We all know the simple ingredients to maintaining a healthy weight – regular exercise, a healthy wholefood diet and optimal sleep, but sometimes it feels as if this formula doesn’t work or maybe it used to work but now you’re getting nowhere. What if I told you that your gut bacteria could be just as important as these other steps?
The human microbiome is a collection of 100 trillion organisms (think lots of bacteria and fungi) that reside all over and inside the body. It is estimated that there are ten times as many non-human micro-organisms than there are human cells! Our microbiome is intrinsically linked to our overall health, facilitating important functions of the body including producing important nutrients such as Biotin, Folate, B12 and Vitamin K and assisting the development of a mature and robust immune system, among so many other wonderful things and research now suggests that the intestinal gut flora also dictates how our bodies regulate and maintain weight. Studies suggest the presence of a healthy gut microbial community will affect the amount of energy that is extracted from the diet and how it is best used therefore determining the size of our waistlines.
A healthy microbiome is defined by having a diverse range of beneficial micro-organisms and containing very few pathological or bad bacteria that disrupt the health and environment of the gut. In this state the good bacteria send messages throughout the body to maintain a healthy weight and help the body to function optimally. The reverse of this shows a dominant bad bacteria colony and a decrease in beneficial bacteria. This imbalance is known as dysbiosis. In a state of dysbiosis, bacteria begin to act differently; they extract more kilojoules from food, storing this energy as fat and triggering inflammation and leading to weight gain. You may also notice in this state you are lethargic, your brain feels foggy and you feel generally unmotivated which perpetuates this cycle of dysbiosis again leading to more weight gain.
Tips for a healthy gut microbiome
- Eat a high fibre diet – healthy microbiota rely on fibre in food for fuel and studies have shown diets high in fat and sugar (that is, the Western diet!) promote an abundance of bad bacteria at the expense of the good guys! Diversity in plant based fibre promote beneficial bacteria, meaning the more different types of fruit and veggies you eat the happier and healthier your gut bugs will be!
- Eat fermented foods – kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, yoghurt, kvass and kombucha, oh my! What do these things have in common? They are all foods that contain naturally occurring probiotics and enzymes. Avoid the store-bought versions though, to really benefit from these traditional foods it’s best to skip the additives in commercial products and make your own. They really are so simple and cost effective! Check out our friends Wholefood Family for more tips and recipes on all things fermented
- Reduce your alcohol – alcohol will lead to dysbiotic changes in your intestinal microbiome and triggers gastrointestinal inflammation. If you are consuming more than one standard drink per day, your gut microbiome would benefit from you taking it easy and abstaining a bit more often
- Manage stress – when you feel stressed, the release of cortisol and adrenaline sensitise your body to inflammation – this includes gut inflammation. This disrupts the gut environment, compromising the conditions your beneficial microbes need to flourish. Find stress coping techniques that you enjoy – visit a friend, step outside into nature, meditate!
- Move your body – a lack of exercise has been linked to reduced microbial diversity in the gut – another reason to get moving. Even better, move your body outside in nature and increase your diversity by breathing fresh air in the natural environment
Increase your fat burning bugs
Supporting your microbiome to be as healthy, diverse and free from bad bacteria is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy weight. Probiotics are a potent way to positively influence the health of your microbiome as they work by promoting colony diversity of beneficial species and reducing the growth of unwanted microbes. We now know that different microbes are beneficial to different things so all probiotics contain different strains of bacteria and are therefore formulated for different aspects of health! A targeted formulation and one of our favourites for weight management is Ultra Flora Meta Control by Metagenics. This probiotic is designed to help support body weight regulation by delivering targeted probiotic support. Remember it is important to speak with your practitioner who can help select the right formulation and dosage for your specific needs. Our Herb Bar service is available every day we are open. Simply phone 02 4961 4075 to speak with a qualified Naturopath who can advise you on practitioner quality probiotics and recommend other treatment strategies to help you on your journey to better health!