If you’ve read any of our past blogs, you know that achieving a healthy weight is not as simple as eating less and exercising more. We’ve discussed how hormone imbalances play a role in weight gain. We’ve also covered the importance of getting enough sleep and how it affects a person’s weight. And, we’ve shed light on the complex topic of how genetics and DNA affect weight. As research on obesity and weight continues to evolve, experts have uncovered yet another factor that could be helping or hindering your weight-loss efforts: your gut health.
How does gut health affect my weight?
The digestive system — your gut — is home to billions of “good” bacteria that play a role in breaking down food, fighting off invaders, and absorbing nutrients. But, the gut also hosts “bad” bacteria that can cause health problems if they grow out of control.
When the bad bacteria start to outnumber the good bacteria, you have a gut imbalance. Some obvious symptoms of an imbalance include constipation, diarrhea, and allergies, but even seemingly unrelated issues such as anxiety and depression may be linked to poor gut health.
While experts have known for years that these good bacteria are important to health, it’s only recently that they’ve realized that a healthy gut plays a role in fighting one of the biggest health problems facing our country today: obesity.
How gut bacteria and obesity are linked
It’s not just speculation that the bacteria in the gut are linked to a person’s weight. Recent studies have shown this to be true.
People who are obese have different bacteria colonies than those who are not. One study found that people who were at a healthy weight had more strains of friendly bacteria in their guts than those who were overweight.
Another study found that certain gut bacteria could make a person more likely to gain weight after dieting.
Perhaps even more astounding is a study that took gut bacteria from both lean and overweight people and transplanted them into mice. The mice who received the bacteria from the overweight people gained weight, and the mice who were given bacteria from lean people did not. This study suggests that gut bacteria may be governing a person’s weight, and transferring the bacteria also transfers the tendency toward weight gain.
Gut bacteria affects appetite
Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows that appetite plays a huge role in whether a diet will be successful. But what kind of control do we have over our appetite? Some people seem to have naturally smaller appetites, and they just eat less without really thinking about it. Others may get hungry more often and eat more at their meals. Unfortunately, many people have been led to believe that it’s simply a matter of willpower or that some people just know — or don’t know — when to stop eating.
Science proves this unhelpful advice wrong. Experts know that appetite is a highly complex process, involving hormones, brain signals, genetic variants, and yes, gut bacteria.
Recent studies show that the bacteria in the gut can help control appetite. In fact, your gut bacteria may directly activate pathways that tell your brain how hungry or full you are.
Conversely, the wrong kind of gut bacteria can interfere with mechanisms that regulate appetite in the brain and the gut. This may lead to weight imbalances such as obesity, eating disorders, or even malnutrition.
How to restore gut health
As experts continue to uncover ways that gut bacteria affect our weight and overall health, you may be wondering just how you can find this balance for yourself. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as many people think.
Take probiotic supplements
Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria that can help keep the gut in balance. These good bacteria can help crowd out the bad ones, making the gut a healthier environment. One study found that probiotics helped regulate the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is called the hunger hormone, and high levels have been implicated in obesity. Not only does it stimulate appetite, but it may even encourage the body to store more fat.
You may have already heard of probiotic supplements, which are widely available in stores. But don’t choose just any supplement. You need to choose a high-quality probiotic supplement with the right types of bacteria in the right amounts to support optimal health.
While many foods contain natural probiotics, such as yogurt, the quality of the food — and bacteria they contain — varies widely. Avoid high-sugar yogurts that offer little to no nutrition. Instead, eat naturally fermented foods such as tempeh, miso, kefir, and kombucha to get a probiotic boost.
Consume foods or supplements with prebiotics and fiber
Don’t confuse prebiotics with probiotics. Probiotics are living bacteria that you add directly to the gut with supplements or fermented foods. But prebiotics are the non-digestible part of foods, and they provide nutrients for the friendly bacteria you already have. Prebiotics are a type of fiber – and all types of fiber are good for the gut.
Eating a diet high in prebiotic foods can help keep your gut bacteria in balance and offer a number of other inflammation-fighting nutrients. In fact, experts believe that prebiotics do play a role in appetite and proper absorption of food, making them a key player in attaining a healthy weight. Most fruits and vegetables contain some prebiotics, so eating a diet high in plant-based foods is a good place to start. Some of the foods highest in prebiotics include apples, flaxseeds, garlic, onions, and leafy greens.
Don’t forget about adding in other high-fiber foods like beans, nuts, cruciferous vegetables, and berries. If it’s a natural plant food, it’s probably good for your gut and offers a number of vitamins and minerals too.
Finding your healthy weight with a healthy gut
Overwhelmed by all the information about gut health and weight loss? You don’t have to go it alone. Garcia Weight Loss offers personalized weight-loss programs designed to address the underlying factors that can interfere with weight loss and other health goals, including gut imbalances. Contact us today for your no-cost consultation!