the Link Between the Gut and Gambling Behaviour

Gut Instincts Exploring the Link Between Diet, Gut Health, and Gambling Behaviours

Imagine deciding on a high-stakes bet on an empty stomach. Surprisingly, the outcome might not just hinge on luck or strategy but also on the state of your gut. The brain’s role in gambling addiction has been well studied, but recent studies suggest a fascinating link between our gut health—specifically, the hormones and bacteria within—and our gambling behaviours.

One hormone, ghrelin, known for signalling hunger, may also fuel our risk-taking impulses, potentially leading us to gamble more persistently. Meanwhile, the balance of our gut microbiome, influenced by probiotics, might sway our decision-making towards caution. This post delves into the emerging science behind the gut-brain-gambling connection, exploring how what’s in our gut could impact what’s in our wallet.

The Hunger Game: Ghrelin and Gambling

The intricate relationship between our physiological states and gambling behaviour is compellingly illustrated in the study conducted by Sztainert et al. (2018). This research delves into how ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger, influences gambling decisions, particularly under conditions of loss. By examining individuals in a fasting state, which naturally elevates ghrelin levels, the study sheds light on the biological factors that may exacerbate gambling persistence.

Key findings from the study reveal that fasting not only increases ghrelin levels but also significantly impacts an individual’s propensity to continue gambling despite facing continuous losses. This correlation between elevated ghrelin levels and increased gambling persistence suggests a biological basis for risk-taking behaviour, with hunger signals potentially driving individuals toward making more daring decisions in gambling scenarios.

The study’s methodology involved exposing participants to gambling cues and measuring their ghrelin levels before and after the exposure. The results indicated a clear increase in ghrelin following gambling cues, especially among those who had fasted. Importantly, these elevated ghrelin levels were directly associated with a greater tendency to persist in gambling, underscoring the hormone’s role as a critical predictor of gambling behaviour in adverse conditions.

Through this research, Sztainert et al. (2018) contribute significantly to our understanding of the physiological influences on gambling behaviour. The findings highlight the complex interplay between biological signals like hunger and decision-making processes in gambling, suggesting that factors such as the timing of meals could influence gambling behaviours. This insight opens new avenues for exploring interventions and strategies to mitigate problematic gambling, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach that considers both psychological and physiological aspects.

By presenting these findings, the study not only advances our knowledge of the biological underpinnings of gambling addiction but also prompts a re-evaluation of how we approach gambling behaviour interventions, recognizing the role of basic physiological states in influencing complex behaviours.

Probiotics and Decision-Making: Unveiling the Gut’s Influence on Gambling

The 2022 study by Aline M. Dantas et al. offers compelling evidence on how our gut microbiota, particularly through the administration of probiotics, can influence decision-making processes. This research underscores a significant link between probiotics and a decrease in risk-taking behaviour, alongside an enhanced capacity for future-oriented thinking. Such findings highlight the gut’s profound role in affecting cognitive functions that are crucial in gambling scenarios.

By focusing on the behavioural changes observed in participants consuming probiotics, the study sheds light on the intricate ways our gut health can sway our psychological tendencies. Instead of suggesting probiotics as a direct treatment for gambling disorders, the research points to a broader implication: our decision-making, especially in contexts involving risk and reward, like gambling, can be influenced by the state of our gut microbiota.

This connection aligns with previous findings on ghrelin’s role in gambling behaviour, further reinforcing the concept that both our dietary habits and the health of our gut microbiome can impact our cognitive biases and decision-making patterns. The study by Dantas et al. provides additional evidence that the gut-brain axis plays a crucial role in the complex interplay between physiological states and psychological behaviours.

In essence, the research enriches the ongoing discussion about the potential links between gut health and gambling, emphasizing the importance of considering the influence of our internal biological environment on behaviours traditionally viewed through a psychological lens. This perspective invites a more integrated approach to understanding the factors that drive gambling tendencies, suggesting that the pathway to influencing such behaviours may also lie within our gut.

A Gut Feeling: The Broad Impact of Gut Health

The comprehensive meta-analysis by Duvallet et al. offers a pivotal insight into the gut microbiome’s role in human health, underscoring its influence across a spectrum of diseases. Analysing data from 28 case-control studies covering ten diseases, the study reveals how gut microbiome dysbiosis is intricately linked with both specific and general health outcomes. This finding significantly broadens our understanding of gut health’s impact, illustrating that microbial imbalances can be associated with a wide array of conditions, from metabolic disorders and inflammatory diseases to neurological conditions.

This broader perspective on the gut microbiome’s systemic influence complements and deepens the discussion initiated by earlier sections of our article. The connection between specific hormones like ghrelin, as explored by Sztainert et al., and the behavioural impacts of probiotics, as discussed by Dantas et al., are contextualized within a larger framework of gut health. Duvallet et al.’s work underscores the microbiome’s potential role in influencing not just physical health but also complex behaviours and decision-making processes, offering a comprehensive view of how internal biological environments might influence our actions and choices.

In light of these findings, the gut microbiome emerges as a central player in the intricate web of factors that govern our health and behaviour. The meta-analysis not only reinforces the connection between gut health and various diseases but also suggests the microbiome’s significant, albeit complex, role in behavioural phenomena. This deepens our appreciation of the gut-brain axis and its implications for understanding human behaviour, setting the stage for further exploration of how this relationship might be leveraged to enhance both physical and psychological well-being.

The research presented thus far illuminates a complex relationship between gut health and gambling behaviours, highlighting how hormones like ghrelin and the balance of our gut microbiome could influence our decision-making processes. This understanding opens up innovative avenues for promoting safer gambling habits through a holistic lens.

Making Safer Bets: Gut Health and Safer Gambling Habits

At present, the best online casinos in the UK have robust safer gambling policies, but through research, they could always improve. By integrating gut health into gambling behaviour management, we can explore targeted interventions that not only address psychological factors but also physiological ones. For instance, dietary changes that promote a healthy gut microbiome could potentially temper risk-taking behaviours, making individuals more resistant to the lure of persistent gambling in the face of losses. Similarly, the use of probiotics might not only improve gut health but also support better decision-making, thereby reducing impulsivity associated with gambling.

Furthermore, these insights encourage a multidisciplinary approach to safer gambling initiatives, incorporating nutritional guidance, psychological support, and perhaps even lifestyle changes aimed at enhancing overall well-being. Such strategies could offer a more comprehensive support system for individuals, helping them to make safer choices not just in gambling, but in their broader lives.

Reflecting on the broad impact of gut health, as discussed in the earlier sections, it’s clear that the gut-brain axis plays a crucial role in our behaviour. Acknowledging this connection, safer gambling strategies could benefit from a deeper understanding of this relationship, promoting practices that support gut health as part of a wider approach to managing gambling habits. This holistic perspective not only expands our toolkit for addressing gambling issues but also aligns with a growing recognition of the interconnectivity between our physical health, mental health, and behavioural choices.


Our exploration into the nexus between gut health and gambling behaviours unveils a fascinating landscape where biology intersects with decision-making. Researchers have been searching for a scientific explanation of gambling addiction for years, but the involvement of the gut has only been explored recently.

The studies discussed suggest a significant, though speculative, link between gut microbiome imbalances and heightened risk-taking behaviours. This connection not only enriches our understanding of gambling habits but also opens the door to innovative, holistic approaches for promoting safer gambling practices. Encouraging a multidisciplinary exploration, this dialogue highlights the importance of further research into the gut-brain axis to fully unravel its potential in influencing behaviour.

As we continue to delve into this intricate relationship, the prospect of integrating dietary and probiotic interventions offers a promising pathway to enhancing decision-making processes, underscoring the critical role of gut health in our overall well-being and the choices we make.


  • Sztainert, T., Hay, R., Wohl, M.J.A. and Abizaid, A. (2018). Hungry to gamble? Ghrelin as a predictor of persistent gambling in the face of loss. Biological Psychology, 139, pp.115–123. doi:
  • Dantas, A.M., Sack, A.T., Bruggen, E., Jiao, P. and Schuhmann, T. (2022). The effects of probiotics on risk and time preferences. Scientific Reports, [online] 12(1), p.12152. doi:
  • Duvallet, C., Gibbons, S.M., Gurry, T., Irizarry, R.A. and Alm, E.J. (2017). Meta-analysis of gut microbiome studies identifies disease-specific and shared responses. Nature Communications, 8(1). doi:

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