How Gut Bacteria Helps Weight Loss7/15/20
The mere thought of this word brings to mind all sorts of unsavory microbes, yet bacteria are a necessary (and beneficial) component of life.
They play a vital part in our performance, cognitive function, mood, and overall health.
In fact, you might be surprised to learn that there are trillions of bacteria in our gut, each with its own unique purpose in helping us perform to our best.
A greater focus has been placed on the human microbiome in recent years, and today we take a look at how gut bacteria helps weight loss.
Let’s start with a primer on the human microbiome.
Gut Bacteria 101
Bacteria are single cell microorganisms that have cell walls but lack organelles and an organized nucleus. They can be found everywhere, including inside your body.
In fact, current estimates indicate that there are more bacteria in your gut than human cells in your body!
Now, not all bacteria is good, just like not all are bad, and not all bacteria is the same.
The human gut alone contains hundreds (if not thousands) of different strains of bacteria, which are needed to carry out various physiological processes.
For example, gut bacteria are involved in the synthesis of certain vitamins, such as vitamin K, and they also serve as a vital cog in the proper functioning of your immune system, which is how your body fights off infection from other nefarious bacteria.
The bacteria in our gut also affect how food is digested along with impacting the signals (hormones) that are released following mealtime. Based on this, the composition and health of an individual’s microbiome can affect his or her body weight.
Let’s now see the various ways in which gut bacteria impacts weight loss (or gain).
Gut Bacteria Affects Digestion
Since bacteria populate your GI tract, they come into contact with the food you eat during mealtime.
The types and quantities of food you eat can have a significant impact on the composition of your microbiome.
In case you weren’t aware, gut bacteria use the fiber in the food you eat as their own source of nutrition. Consuming too little fiber can starve the good bacteria in your gut, which not only disrupts the makeup and health of your gut microbiome, but could have several unwanted downstream effects, since our gut bacteria produce a very important short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) known as butyrate.[4,5]
Butyrate serves as the primary source of energy for the cells lining our colon. Research has shown that butyrate offers several other important health benefits including:
- Boosting metabolism
- Lowering inflammation
- Improving resistance to stress
Additionally, butyrate also promotes a normal phenotype for cells of our colon, which may confer a modicum of protection from certain diseases.
Consuming foods high in a particular type of fiber known as resistant starch has been noted to ramp up butyrate production. This makes intake of resistant starch a priority if you’re trying to promote gut health or rebuild a microbiome rundown from several courses of antibiotics.
Research has also found an association between individuals with lower gut bacteria diversity, meaning they have fewer strains of bacteria in the gut, and higher body weights.
Other research in which animals have the gut bacteria from obese people injected into their GI tracts find that the animals mice gain weight, indicating that the make-up of an individual’s microbiome affects body weight.
More recently, researchers have found a link between the ratio of two types of bacteria in the gut intestines and how much weight loss can occur following a given diet.
More specifically, the two bacteria identified by researchers were:
- Bacteroidetes, which was identified in people who eat more animal protein and fat, and
- Prevotella, which digests carbohydrates and fiber
Researchers found that individuals who had higher concentrations of Prevotella in their intestines lost more body fat than those with more Bacteroidetes in their intestines.
Gut Bacteria Affects Hunger & Satiety Hormones
The endocrine system is the collection of glands in the body that regulates the release of chemical messengers (hormones) in the body.
What you eat can have a direct impact on which hormones are released following a meal as well as how much of those hormones are released.
Some of the “heavy hitter” hormones that affect weight loss are:
- The “hunger hormones” -- Ghrelin
- The “satiety hormones” -- Leptin, peptide YY (PYY)
Research notes that that different gut bacteria can affect how much of these hormones are secreted during meal time as well as whether you feel full or still hungry after eating.[12,13]
Above we mentioned that gut bacteria produce a number of important molecules from the fermentation (bacterial digestion), including butyrate.
Another important chemical generated from fiber fermentation is propionate.
Research in overweight adults found that consuming 10g propionate (as inulin-propionate ester) for 24 weeks significantly increased levels of PYY and GLP-1 (glucagon-like peptide-1), two hormones which impact hunger.
Furthermore, the group taking the 10g of propionate also consumed less food and decreased the amount of weight gained. and reduced weight gain.
Additional research also indicates that using prebiotic supplements may also help decrease appetite.
Gut Bacteria Stimulates Immune Function
The immune system is tasked with fighting infection and keeping the body healthy and happy.
Infection, inflammation, and illness can have many causes, but one of the biggest causes (that many people don’t realize) is diet.
What you eat on a daily basis can have a profound impact in regards to how well (or not) you combat inflammation and stave off illness.
For instance, diets high in processed sugar, fat, and calories are known to be inflammatory, which promote unwanted weight gain.
Since diet has a direct impact on the makeup of your gut bacteria, it’s no surprise that the microbiome (and the compounds it generates) also plays an important role in inflammation.
For example, certain gut bacteria produce compounds such as lipopolysaccharide, which are known to cause inflammation, which may lead to insulin resistance and weight gain.
Other studies note that individuals with lower gut bacteria diversity have higher concentrations of C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory biomarker.
But, remember that diet can also promote the growth of good gut bacteria -- the kind which help reduce inflammation and prevent weight gain.
Two examples of “good” gut bacteria are bifidobacteria and akkermansia.
Animal studies indicate that consuming prebiotic fibers that help increase Bifidobacteria, help combat weight gain and insulin resistance without affecting the number of calories consumed.
While much is made of the importance of the gut bacteria in supporting optimal body composition and weight, it’s also important to remember that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in regards to what we know of the gut microbiome. Much more research needs to be done before we fully understand the numerous interactions between the human gut and overall health.
That being said, you can till the balance in your favor by focusing on the right foods and limiting or avoiding the “wrong” ones.
Best Foods for Gut Health & Weight Loss
By and large, if you want to support a healthy gut, then you want to focus on consuming minimally-processed, micronutrient-dense foods, including:
- Whole grains
- Polyphenol-rich foods: green tea, dark chocolate, etc.
- Fermented foods: yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, etc.
At the same time, you also want to limit your intake of the following foods:
- Copious amounts of refined sugar
- Processed foods: basically anything that comes in a box, bag, or packaging
- Hydrogenated oils (trans fats)Foods containing unhealthy fats
Best Supplements to Support Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss
When it comes to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, you should always place your focus on consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These food groups supply the fiber needed to feed the bacteria in your gut.
At the same time, there are occasions (travel, illness, work), when we can always hit our daily intake of whole foods (and as a result, fiber).
In these instances, it helps to have a high quality supplement (or two) that helps promote gut health (and weight loss).
1UP Nutrition offers the following gut health supplements:
Digestive Enzymes, Probiotics and Prebiotics all in all.
- Fiber Plus
Fiber Plus is an all-in-one, natural fiber supplement supplying 5 grams soluble fiber and 3 grams insoluble fiber from a combination of Psyllium Husk, Inulin & Cold Milled Golden Flaxseed.
- Greens and Reds
Our greens and reds formula is a premium-grade nutritional support supplement supplying organic- and vegan-certified greens and reds rich in antioxidants. Our naturally sweetened formula also supplies two grams of fiber (from inulin and fructooligosaccharides) along with a probiotic complex to support gut health and wellness.
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