Some people seem to be able to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, never exercise, and yet stay thin as a rail. Others exercise regularly, count calories, follow specific strict diets and still gain weight.
Genetics play a role in weight control but blaming ‘bad genes’ and giving up is not an option. It’s disempowering and turns us into a ‘victim’ of our inherited genetics.
There’s a big piece of the puzzle that many people aren’t considering: our gut bugs, also known as our microbiome. More and more studies are linking a healthy microbiome to better weight control.
By the way, it’s not just bacteria we’re talking about but also other tasty stuff like viruses, yeast and fungi. Fortunately they aren’t just hanging around having a party, they’re helping us.
The Gut-Fat Link
How can bacteria in our gut be linked to controlling weight? Good question. Scientists first found the link in mice.
Obese mice would eat and eat, and they found that these mice had a specific type of bacteria in their stomachs. When the scientists transferred the bacteria to skinny mice, these mice slowly began to gain weight.
Scientists then turned their attention to humans and found that there is indeed a clear link between being overweight and having an unhealthy microbiome.
So what’s the skinny? Why would the bacteria in our gut influence whether we can lose weight or not?
The bacteria in our gut isn’t there just by chance. It’s there because we need them as much as they need us. It’s a symbiotic relationship!
These friendly gut bugs actually perform lots of important functions for us, from producing nutrients and helping us to fight off illness to keeping our mood perky AND helping us to maintain a healthy weight.
Our microbiome performs so many vital functions for us – although most people are completely unaware of it – that it has been called the ‘forgotten’ organ of our body.
This can be a pretty mind-bending idea. We’ve all got used to the idea of hygiene, washing our hands to avoid the spread of nasty bacteria, and we rush to the doctor for antibiotics when we’re sick.
The key point to understand here is that some bacteria are ‘bad’ and make us sick while others are ‘good’ and help our body function properly. There are always a mix of both good and bad bacteria in our gut. The problem is when the bad start to outnumber the good.
Is Your Microbiome Sick?
Our microbiome can get ‘sick’ like we do. By that I mean that the balance of good and bad bacteria has been lost. The baddies have the upper hand and the goodies are dying out. The colonies of good bacteria become overwhelmed and disappear.
The result is that it’s harder for us to maintain a healthy weight, leading to all kinds of problems like obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
We don’t yet know exactly how our microbiome helps maintain weight, but it appears to relate to appetite control, hormones and how we extract energy from food.
For example, studies have shown that these bacteria affect the body’s ability to respond to insulin, is the hormone that helps our body regulate blood sugar. This affects how our metabolism runs and in turn whether we’re able to lose weight.
We look at this more in Weight Loss: Is The Secret In Our Bacteria?
6 Dead-Easy Steps
If you already have chronic difficulty controlling your weight, if you just can’t get the body you want, if you have type 2 diabetes or are obese, then your microbiome is definitely sick.
Changing your microbiome from sick to healthy could make all the difference to your bodyweight and overall health.
So how to we heal our microbiome?
What we need is lots of different strains of good bacteria down there in our gut, not just one or two. And we need those goodies to be in big enough numbers to out-gun the baddies.
How can we give a boost to our friendly gut bugs? Many factors affect them but diet, lifestyle, stress, alcohol, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, whether our mothers breastfed us as babies and whether or not she had a healthy microbiome herself, and infections are some of the major players in the state of our microbiome .
One big factor is the use of antibiotics. Clearly antibiotics are vital in many circumstances but be aware that they indiscriminately wipe out both good and bad bacteria.
This creates an environment in our gut for the bad bacteria to colonize and flourish, once the course of antibiotics finishes. This leads to all sorts of problems.
We may not be able to change all of the factors that lead to unhealthy microbiome, but we can change some.
Changing our diet can lead to an improvement in our gut bugs within 24 hours! This is very empowering as it means we are not stuck with the hand dealt to us through our past or our genetics.
So here are my 6 dead-easy steps to switch your microbiome from crummy to magnificent:
- Eat more unprocessed, homemade food and eat less junk food.
- In particular eat less refined carbs like white bread, pasta, pastries, cereal, as the bad bacteria LOVE these.
- Take a good quality probiotic for at least 3-6 months.
- Have a little live, fermented food or drink – like yoghurt, sauerkraut or kombucha – with every meal.
- Don’t go crazy on the antibiotics! Be guided by your doctor, but you don’t need them as much as you think. Save them for real emergencies and instead try a natural antibiotic.
- Lifestyle – make at least one change today out of this list:
- Exercise consistently, light or heavy intensity, both help our friendly gut bugs.
- Drink less alcohol!
- Be less stressed!
The link between our gut bugs and weight control is now clear, and is gradually becoming accepted more and more by the mainstream.
Healthing-up our microbiome may be the missing, magic link to controlling weight we’ve been searching for all our lives. Try these steps and let me know how you get on!
For more on this topic check out: