I am on the Gut-Brain/Blood Sugar/Stress Train again this week.

I know you are rolling your eyes, however there is some new research out that helps us connect the dots and provides a new perspective.  It  helps us understand why we crave sweets or foods that the body perceives as sweet when we are under stress.


We all know that the last two years has triggered a lot of mental and emotional stress for all of us.  If the body stays in a state of stress and it becomes chronic, it is very inflammatory to the body and the brain.

We know that chronic stress can cause a cascade of symptoms in the body and brain. Things  like hormone dysregulation, gut problems, skin issues, body pain, swelling and much more. The other thing that chronic stress does, is it depletes brain function and causes mood challenges.

Why? Stress burns Glucose the #1 source of Fuel for the Brain!!!

We have known for a while that there is this GUT – BRAIN axis and that the Vagus nerve is an  integral part in the connection.  The Vagus nerve does other things too, however its most important function is calming the nervous system ” Rest” and preparing the body to “Digest”.


We are familiar with replacing fuel when we stress our bodies physically.  We are not however as tuned into how our mental emotional stress affects us. If our brain has been on fire for too long and it has used a lot of its preferred source of fuel (glucose) we feel a dip in concentration and a dip in blood glucose.  We might feel tired, have vision changes, we are moody, or shaky, or foggy, anxious and we lose the ability to concentrate.  When that happens we look for something sweet or savory/salty like chips. We want something that breaks down to sugar quickly or has hidden sugars in them.  We crave these foods to not only increase our glucose levels but also stimulate Dopamine, our pleasure center in the brain.

That is where this new research out of Duke University gets interesting:


There are cells that line the stomach that are called Neuropods and they detect sweet, sugar and  hidden sugars in foods as well as foods that break down quickly to sugar.

These Neuropods have a direct path to the brain but they also recognize when you try to bio hack your sweet tooth by using artificial sugars.

So you can now see the connection and how patterns of addiction to sweet foods and drinks can be triggered by the GUT-BRAIN axis and Dopamine our pleasure center and not by the taste receptors in the mouth.

Here is a excerpt on this Research from Duke

“Not long after the sweet taste receptor was identified in the mouths of mice 20 years ago, scientists attempted to bio hack those taste buds . But they were surprised to find that mice could still somehow discern and prefer natural sugar to artificial sweetener, even without a sense of taste.

The answer to this riddle lies much further down in the digestive tract, at the upper end of the gut just after the stomach, according to research led by Diego Bohórquez, an associate professor of medicine and neurobiology in the Duke University School of Medicine.

In a paper appearing Jan. 13 in Nature Neuroscience, “we’ve identified the cells (Neuropod) that make us eat sugar, and they are in the gut,” Bohórquez said. For More info click here


We talked about a lot about how to blunt cravings and improve metabolic health last week.  Here is the link in case you missed it


  • Hidden sugars in savory foods
  • Sweet drinks are a big problem
  • Artificial sweeteners do not curb the brain’s need for glucose.
  • A full glass of water with lemon or lime in the morning can reduce sugar cravings
  • Cut out highly processed foods as they contain hidden sugars
  • Eat the carbs on your plate last
  • Take intentional breaks from tasks that require a lot of mental focus
  • Build in short rest/movement breaks in your day
  • Sit for 10 minutes before you eat… without looking at your screen or checking email
  • Last but not least: The Herb “Gymnema” is known for it’s ability to curb a sweet tooth.

Last but not least if you love science and want to learn more on this topic and how these Neuropods work, then I highly recommend Huberman Lab Podcast episode “Sugar and the Brain”

As always if you want support with your health and want to take proactive measures to ensure wellbeing for the future, I am here in person in Cedar Park or Virtual via Zoom. You Can book an appointment HERE:

happy spring!!

Dr Pia