Living in your gut are trillions of bacteria that help you absorb nutrients, regulate your metabolism, and manage your weight.
We get it: It's frustrating when friends who hardly work out and eat whatever and whenever still manage to look fit. But it might not be their metabolic powers kicking in; their gut health could also factor in keeping them fit.
Here's how: Your gut bacteria affect how foods get digested and produce chemicals to help you feel satiated and full so, gut bacteria can affect your weight too.
Want to understand this mind-boggling relationship between gut health and weight loss? Read on to learn more about gut bacteria, how to restore gut health, and how your gut microbiota affects your weight.
What Are Gut Bacteria?
Gut bacteria are microorganisms found in your digestive tract. While some gut bacteria are harmful, most are incredibly beneficial and essential to your health by helping digest your food, regulate your metabolism, and manage your weight.
Gut bacteria paired with other microorganisms – like fungi and viruses – make up the gut microbiome or microbiota. Just like fingerprints, two people can't have the exact composition of gut microbiota.
Here's what Dr. E. M. Quigley has to say in his study on gut bacteria published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology: “Having a wide variety of good gut bacteria can improve your mood, boost your immune system, prevent obesity, and provide a wealth of other benefits. But when you have high levels of harmful bacteria living in your gut, your health and bodily functions begin to deteriorate.”
Gut Health and Weight Loss – The Missing Link
Your gut health affects your weight to a large extent. If the microbiota in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract is unbalanced, it can cause dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis indicates that you either have high levels of harmful pathogens, lower levels of beneficial bacteria, or a reduced diversity of beneficial microorganisms in your GI tract. So, dysbiosis occurs when the harmful bacteria in your GI tract thrive.
This gut microbiota imbalance can impair your health and metabolic rate and even explain why it's easier for some people to lose weight than others. How? Once your gut gets damaged, your system finds it difficult to digest and absorb your food, which affects your metabolic rate.
But it doesn't just stop at digestion. This poor metabolic rate can further cause heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic stress and fatigue, and much more.
During this time, your body would struggle to process essential nutrients and send them to target organs for proper functioning. The result? Unhealthy weight gain and suboptimal or poor health.
Aside from gut damage, your microbial content also determines your weight. How? Two gut bacteria – Akkermansia muciniphila and Christensenella minuta – regulate your metabolism and reinforce your gut lining.
These gut bacteria prevent weight gain by regulating your appetite and metabolism and strengthening your gut lining, making you feel full and less hungry.
Symptoms of an Unhealthy Gut
When the microorganisms in your gut are in balance, i.e., you have more good bacteria to balance out the bad ones, your body experiences optimal health. But when the harmful bacteria in your gut overshadow the good bacteria, your gut health starts to deteriorate; and if this goes on for longer, the rest of your body could suffer.
To help you discover when the nasty bugs are taking territory, here are telltale signs of an unhealthy gut:
Constant fatigue and insomnia
An unhealthy gut can cause sleepless nights, which can lead to chronic fatigue or tiredness. How? Serotonin is a hormone that affects your mood and sleep.
Your gut is your body's center for mass serotonin production so, an unhealthy gut can deplete your serotonin levels. The result? Poor sleep, chronic fatigue, and a sour mood.
Heartburn, gas, diarrhea, bloating, and constipation are signs that your system could be having a hard time processing and digesting food and eliminating waste – an indication of an unhealthy gut.
Is there someone you can't stand or can't seem to get along with? You'd be surprised to find out your system could have "someone" like that too.
Food intolerance is your system's way of saying it can't stand or tolerate certain foods. Not to be mistaken with food allergy, which is an autoimmune response, food intolerance occurs when your body finds it hard digesting certain foods; and it may be a result of an unhealthy gut.
Gut damage is a possible cause of skin conditions, like eczema. Poor gut health and inflammation go hand-in-hand. So, when inflammation occurs in the gut, particular proteins passing through the gastrointestinal tract can "leak" into the body, irritate the skin, and cause a range of skin conditions.
Unintentional weight changes
Do you find yourself losing or gaining weight without making changes to your physical activities or diet? You may have an unhealthy gut.
A damaged gut can impair your body's digestion, ability to store fat, and blood sugar regulation, which ultimately affects your health and weight. While small intestinal bacterial overgrowth may cause weight loss, insulin resistance or overeating due to decreased nutrient bioavailability may cause weight gain.
Other signs of an unhealthy gut include:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Increased sugar cravings
- Poor concentration
Foods That Worsen Gut Health
The first step to healing your gut is eating right and avoiding foods that could worsen your gut health. Cut back on these foods to preserve your gut health:
- Red meat
- Saturated fats
- Diet soda
Foods to Restore Gut Health
Here's a list of healthy and tasty foods that will restore and maintain your gut health:
- Prebiotics – Foods containing prebiotics feed good bacteria and help them thrive: apples, beans, garlic, oats, asparagus.
- Probiotics – Foods containing probiotics can boost your immunity and improve your gut health. Some of them are: aged cheese, kombucha, yogurt, tempeh, kefir.
1. Which probiotic is best for weight loss?
Probiotics with a bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus are best if you’re trying to lose weight. You can find this bacteria in fermented foods, yogurt, and even probiotic supplements.
2. How can I increase my gut bacteria?
While gut bacteria Christensenella is more genetic, you can increase the abundance of Akkermansia by eating foods like fish oil, black tea, flaxseed, and cranberries.
3. How do I cleanse my gut?
You can cleanse your gut naturally by drinking a lot of water, eating high-fiber foods, consuming more juices and smoothies, as well as resistant starches that are found in products like potatoes, rice, legumes, beans, etc.