the reasons why. Its a very similar idea to Pintrest. Pinning ideas or things we want it a board. I do that everyday in my head and not only do I just see these things there but I see it happening, I feel the happiness and excitement of my manifestations coming true.

By my daily check ins and visualizations I’m always creating the life around me. If resolutions work for you then that’s what you should do but I’m not the best at waiting. Although, not everything happens overnight and there is patience involved but if you know your not feeling great why wait to make a change.