Obesity is a major concern in the United States. According to the CDC, between 2015 and 2016 nearly 40 percent of the United States population was obese. There are many factors involved in the greater prevalence of obesity. Of these factors, the gut is of specific importance.
The gut is a central system in the body influencing numerous aspects of wellness including weight regulation. When the gut is not functioning properly or the bacterial microbiome within has fallen out of balance, the body’s ability to regulate weight becomes impaired. By learning more about the gut’s influence on weight management and methods of restoring healthy gut function one may be able to more easily lose weight.
The Citizens of the Gut
The gut is home to approximately 10 trillion bacteria composed of at least 400 different strains. When properly balanced, these bacteria help the gut manage many bodily functions including digestion, vitamin production, hormone regulation, immune activity, metabolism, and even weight regulation. If this microbiome falls out of balance, known as dysbiosis, various symptoms may develop including bloating, gas, pain, indigestion, poor immune function, fatigue, headaches, moodiness, and more. Furthermore, such dysfunction has been linked to a greater prevalence of serious conditions such as depression, diabetes, and obesity.
Bacteria Balance and Weight Loss
Bacteria have a notable influence on fat storage, blood glucose balance, and hunger. A study conducted by the Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports at the University of Copenhagen showed the influence of bacterial balance in the gut and its effect on weight loss. Prevetolla bacteria aid in the digestion of fiber and carbohydrates while Bacteroidetes are more prevalent in people who eat a greater volume of animal proteins and fats. Participants in the Copenhagen study who had a higher ratio of Prevotella to Bacteroides lost more weight while dieting when compared to those with a lower ratio of the same bacteria. These findings suggest that bacteria balance may be of significant importance regarding weight loss.
The Importance of Bacterial Diversity
A major component of gut health is having a dynamic and broad collection of different species of bacteria. The balance of intestinal flora influences how the body stores nutrients and how easy or difficult it is to let go of excess weight. This is exemplified in a study composed of 77 pairs of twins. In each set of twins, one was obese while the other was not. Interestingly, reduced gut bacteria diversity was a unifying trait of the obese twins. This led researchers to believe that poor bacterial diversity may contribute to obesity. Some hypothesize that poor bacterial diversity causes one to be less capable of utilizing fiber and carbohydrates. Therefore, the individual must consume excess calories, resulting in weight gain, in order to produce adequate energy.
Gut Regulating Proteins
Proteins found in the gut may also influence weight. A study published in Science magazine showed that mice lacking a gut protein called toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5) gained significant weight, and developed diabetes and fatty liver disease when fed a high-fat diet. TLR5 helps police bacterial activity. Therefore, when this protein is deficient, it is far more likely for dysbiosis to occur resulting in inflammation and subsequent insulin resistance. These factors promote weight gain and retention. The study confirmed their hypothesis that a lack of TLR5 promotes obesity by transferring the gut flora from obese TLR5-deficient mice into the gut of skinny mice. The new subjects subsequently began eating more and ultimately developed the same metabolic issues seen in the original overweight mice.
What Can be Done to Support Gut Health?
Gut health is clearly an important part of weight regulation. Fortunately, there are multiple lifestyle changes one can make to support the gut and improve their weight.
Eliminate Harmful Substances from Diet
Diets that contain a high amount of unhealthy fats, processed foods, and excessive sugars are associated with the bacterial release of inflammatory chemicals that can promote weight gain and retention. Vegetable oils high in refined omega-6 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats made from soybeans, canola, and other seeds are inflammatory agents that promote bacterial dysfunction. Other foods to avoid include sugary foods, processed products, and artificial sweeteners. Eliminating such substances can alleviate gut stress and improve bacterial balance.
Eat more Whole Foods
Consider eating more whole natural foods containing nutrients that support the production of healthy gut bacteria. Some good gut supporting options include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Consuming a healthy balance of these foods can ease intestinal distress and improve weight loss.
Omega-3s promote healthy gut function, reduce inflammation and support weight loss. Coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, grass-fed butter, and fish, are excellent natural sources of omega-3s. If you're having difficulty acquiring enough omega-3s through your diet, consider using a high-quality omega-3 supplement such as HoltraCeuticals’ Ultra Omega. This supplement is composed of two forms of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA, and DHA, which can improve weight loss, mood, and limit inflammation.
Eat Probiotic Foods and/or Use a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics can be a boon to bacterial balance by introducing numerous strains of beneficial bacteria to the gut. This can help improve digestion and support healthy gut activity. Probiotic-rich foods include fermented products such as kefir, yogurt, and kimchi. Alternatively, you can supplement with a high-quality multi-strain probiotic such as HoltraCeuticals’ UltraBiotics. This supplement helps replenish levels of good bacteria in the gut. It can also aid in the resolution of dangerous bacterial imbalances that can result in excess weight gain and retention.
Rebalancing the Gut to Lose Weight
The gut is integral to the body’s overall wellness and plays an important role in weight management. One of the many dictating factors of weight retention is proper bacterial balance and function. Supporting the gut through proper diet and supplementation are two of the best ways to restore gut health and allow for healthy weight loss and regulation. Maintaining a high volume of healthy bacteria with broad diversity is essential to healthy gut function and by extension proper weight management.