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Is bacteria affecting your waist line?

So in case you missed out, the previous post explains why exactly you should care about the bacteria inside your gut and the effects it has on your health. Now obviously any bad effects to our long term health makes you take notice but what is of real interest, is the effect bacteria can have on our weight. We have probably seen on the news the study showing babies born by C-section are more likely to grow up obese. If you didn't and your interested you can read about it here. An interesting factor of this study is that they continued to show this correlation when siblings where born through different methods. Suggesting that the actual birthing method play a role in this link. Researchers suggested the findings may be related to differences in gut bacteria which start from birth. Babies born by vaginal delivery have exposure to different bacteria which are known to be beneficial.

Now a major study showing links between gut bacteria and weight is very exciting news for people struggling with their weight management. The bacteria in our gut has been shown to effect our mood and behavior but is this also affecting our food choices? Now bacteria are living beings and need nutrients to survive, which they get from us. Different bacteria want different things though, some want fats, some sugar, some fibre and vitamins and so depending on the balance and type of bacteria you have inside you, they and you have different needs. This diverse community of microbes may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. They also create more enzymes to aid digestion of certain types of food. For example if your microbes aid in the break down of sugar then you will digest more sugar and absorb those calories but if you had less of this bacteria those calories would pass right through you. So these microbes may have the ability to effect our digestion and our weight. Also, because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine (hormonal) system and the nervous system, signals could also influence our physiologic and behavioral responses. This could be giving us those bad food cravings!

So I do have some good news, you can change the make up of microbes in your gut at any time. Get everything back in check and ensure these bacteria are not sabotaging your weight loss plan. You can even expect to recognize some results in just a couple of days after making some simple changes.

  • Probiotics - Repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria, naturally or with supplements. Food sources include lacto-fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, miso soup, kefir, polenta and yogurt is also a great source. Though these need to be taken regularly for benefit.

  • Prebiotics - This is food/life for the good bacteria (opposite of antibiotics). Fibre is a great prebiotic which supports healthy bacteria, as it reaches the large bowel relatively unchanged. It is found in fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes, mainly all plant based foods. By also reducing the amount of sugar you are restricting food and support to the bad bacteria.

  • Minimize pesticide and antibiotic use - Obviously if it is medically necessary you need to take antibiotics, it would be dangerous not to. A good course of probiotics and prebiotics after a course of antibiotics can be beneficial in this case. However, there is a lot of pesticides and antibiotics in our food that can cause changes in our guts, so maybe think free-range and organic when you can.

  • Restrict processed foods - Aspartame, sucralose and preservatives have been proven to destroy healthy gut bacteria and can be found in many processed foods.

So how do you make this information fit into your life and ensure that you have perfect digestive health? For me this is a mixture of things, I personally love greek yogurt and I always go for the low fat option and try to eat it daily to maximise my probiotic intake. I aim to eat a lot of fruit and veg (fibre a prebiotic) to feed the good bacteria as well, and recognized that if I take antibiotics or go on a nice tropical holiday (lots of new bacteria on my food) things might go a little off track. Minimising the amount of processed food is a good idea for so many reasons, maintaining good digestive health is just another. If you want to to find some recipies and some great info (from scientific sources) I am a huge fan of the food medic, I use her books regularly and the educational hub is a great place to get up-to-date information based on science and research.


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