Your gut microbiome is an inner ecosystem that lives in your gastrointestinal tract. It consists of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. The microorganisms in your body outnumber your own cells 1.3 to 1. Diet is one of the most significant factors in determining your microbiome.
Keeping your gut microbiome healthy is crucial because it affects your digestion, blood sugar level, immune system, and, essentially, your weight1Sender R., Fuchs S., Milo R. (2016, August). Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLOS Biology. DOI:10.1371/journal.pbio.1002533. Over the last decade, researchers have realized2Davis C. D. (2016, July). The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity. Nutrition Today. DOI:10.1097/NT.0000000000000167 the major part gut bacteria play in whether someone is obese or lean.
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One study3Lee S., Sung J., Lee J. E., et al. (2011, October). Comparison of the Gut Microbiotas of Healthy Adult Twins Living in South Korea and the United States. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. DOI:10.1128/AEM.05490-11 compared twins where one twin was overweight and the other lean. Researchers found the overweight twin had fewer amounts and less variation of healthy gut bacteria compared to the lean twin. It’s like the obese twin’s gut was a simple garden with only a few dominant species, whereas the healthy twin’s gut was a wild forest teeming with an abundance of life.
What else in your body is affected by the gut microbiome?
A diversity of good bacteria improves4Krajmalnik-Brown R., Ilhan Z. E., Kang D. W., et al. (2012, February, 24). Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. DOI:10.1177/0884533611436116 your ability to produce and absorb nutrients, increasing your energy. When you have enough energy, you are less likely to overeat or snack on fatty and sugary foods.
Inflammation can cause5Ellulu M. S., Patimah I., Khaza’ai H., et. al. (2016, March 31). Obesity and Inflammation: The Linking Mechanism and the Complications. Archives of Medical Science. DOI:10.5114/aoms.2016.58928 weight gain and make it more difficult to lose. There is evidence linking inflammation and the gut microbiome. Studies6Hakansson A., Molin G. (2011, June). Gut Microbiota and Inflammation. Nutrients. DOI:10.3390/nu3060637 show that overweight individuals have higher inflammatory markers and lower gut bacteria diversity compared to non-overweight individuals. Furthermore, harmful types of gut bacteria can create chemicals that cause inflammation. Good types of gut bacteria, on the other hand, may stop inflammatory chemicals from passing from your gut into your bloodstream, decreasing inflammation and assisting weight loss.
Your gut and brain are intimately connected. Your stomach has even been called the “second brain.” You’ve probably had the experience of feeling queasy when anxious or getting butterflies when excited. What you may not know is that the connection goes the other way too. The bacteria in your gut produce chemicals7Sudo N. (2019, April 25). Role of Gut Microbiota in Brain Function and Stress-Related Pathology. Bioscience of Microbiota, Food, and Health. DOI:10.12938/bmfh.19-006 that send messages to your brain.
There are two key ways the chemicals produced in your gut affect weight:
Several studies show people who eat a high-fiber diet8Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021, January 6). Dietary fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983 have a healthier gut biome and lower body weight. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. While insoluble fiber is essential for your health, it’s a soluble fiber that affects your gut microbiome. Multiple studies show eating soluble fiber leads to good gut bacteria diversity, leading to a lower risk of belly fat.
Some great sources of insoluble fiber are beans, oat, apples, pea, barley, carrot, and citrus fruits. If you eat a wide range of whole plant foods, you will have good gut bacteria diversity.
Other foods may cause unhealthy bacteria to grow in your gut. Sugary foods, artificial sweeteners, and saturated fats promote harmful bacteria. If you’re craving a sweet treat, go for dark chocolate. Polyphenol-rich foods, like dark chocolate and red wine, are broken down by good gut bacteria, promoting their growth.
A healthy gut can help promote weight loss and improve overall health. To build a better gut microbiome, cut back on sugary, fatty, and salty products and eat more high-fiber whole plant foods.
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