Losing Weight by Improving Your Digestive Tract Good Bacteria

Want to Lose Weight?  Help Your Friendly Intestinal Bacteria Thrive!

Why are livestock given low levels of antibiotics to fatten them up? One way of adding more fat to an animal (or to a person for that matter), is to alter the gut bacteria, which the antibiotics do very well. It turns out that there is intimate connections between the bacteria that populate your digestive tract, how much fat you have in your belly and what your risks are for diabetes and other maladies.

Obesity is not just about consuming too many calories; it is also about how you treat your friendly digestive tract inhabitants. There is a scientific revolution occurring in understanding the enormous impact the bacteria in the digestive tract plays in obesity and overall health. Studies in animals have found that altered gut microbiota (bacteria) contributes to low grade inflammation, impact the permeability of the digestive tract leading to higher levels of cell wall fragments from certain gut bacteria (lipopolysaccharides) and have a huge effect on obesity and risk for diabetes. It appears that gut bacteria can determine the physiology of adipose (visceral fat) tissue and directly impact obesity. Gut microbes also influence the metabolism of cells in tissues outside of the intestines (in the liver and adipose tissue) and thereby modulate lipid and glucose balance, as well as systemic inflammation.

The importance of these finding can’t be overstated. Human studies have found significant differences in the bacterial populations in obese or diabetic individuals compared to normals. The complexity of the microbiota system with over a trillion bacteria and one hundred times the genomic information than the human body, has presented a great challenge to scientists that is only now being unraveled.

The good news is that you can have a significant impact on your digestive tract microbiota through diet and avoidance of certain over the counter medications, thereby controlling your risk for obesity and diabetes.  A good first step is following the suggestions in The Adaptation Diet.

Put simply, to control your weight and reduce risk for diabetes and other major disease, you want to eat not only for yourself, but also for your helpful probiotic friends residing in your intestines.  Odd as this may seem, we have evolved with this enormous ‘organ’, (the same weight as the liver), over the generations to provide us with vitamins like Vitamin K and B vitamins and fatty acids like butyrate which are crucial for the health of every cell. In addition, these good bacteria help us detoxify our own hormones including estrogen and other sex hormones protecting us against cancer triggered by excess sex hormones. Maybe of most importance, the good bacteria serve as another barrier to protect us against the thousands of toxic substances found in food and water.

The question is, how do we make these friends happy? No surprise, the most important thing we can do is to have a high fiber diet. 30-35 grams of fiber a day including soluble fiber from beans, broccoli and other chewy vegetables, and oatmeal, provide what is called "prebiotics", to stimulate growth of good bacteria. Next is to limit the simple carbohydrates, sugars, and white flour which induce excess yeast growth in the gut and impact the microbiota. High fat and high sugar diets have been shown in several animal studies to alter gut microbiota and induce inflammation and obesity. Many medications are not the friends of the good bacteria-antibiotics and directly reduce the gut bacteria allowing for overgrowth of inflammatory bacteria; acid blocking medications (PPI’s H2 Blockers) inhibit the normal defense of stomach acid and trigger abnormal gut bacteria growth; anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen) can increase intestinal permeability and add to inflammation and excess visceral fat growth.

In addition to fiber, the use of fermented foods with active probiotics including yogurts (organic is best), kimchee, sauerkraut and Kombucha is beneficial. In a recent study of 36 healthy women using active culture yogurt, it was found that compared to women not using fermented foods there was less emotional reactivity and a more balanced brain activity (functional MRI) in the yogurt eating group. The connection between the brain and gut is another example of how we can control weight gain by being less stressed through the consumption of fermented foods.

Beyond these food choices most people would benefit from supplementing with probiotic capsules. I use a multi-strain formula with my patients that include many of the best studied species: Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus salivarius, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Bifidobacterium lactis. Choose probiotics with these species that have a guaranteed count of at least several billion organisms.

Losing weight and preventing weight associated disease like diabetes can be achieved through easy to follow dietary suggestions found in The Adaptation Diet leading to not only a healthier gut microbiota, but also a healthier you.