Weight Loss and Gut Bacteria, Is there a connection?

Of late there have been many articles, discussions, and research studies on the connection between healthy intestinal flora and weight loss.

I will summarize the findings and give you some pertinent information:

There is fairly consistent evidence that healthy gut microflora can positively influence weight.

As Dr Mark Hyman states:

Certain intestinal microbes may also alter your sensitivity to insulin—the hormone that moves sugar out of your blood—so that your body burns fat it would have otherwise stored.

While some of your gut bacteria is determined by genetics, life­style and dietary habits can have a dramatic impact on your mix of beneficial and harmful microbes. A study in the journal Nature found that when people switched from their normal diet to one consisting primarily of meat and cheese, there was an almost immediate increase in Bilophila, a type of bacteria that has been linked to colitis, but that a plant-based diet decreased the levels. Here are four simple steps you can take starting today to help keep your intestinal bacteria robust.

Eat more fiber. It’s the number-one thing you can do, says Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University. New research suggests that fiber nourishes your microbes, making them diverse and more likely to help keep you slim. Avoid the temptation to buy processed foods that have added fiber. Instead, eat vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Aim for at least two to three servings each of produce and whole grains and 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, says Mark Moyad, M.D., a FITNESS advisory board member. These foods also provide prebiotics, which are essentially a type of fiber that your gut bacteria flourishes on. Some plants, like sunchokes, garlic and leeks, are packed with prebiotics. Bananas and whole-wheat breakfast cereals are other good sources.

Snack smarter. The fact that we consume so much added sugar—more than 22 teaspoons a day for the average person—could actually be starving our gut flora, Sonnenburg says. Bacteria need complex carbohydrates, like legumes and whole grains, in order to thrive. So when you get too many calories from sweets, you’re leaving your microbes hungry. They either die or adapt by feeding on the mucus inside your intestine, which, experts hypothesize, could contribute to low-level inflammation, a condition that has been linked to obesity. Instead of grabbing a cookie when your stomach starts growling at 3:00 p.m., reach for a handful of nuts or an apple. Check labels for hidden sugars in foods like pasta sauce and salad dressing. And choose brown rice and whole-grain pasta instead of white.

Pick probiotic foods. If prebiotics are like fertilizer for your microbial garden, probiotics are like seeds. The best way to get them is by regularly eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso. And about yogurt, that probiotic rock star: A landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that among all foods studied, yogurt was the one most strongly correlated with weight loss. The average person gained almost a pound a year, but people who regularly ate yogurt actually lost weight. Choose plain Greek yogurt and mix in pomegranate seeds or your favorite berries for a hit of fiber.

Move your body. Your bacteria might benefit from a good workout as much as you do. Exercisers with a normal BMI had more diverse microbes than exercisers with a high BMI, according to a recent Irish study of male rugby players. They also had higher levels of Akkermansiaceae, a type of bacteria that has been linked to lower obesity rates. So sweat daily to trim your gut—and to boost your gut bacteria.

Your gut bacteria might affect how hungry you are too. One key microbe appears to be Helicobacter pylori, the bacterium that is involved in causing ulcers and stomach cancer. Antibiotic treatments have helped cut H. pylori infection rates in half in recent decades, which is good news for ulcer sufferers—but which could be bad news for our waistlines. It turns out that H. pylori also dials back the stomach’s production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. “When you wake up in the morning and you’re hungry, it’s because ghrelin is telling you to eat,” says Martin Blaser, M.D., a professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University and the author of the book Missing Microbes. “When you eat breakfast, your level of ghrelin usually goes down, but if you don’t have Helicobacter in your system, it doesn’t.” The end result: You could eat more.

You might not even have to take antibiotics to feel their effects on your gut bacteria. The heavy reliance on antibiotics by the food industry, which routinely uses the drugs in feed to keep livestock healthy, may be fueling the rise of obesity by disrupting the fine balance of our intestinal microbes, some experts believe. “The obesity epidemic really took off in the last 20 years in the U.S. So the question is, what happened then? What was a large segment of the population exposed to that could account for this massive weight gain?” asks Lee Riley, M.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley. He points out that that’s when the number of large-scale densely packed factory farms expanded, which also increased the use of antibiotics in livestock feed. Today, 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the United States go toward helping animals remain healthy and gain more weight in crowded conditions. “Counties with the highest prevalence of obesity are those counties with large concentrated animal feeding operations,” he says.

So, the takeaway is:

1) eat more fiber,

2) avoid antibiotics

3) eat foods high in omega-3s

4) add fermented foods which feed healthy bacteria, ie, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh,  miso, etc

5) add healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil,

6 ) avoid omega 6 oils, ( all process chips)

7) only cook with coconut oil, or avocado oil