If you’re one of the nearly 70 percent of adults in America who struggles with their weight, you probably don’t need us to tell you that losing those extra pounds isn’t as simple as it seems. Low-fat, high-fat, all carbs, no carbs—the number of fad diets and supposed “quick fixes” out there are endless, but they often don’t work and usually leave us feeling frustrated and hopeless.
It should be easy, right? Decrease calories and increase calorie expenditure, and the weight should just melt off. Mathematically, the “eat less, exercise more” formula is easy enough to understand, but in reality, our human bodies are incredibly complex, and we have to take much more into account than just how much we eat and exercise when it comes to sustainable weight loss.
Although many factors play a role in your weight—what you eat, how you sleep, your stress levels, and your lifestyle, to name just a few—the foundation of your metabolism actually resides in your gut. And, supporting your gut health from the inside out may be just what you’ve been missing in your weight management efforts.
What is Gut Health?
When we talk about gut health, we aren’t referring to the size of your waistline. In fact, we’re not even talking about any of your human cells or organs—we’re speaking about all of the microorganisms in your digestive tract that make up your gut microbiome.
Yes, it’s true—your body is home to trillions of microbes, most of whom work on your behalf to keep you healthy. Among many other things, the beneficial bacteria in your gut work to help support your digestion, immune system, and restful sleep, and they can even help maintain positive emotions.
In fact, these probiotic friends are key to so many bodily processes; it’s no wonder that they help support our healthy metabolism and weight management as well. Here’s how:
• Supporting blood sugar levels already within the normal range. Proper blood sugar balance is critical to a healthy weight. Why? On the one end, fluctuating glucose levels can lead to unhealthy food cravings for sugary foods that will give us a quick energy boost. At the other end of the spectrum, excess glucose gets stored as fat, but an influx of insulin (in response to the extra glucose) turns off our body’s signal to burn that fat. Studies indicate that our friendly flora help keep our blood sugar levels where they belong by increasing our body’s sensitivity to insulin and increasing insulin secretion when necessary1.
• Encouraging nutrient absorption. Our good guy gut bacteria work hard to help break down and digest all the foods we eat, and they produce short chain fatty acids, enzymes, and vitamins that are integral to the digestive process. But, without enough friendly flora to do the job, we can’t absorb all the valuable nutrients we need—no matter how healthy our diet is. When we aren’t absorbing our food properly, even though we are eating plenty of calories, our body never feels satiated and we are constantly hungry and craving all those missing nutrients. Research shows that an unbalanced microbiome (lacking in beneficial microbes) can even lead to malnutrition2.
• Supporting hormonal balance. The good microbes in our gut help to support many of our body’s hormones, like leptin, a hormone made by our body’s fat cells that determines our feelings of fullness. Ideally, leptin is supposed to signal our brain that we are full and should stop eating, but our body can become resistant to leptin, and our brain—thinking we are starving—tells us to eat, eat, eat! The good news? Helpful microbes support our body’s leptin sensitivity, enabling our brain to get the “I’m full” signal3.
• Discouraging stress. Stress can wreak havoc on our weight and overall health. You see, not only can stress majorly deplete the beneficial bacteria in our gut—leading to issues with digestion, nutrient absorption, hormone regulation, and weight—but stress often causes us to overeat carb-heavy comfort foods that will give us a temporary (and calorie-rich) mood boost. Fortunately, friendly flora can help reduce levels of cortisol, the “stress” hormone, and they produce a vast majority of our body’s serotonin, the “happy” chemical4.
Probiotics and Healthy Weight Management
So, we know some of the “how” when it comes to microbes and their effect on our weight, but how do we know that this relationship has any practical significance? Luckily, you don’t have to take our word for it—research shows that probiotics can support healthy weight management.
In one study, women taking daily probiotics for six months saw significant body weight and fat mass reductions compared to women taking a placebo5. In another recent review of 2,000 adults, researchers discovered that consumption of probiotics reduced both BMI and weight in subjects, especially for those taking multi-strain formulas for at least two months6.
Scientists still have much to discover when it comes to the microbiome and the many ways it can support our weight management and metabolism, but they do know that people who are overweight tend to have different microbial compositions than people who don’t struggle with weight issues7. The reason could be that certain less friendly microbes (usually abundant in overweight individuals) produce massive amounts of short chain fatty acids, which can contribute to daily calorie absorption.
The good news is that adding in probiotics to your health regimen is a simple way to support proper microbial balance in your digestive tract, which can help you maintain healthy weight management and metabolism.
Maintain Your Gut Health, Keep Your Lovely Waistline
If you want to keep your metabolism going strong, research shows that taking care of the microscopic friends in your gut is your best first step. Here are our tips for living a gut-healthy life:
1. Nurture your gut. A healthy gut environment will enable your good guy microbes to flourish so they can get to work supporting your weight management goals.
• Take a high-quality daily probiotic formula like Hyperbiotics Better Body to treat your gut to billions of beneficial bacteria that can work to support your metabolism at its very core.
• Load up on fermented foods for a powerful probiotic feast. Kombucha, sauerkraut, and kimchi are all great sources of friendly flora.
• Feed the probiotics in your gut with prebiotics, indigestible fibers that are your belly bugs’ favorite food source. Indulge in honey, oats, bananas, asparagus, and onions—and add in a daily prebiotic powder supplement for maximum support.
2. Stay away from probiotic killers. Unfortunately, today’s society is rife with chemicals, toxins, and medications that are deadly to the good bacteria in your gut.
• Avoid antibiotics when possible, both as medicine and in the food supply—they indiscriminately wipe out the good guys along with the bad, depleting your precious microbiome and making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
• Steer clear of antibacterial cleaners and chemicals, which also kill the good bacteria trying so hard to set up shop in your body. Look for natural cleaners like gentle soap, water, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar.
• Limit your exposure to environmental toxins. Not only do these harm your beneficial microbes, but they can also disrupt your hormonal balance, which is critical for staying at a healthy weight.
• Skip the artificial sweeteners! Although often used in drinks and snacks to quickly cut calories, non-caloric artificial sweeteners can have disastrous effects on your microbiome and your glucose metabolism8.
• Focus on a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods, and aim for at least 60% fruits and vegetables.
3. Get active and stress less. We know that stress impacts the microbiome, and research shows that physical activity benefits more than just your muscles.
• Engage in moderate exercise. Studies show that active people have more diverse, healthier microbiomes than those who are sedentary9.
• Relax your body and mind with meditation, yoga, or your favorite stress-busting practice—your microbes will thank you!
• Get outside and enjoy nature for a healthy dose of bacteria. Exposure to all kinds of microbes in the environment helps keep your immune system strong, and getting outside can help you unwind after a busy day.
While diet and exercise are important facets of healthy weight management, we must take a holistic approach when it comes to supporting our body’s metabolism. In fact, in recent years we’ve learned that one of the reasons that diet and exercise are so integral is because of their effect on our microbes! That’s why taking care of your gut health and nourishing your beneficial bacteria so they can fully support all of your intricate metabolic processes is foundational when it comes to experiencing vibrant health and sustainable weight management.References:
1. Samah, S., Ramasamy, K., Lim, S. M., & Neoh, C. F. (2016). Probiotics for the management of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 118, 172-182.
2. Blanton, L. V., Charbonneau, M. R., Salih, T., Barratt, M. J., Venkatesh, S., Ilkaveya, O., . . . Gordon, J. I. (2016). Gut bacteria that prevent growth impairments transmitted by microbiota from malnourished children. Science, 351(6275).
3. Everard, A., Lazarevic, V., Derrien, M., Girard, M., Muccioli, G. G., Neyrinck, A. M., . . . Cani, P. D. (2011). Responses of Gut Microbiota and Glucose and Lipid Metabolism to Prebiotics in Genetic Obese and Diet-Induced Leptin-Resistant Mice. Diabetes, 60(11), 2775-2786.
4. Kato-Kataoka, A., Nishida, K., Takada, M., Kawai, M., Kikuchi-Hayakawa, H., Suda, K., . . . Rokutan, K. (2016). Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Applied and Environmental Microbiology doi:10.1128/aem.04134-15
5. Sanchez, M., Darimont, C., Drapeau, V., Emady-Azar, S., Lepage, M., Rezzonico, E., . . . Tremblay, A. (2013). Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. British Journal of Nutrition, 111(08), 1507-1519.
6. Zhang, Q., Wu, Y., & Fei, X. (2016). Effect of probiotics on body weight and body-mass index: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 67(5), 571-580.
7. Ley, R. E., Turnbaugh, P. J., Klein, S., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). Microbial ecology: Human gut microbes associated with obesity. Nature, 444(7122), 1022-1023.
8. Suez, J., Korem, T., Zeevi, D., Zilberman-Schapira, G., Thaiss, C. A., Maza, O., . . . Elinav, E. (2014). Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature, 514(7521), 181-186.
9. Clarke, S. F., Murphy, E. F., O'sullivan, O., Lucey, A. J., Humphreys, M., Hogan, A., . . . Cotter, P. D. (2014). Exercise and associated dietary extremes impact on gut microbial diversity. Gut, 63(12), 1913-1920.
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.