By Caroline Mackey, CNP, PTS
Real Life Revolution; Holistic Nutritionist, Darou Wellness
In the last 5 to 10 years, more and more research and studies have been focusing on the human microbiome; in other words the bacteria that live inside of us. The microflora in your gut outnumber your own human cells by a factor of 10 to 1, and they have innumerable effects on our bodies. Every day, new things are being discovered about how these tiny flora affect your physical and mental wellbeing.
What is fundamentally clear is that good health starts and ends with having good gut health. When your gut health has gone awry, with an overabundance of ‘bad’ bacteria, then many health problems can arise. One factor that is influenced when you do not have good gut health is your weight.
The standard Western diet, high in poor fats, refined carbs and sugar and low in fibre, are a breeding ground for bad bacteria. This predominance of unhelpful bacteria allows for weight retention and fat accumulation. In studies of twins who were both lean or both obese, researchers found that “the gut community in lean people was like a rain forest brimming with many species but that the community in obese people was less diverse—more like a nutrient-overloaded pond where relatively few species dominate.” (Article: How Gut Bacteria Help Make Use Fat Or Thin)
Unbalanced gut bacteria leads to inflammation and affects control of appetite and satiation. Inflammation in the gut leads to a defective gut barrier. Once these junctions are loosened, bacteria-derived toxins enter the blood stream leading to insulin resistance, adiposity (fat stored in our fatty tissues), and weight gain.
Gut microbes regulate hormones produced in the intestines which control our appetite, how full we feel after meals, as well as regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. In addition, when we have a proliferation of unhealthy bacteria in our gut, those bacteria are more efficient at extracting energy (i.e. calories) from our food. So weight gain can happen even with a low calorie food intake.
So, how do you regain control of your gut and rebalance bacteria? Good bacteria can crowd out bad bacteria.
Here are some ways to rebalance your gut flora:
- Eat a wide variety of whole foods, from all food groups, and avoid highly processed, refined foods and sugars
- Eat lots of fibre; aim for 35 grams or more per day. Good bacteria love insoluble fibre in particular, which can be found in fruit and vegetable skins, wheat, wheat bran, rye and whole grain rice.
- Chew food thoroughly to ensure proper digestion can occur
- Identify and eliminate any food sensitivities / allergens which can cause inflammation and malabsorption
- Support the growth of probiotic bacteria by consuming probiotic foods including miso, tempeh, yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, kimchi, pickled veggies, and natto. (For any soy product ensure that it is organic.) You can also try a good quality probiotic supplement; consult with your healthcare practitioner.
- Aid healthy transit of fibre and foods by consuming 6-8 glasses of water per day
- Reduce stress, which can cause inflammation and digestive distress
How do you know your gut bacteria could be unbalanced and affecting your weight? Some possible indicators include an inability to lose weight despite eating clean and exercising regularly; bloating and gas issues before, during or after meals; diarrhea or constipation challenges; digestive illnesses such as IBS; and strong sugar cravings.
This is an overview of some of the main factors of weight and gut health. Should you need a more in depth analysis on your digestion, weight and health challenges, I consult with clients regularly on this topic. We get at the root of your challenges, and put into place plans to rectify gut imbalances, lose weight, and improve your health for the long term.