Does gut flora influence our weight?
Ever wonder why it seems so easy for some to lay on the kilos, whilst for others they appear to do nothing to stay lean?
There are a multitude of factors at play. Thyroid function, environmental influences, diet, physical activity, and even stress, can all have a part to play in influencing someone’s metabolic rate.
What would you say if you were told a major factor in how we consume and metabolise food could be down to the health of our gut flora? Sounds crazy, right?
Well, science is drawing together some fabulous connections to say this may very well be the case.
How the microbiome may influence weight
Our gut flora can influence fat stores, insulin resistance and inflammation, via signaling pathways in the gut. This impacts conditions associated with obesity, including insulin resistance, fatty liver disease and inflammation. It has more recently thought to impact satiety and can alter taste receptors!1
The health of your intestinal microbiome is determined by a ratio of helpful, beneficial bacteria, mitigating work of the more detrimental bacterial strains. Ideally, they would all live symbiotically – but opportunistic strains will do their darndest to proliferate, dominating available living space within your gut, in true survival dominance.
And many of these detrimental dudes love refined sugars.
So how do these gut bugs influence our weight?
Animal studies have shown positive influence of beneficial bacterial strains on weight management, inflammation and even the desire to eat! 4 In obese mice, it has been found a class of bacteria, Firmicutes, are in abundance, specifically in ratio to another bacterial class, Bacterioides. Firmicutes are very, very efficient at storing energy, more than required and contribute to excess weight.
On the flip side, a higher ratio of Bacterioides to Firmicutes is seen in leaner counterparts and individuals who have undergone weight loss, in both animal and human control studies.2 Now, we cannot simply lay the blame on the proliferation of one class of bacteria – we have too many.
Our diet, however, may have more to answer for.
Diet can alter the composition of our gut flora in as little as 24 hours. 5 Evidence shows the refined, processed, sugar and (bad) fat laden Western diet as fuel for Firmicutes, as well as inducing a lack of diversity in the microbiome, resulting in reduced metabolic microbiome function and ultimately, poor human physiological maintenance.3
Can you name, then, a key dietary component that our bacteria may love? You bet – our old mate fibre. High fibre diets have been seen to create a healthful, diverse microbiome population, ready to then help you feel better. 3
Love your guts
Improving gut health may not be the sole answer to successful weight management, but it can help – and will offer a myriad of other wonderful benefits!
We have discussed how to encourage the proliferation of good gut flora through dietary means. Eating plenty of fermentable fibres, probiotic rich, and nourishing whole foods, whilst avoiding heavily processed foods including refined sugars and oils, will help.
To further assist the process, you can discuss with your healthcare practitioner the benefits of taking a probiotic supplements, along with a protocol to heal a leaky gut, and create the appropriate environment for the probiotics to nestle in exert their health protective goodness (more on this coming soon).
The cause or the symptom
Weight gain can for some be a symptom of poor health, not necessarily the cause.
Health concerns such as excessive weight needn’t be the focus of your physical and emotional energy.
Instead, consider how you feel once you get a little more physical, or remove added sugars, or undertake a full gut healing protocol. Whatever it may be it will take time, but after a month or two you may start feeling better, perhaps more positive. And if you are carrying excess weight, it may then begin to fall away.
People come in all shapes and sizes
Aside from all this, let’s just consider the idea that we move away from the ‘ideal’ of being super slim, with six pack abs subsisting on a super low kilojoule diet. We are all different, with a variety of ethnic backgrounds influencing our gene pool creating a beautiful array of faces, colours, shapes and sizes.
Simply consider how you feel – and allow this to be the best indicator of your individual health 🙂
- Alcock, J, Maley, CC, & Aktipis, CA 2014, ‘Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms’, Bioessays: News And Reviews In Molecular, Cellular And Developmental Biology, vol. 36, no. 10, pp. 940-949.
- Cardinelli, CS, Sala, PC, Alves, CC, Torrinhas, RS, & Waitzberg, DL 2015, ‘Influence of intestinal microbiota on body weight gain: a narrative review of the literature’,Obesity Surgery, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 346-353
- Turnbaugh, PJ, Ridaura, VK, Faith, JJ, Rey, FE, Knight, R, & Gordon, JI 2009, ‘The effect of diet on the human gut microbiome: a metagenomic analysis in humanized gnotobiotic mice’, Science Translational Medicine, vol. 1, no. 6, p. 6ra14
- Vijay-Kumar, M, Aitken, JD, Carvalho, FA, Cullender, TC, Mwangi, S, Srinivasan, S, Sitaraman, SV, Knight, R, Ley, RE, & Gewirtz, AT 2010, ‘Metabolic syndrome and altered gut microbiota in mice lacking toll-like receptor 5’, Science, no. 5975, p. 228
- Wu, GD, Chen, J, Hoffmann, C, Bittinger, K, Chen, Y, Keilbaugh, SA, Bewtra, M, Knights, D, Walters, WA, Knight, R, Sinha, R, Gilroy, E, Gupta, K, Baldassano, R, Nessel, L, Li, H, Bushman, FD, & Lewis, JD 2011, ‘Linking long-term dietary patterns with gut microbial enterotypes’,Science, no. 6052, p. 105