The complexity of the gut microbiome and its relevance to health and weight is an area of emerging science in academia. You may have well heard of some of the proposed influences of the gut on weight loss, if not for the thought benefits for diseases and disorders.
As weight-loss experts here at Plato Physio, we receive questions regarding the benefits of achieving a healthy gut microbiome on a daily basis.
Therefore, we have decided to write an article compiling all of the latest research on the topic regarding weight loss and disease and what you may do to improve your gut health.
Today, we’ll break down:
- The gut microbiome
- An unhealthy gut
- The gut microbiome and dieting
- 7 ways to improve gut health
The gut microbiome
Many papers published in the last twenty years have found associations between gut health and the immune system, autoimmune diseases, general mood, mental health, endocrine disorders, and cancer.
Our digestive system was once thought to be a relatively straightforward system, consisting basically of a long tube through which our food passed, absorbed, and then got rid of.
There are several names used synonymously with the gut microbiome, such as the gut flora, the gut bacteria and the gut microbiota. Although it’s important to point out that the gut microbiome and the gut microbiota are not exactly the same thing, even if the terms are used interchangeably.
The microbiota refers to the actual bacteria in the gut, while the microbiome refers to the bacteria alongside their genes.
It has been estimated that there are between 300 and 500 different types of bacteria in your digestive tract alone!
While some of these bacteria are indeed dangerous for our health, others are actually very beneficial by how they can assist depression, fight obesity and improve our immune systems.
To read our blog about why it is important to monitor your heart rate, please follow the link here.
So how do we know if our gut’s health may be improved?
An unhealthy gut
Gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea are all signs of a less than optimally functioning gut. A healthy gut will have less trouble processing food and getting rid of it.
A very sugary diet
A very high-processed food and refined sugar diet can reduce the number of good bacteria in your digestive system. Consequently, as the bad bacteria start to outweigh the good, this can lead to elevated cravings, which can displease your gut even more. Excessive consumption of added sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup, has been shown to increase inflammation which can be a contributor to a variety of diseases, including cancer.
To read our blog exploring the 11 causes of cravings, please follow the link here.
Accidental weight changes
If you’re not making changes to your diet or exercise routine but still gaining or losing weight, it’s possible you could have an unhealthy gut. An unbalanced stomach can interfere with your body’s way of absorbing nutrients, storing fat and controlling blood sugar. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth can lead to weight loss, whereas insulin resistance or cravings to overeat from decreased nutrient absorption can lead to weight gain.
A bad gut can also cause sleep disruptions which can result in chronic fatigue. The gut produces most of the body’s serotonin which affects mood and sleep. As a result, gut impairment can hinder your sleep and some sleep disorders have also been associated with an increased likelihood of fibromyalgia.
A weakened gut may cause eczema and other skin conditions as gut inflammation from a poor diet may irritate the skin.
Scientists are constantly discovering new ways that the gut impacts the immune system. As noted, a bad gut is thought to increase inflammation and disrupt the immune system’s optimal performance. This can result in autoimmune disorders, in which the body combats itself instead of dangerous attackers.
Food intolerances happen when we have trouble in taking certain foods. They are said to be derived from a lack of beneficial gut bacteria. This is relevant because this can lead to issues digesting the intolerable foods as well as unpleasant aspects like bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and sickness.
Unfortunately, it is not just the gut’s health that may be compromised, but also weight loss hopeful’s diet attempts.
The gut microbiome and dieting
Because there’s bacteria in your intestines, they become associated with the food you consume.
Therefore, this can impact your absorption of nutrients alongside how energy is stored. One particular paper looked at gut bacteria from 77 twins, one of whom was obese and the other not (Turnbaugh et al., 2008).
According to the findings, obese participants had a different gut microbiome than their non-obese twins. At the same time, obesity was also linked to fewer gut bacteria diversity, implying fewer species of bacteria in the stomach.
Interestingly, other studies have found that giving obese people’s gut bacteria to mice caused the mice to put on weight (Ridaura et al., 2013). Therefore, this indicates that the gut microbiome may have an impact on weight gain and weight loss.
The reason for this could be a result of the impact that bacteria has on specific foods.
Humans, for instance, can’t process fiber, but the good bacteria in the gut can as they produce chemicals that strengthen gut health and could enhance weight reduction through fiber digestion (Koh, De Vadder, Kovatcheva-Datchary, & Bäckhed, 2016).
Several research articles, for instance, have demonstrated that individuals who consume a lot of fiber are less likely to gain weight, which could a result of gut bacteria’s effect on fiber digestion (Slavin, 2005).
According to a recent paper, the proportion of two types of bacteria (Prevotella and Bacteroidetes) in your gut may decide the amount of weight you lose on a particular diet regimen.
For example, of 62 people who had a diet rich in fiber for half of a year, the individuals who had more Prevotella, which digests fiber and carbs, lost 2.3 kilos more fat than those with more Bacteroides (Hjorth et al., 2017).
Further, bacteria in the gut can change dietary fat absorption, altering how fat is stored in the body (Backhed et al., 2004).
Finally, your gut bacteria may affect how your body produces the appetite regulatory hormones such as peptide YY, leptin and gherkin which make you feel either full or hungry and hence, affect weight loss (Fetissov, 2016).
To read our blog about the alkaline diet, please follow the link here.
So now that we’ve discussed how a bad gut microbiome may reduce your health and weight loss hopes, how do we change it into a good gut microbiome?
Ways to improve gut health
Chronic stress is difficult on your entire body, from your posture to your hormones to your gut microbiome and so on. Meditation, improving your organisation, reducing caffeine and alcohol, yoga, running and just being outside in nature more often are great methods to reduce stress.
Improve sleeping habits
Having poor sleep nightly can actually have a serious impact on your gut health, which can, in turn, make getting a proper night’s rest even more problematic. Do your best to get 8 hours of sleep minimum each day. The good news is that all of the ways to reduce stress we have just discussed will also help you develop better sleeping patterns.
To read our blog comparing Aerobic, Anaerobic And HITT for weight loss, please follow the link here.
Mindful eating was founded on the concept of mindfulness from Buddhism. Mindfulness is a sort of meditation that shows you how to identify and control your emotions and physical sensations. Mindful eating is the practice of using mindfulness to pay full attention to your cravings and physical cues. However, it also involves eating slowly, which can assist you with digestion and nutrient absorption, which can assist with keeping a gut which is healthy.
Improving your hydration
Water consumption has been demonstrated to improve the lining of the gut alongside the balance of beneficial bacteria. Staying hydrated is a simple way to improve your gut health.
Including a prebiotic or probiotic supplement in your diet could help you improve your gut health. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can be found in various foods and supplements, whereas prebiotics are fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.
Although, always consult your doctor first as probiotics should not be taken by people who have bacterial overgrowth, for instance. Also, not all probiotic supplements are of high quality or provide any benefit.
Evaluate food intolerances
As we’ve spoken about, food intolerances are problematic due to troubling digestion through nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Therefore, by evaluating foods that may be producing these ill consequences and subsequently eliminating them from your diet, you will be able to positively adjust your digestive health.
Changing your eating habits
And finally, probably the greatest way to improve your gut health is through changing your eating habits. Foods that are good for your gut microbiome are:
- Grains that havn’t been processed as they’re rich in fiber content, which is digested by good gut bacteria like prevotella, which could assist dieting.
- Fruits and vegetables as they also have a lot of fiber that are beneficial to gut bacteria. Eating a variety of plant-based foods can increase gut bacteria diversity, which, as noted previously, has been related to better weight management.
- Nuts and seeds for their fiber and healthy fats contents, which support the beneficial gut bacteria.
- Fermented foods such as yoghurt, kombucha, kefir and sauerkraut go through an anaerobic process where microorganisms such as yeast and bacteria convert food components (like glucose) into other products (gases or alcohol). They’re helpful as they have good bacteria and can reduce other harmful bacteria in the gut.
- According to several studies, garlic and onion may have components closely linked to some functions of the gut, so consuming more of these may assist gut health.
- Furthermore, bone broth and salmon may be advantageous to health and the gut particularly. You may try to elevate your body’s collagen production via foods like mushrooms, good dairy, and certain meats.
In contrast, consuming certain foods in excess may be bad for your gut microbiome like:
- Foods that are high in sugar as they can increase certain bad bacteria in the gut microbiome, which may play a role in weight gain and other chronic health disorders, which we have discussed.
- Artificial sweeteners as they can reduce good bacteria in the gut too, which may result in high blood sugar.
- Healthy fats like omega-3s as they support the good gut bacteria in contrary to saturated fat which may be a key element in bad bacteria.
To read our blog about alcohol’s impact on dieting, please follow the link here.
In conclusion, your body contains trillions of bacteria that influence your health in many ways. Thereby avoiding processed foods, high-fat foods, and high sugary foods, we can alter how our food is digested, how fat is stored and how long we are full, which are all important aspects to improve when we are trying to slim down.
Additionally, by enhancing the fiber in our diet through grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, we can increase the good bacteria in our gut microbiome.
Further, outside of weight reduction, we may also benefit from a stronger immune system, heart health, brain health, improved mood, healthy sleep, and effective digestion by improving our gut flora.
For help in finding a path to weight loss that also meets your nutritional needs and avoids the dangers of fad diets, contact us here at Plato Weight Management. We are weight-loss experts and can help you reach your ideal body weight in an effective and evidence-based manner.
Turnbaugh, P. J., Hamady, M., Yatsunenko, T., Cantarel, B. L., Duncan, A., Ley, R. E., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2008). A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. Nature, 457(7228), 480-484. doi:10.1038/nature07540
Ridaura, V. K., Faith, J. J., Rey, F. E., Cheng, J., Duncan, A. E., Kau, A. L., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2013). Gut microbiota from twins discordant for Obesity MODULATE metabolism in mice. Science, 341(6150), 1241214. doi:10.1126/science.1241214
Koh, A., De Vadder, F., Kovatcheva-Datchary, P., & Bäckhed, F. (2016). From dietary fiber to host physiology: Short-chain fatty acids as key bacterial metabolites. Cell, 165(6), 1332-1345. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2016.05.041
Slavin, J. L. (2005). Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutrition, 21(3), 411-418. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2004.08.018
Hjorth, M. F., Roager, H. M., Larsen, T. M., Poulsen, S. K., Licht, T. R., Bahl, M. I., . . . Astrup, A. (2017). Pre-treatment microbial prevotella-to-bacteroides ratio, determines body fat loss success during a 6-month randomized controlled diet intervention. International Journal of Obesity, 42(3), 580-583. doi:10.1038/ijo.2017.220
Backhed, F., Ding, H., Wang, T., Hooper, L. V., Koh, G. Y., Nagy, A., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2004). The gut microbiota as an environmental factor that regulates fat storage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101(44), 15718-15723. doi:10.1073/pnas.0407076101
Fetissov, S. O. (2016). Role of the gut microbiota in host appetite control: Bacterial growth to animal feeding behaviour. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 13(1), 11-25. doi:10.1038/nrendo.2016.150