Could the bacteria in your gut be your secret to weight loss? Until recently, most of us (even scientists) assumed that the bacteria in the gut were just along for the free ride. Well, new research suggests that the healthy bacteria in the gut – called the microbiome – influence many of the body’s processes, including cognitive function, immune health, and much more.
While it’s true that skinny microbes and fat bacteria don’t really exist, the bacteria in your gut do help to regulate your metabolism, digestion, and much more. Clearly, the gut health + weight loss connection goes deeper than we ever suspected.
Here’s what you need to know about your microbiome, how it influences weight loss, and what you can do to keep your gut healthy.
What is the Microbiome?
You can think of your microbiome as a community of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that live inside of your body, primarily in the digestive system. While it’s true that some of these microorganisms, such as viruses and pathogens, can be harmful, others have very important jobs to do in the body.
The microbiome is responsible for more than just digestion. It regulates the immune system, provides nutrients to our cells, produces certain hormones, and prevents the colonization of harmful viruses and bacteria in the body.
As you can imagine, when the bad bacteria in your gut overwhelm the healthy bacteria, the body doesn’t function at its best and chronic illness is often the result. Obesity, diabetes, autism, even certain cancers, and much more have been linked to an unhealthy gut microbiome.
3 Ways Gut Health Influences Your Weight
Now that you have a better understanding of what the microbiome is, let’s take a look at how a healthy gut can influence your weight.
It Affects How You Digest Food and Absorb Nutrients
The bacteria in your gut line your digestive system and influence how your body absorbs nutrients and stores energy from the foods you eat. If the body isn’t getting the nutrients and energy it needs from food, you may experience cravings and have a tendency to overeat to compensate for the lack of nutrition.
It’s also interesting to note that, while the human body can’t digest fiber on its own, certain bacteria that live in the gut can. When these bacteria are fed the fiber that they thrive on, they produce certain chemicals that can benefit the microbiome and could even support weight loss. This may be why people who eat a high fiber diet tend to weigh less and lose weight more easily.
Some studies have also shown that those with fewer types of healthy bacteria in their gut are more likely to be obese. And finally, your microbiome also influences how fats and calories are absorbed and stored by the body.
It Regulates Inflammation
Some inflammation in the body is normal and beneficial because it fights infection and helps repair injury. But chronic inflammation can lead to pain and chronic illness.
Chronic inflammation is often caused by an unhealthy diet. Elevated amounts of inflammatory chemicals in the bloodstream and fatty tissues can contribute to weight gain.
The bacteria in the gut regulate inflammation throughout the body, both good and bad, so keeping them in balance is essential for promoting overall health and maintaining a healthy weight.
It Produces Hormones That Influence Hunger
Our bodies produce a variety of hormones that regulate hunger, including ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, sometimes called the “hunger hormone,” stimulates appetite and prepares the body to accept food, while low leptin levels lead to overeating and weight gain.
Different bacteria in the microbiome regulate how much of these hormones are produced, playing a key role in whether you feel hungry or full.
Ways to Keep Your Gut Healthy and Support Weight Loss
Clearly keeping your microbiome healthy is crucial, not just for overall health, but also for maintaining a healthy weight. Here’s what you can do to keep your gut healthy each day.
Give your gut a fresh start.
Over time, excess waste and toxins can build up in the colon, allowing harmful bacteria to build up in the gut. According to specialists at Rahav Wellness integrative medical clinic, colon hydrotherapy is a “safe, low impact way to remove these harmful toxins, rebalance the gut, and clear waste.” It’s basically like giving the healthy bacteria in your gut a fresh start, which is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight.
Eat a whole-food, fiber-rich diet.
Whole foods, especially those that are rich in fiber, are essential for a healthy gut. Avoid processed foods that are enriched with fiber and focus on whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies. Nuts and seeds are also a great choice because they provide fiber and healthy fats. A diet that includes a variety of plant-based foods promotes a variety of healthy bacteria in the gut.
Eat more prebiotic and probiotic foods.
Prebiotic foods, like garlic, onions, and other fibrous root vegetables, provide the type of fiber that your gut bacteria thrive on. Prebiotic foods are foods that introduce new good bacteria to the gut. These include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, and sauerkraut. You should also consider taking a probiotic supplement if you’ve been sick or have taken antibiotics, which can be very harmful to good gut bacteria.
Avoid foods that harm the microbiome.
Refined sugar, unhealthy fats, and artificial sweeteners can stimulate the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, leading to weight gain and other health issues. You’ll want to avoid them as much as possible.
Exercise supports the health of many different microbes in the gut that lower obesity and support a healthy weight. Get your body moving every day to boost your gut health and support your weight loss efforts.
The microbiome is extremely complex, and you have a great level of control over its health and diversity. Having a colonics treatment, eating a healthy diet, and staying active will all improve the health of your microbiome and boost its beneficial functions. Over time, improving your gut health could help you lose weight and maintain your overall health.
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