Have you ever made the connection that your gut health might be causing you to gain, or stall your weight loss?
As a health and fitness coach I have many clients who come to me because they want to lose weight, but often what the main problem is, is that they have a gut health problem. Limited diets with lack of variety, and not enough fiber is doing more harm than they realize.
The Role of Gut Health
Gut bacteria play several important roles in your health, it affects your immune system and produces certain vitamins. Your gut bacteria can also affect how different foods are digested and produce chemicals that help make you feel full. As a result, they can affect your weight.
- Studies have shown that if the gut bacteria from obese people are put into mice, the mice gain weight. This suggests that particular gut bacteria could affect weight
- Another study examined the gut bacteria in 77 pairs of twins, one of whom was obese and one of whom was not. Coming back to the gut diversity we spoke about yesterday, the non-obese twin had a much larger range of gut bacteria than their obese twin who had fewer types of bacteria in their gut.
- A recent study found that the ratio of two types of bacteria in your intestines may determine how much weight you lose when given a particular diet. Meaning the same diet can affect people differently depending on the bacteria already in their gut.
The importance of Fiber
Humans can’t digest fiber but certain gut bacteria can. Most of us have heard of Probiotics, they are the good bacteria in our gut. Prebiotics are types of fiber the Probiotics feed off to survive.
The bacteria in our gut digest the fiber, turning it into beneficial short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. The more fiber you eat, generally the lower the body weight which is most probably due to the role that gut bacteria play in digesting it.
Your gut bacteria can also influence how dietary fats are absorbed in the intestines, which may affect how fat is stored in the body. It is thought that certain gut bacteria may inhibit the absorption of dietary fat, increasing the amount of fat excreted with feces, meaning you absorb fewer calories from the foods you eat.
Probiotic foods include a variety of plant-based foods, particularly sour and fermented foods
Some of the best probiotic foods include:
- Sauerkraut: A form of fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is full of probiotics created during the fermentation process. It can be bought in a jar from the supermarket, but freshly fermented is best, as it maintains the most nutrients. Read more in Everything you need to know about Sauerkraut
- Kimchi: This traditional Korean food is made using fermentation with cabbage and other veggies.
- Tempeh: A fermented soybean product that’s high in both protein and probiotics.
- Miso: A staple in Japanese cuisine, miso paste is commonly used as a base for soups and as a flavoring in many dishes. While rich in probiotics, it’s also high in sodium so it may be best used in moderation.
- Natto: An unusual food with a unique texture and flavor, Natto is made from fermented soybeans and is rich in probiotics.
- Kefir: A cultured, probiotic food typically made with cow’s milk. if you are avoiding dairy, you can opt for coconut or water-based versions instead.
- Yogurt: Both the dairy and non dairy (coconut yogurt etc) varieties. Steer clear of sweetened varieties because sugars can be bad for your digestive health.
- Pickled vegetables: Any kind of pickled veggie can provide probiotics as long as they’re unpasteurized. However, they can also be high in sodium if pickled in brine.
Hormones that affect you appetite come from you gut
Feeling full also comes from Gut bacteria. Your body produces a number of different hormones that affect your appetite, including leptin and ghrelin. Many people assume that it is because our stomach or intestines are stretched,” says Martin Blaser, director of NYU’s Human Microbiome Program and author of Missing Microbes. “We never thought that the bacteria we were carrying could be part of that signal, but this new work provides evidence that that is what is occurring.”
Many studies suggest that our gut produces hormones that tell our brain to either eat more or stop eating. Can gut microbes generate cravings? Can they make you feel unsatisfied until you eat the food they need for their own survival?
Too Much Stress affects your gut health too
High-stress levels can have harmful effects on the body. In the gut, stress can increase sensitivity, reduce blood flow and alter the gut bacteria
Not only does stress affect the physiological function of the gut, but it has also been shown to actually cause changes in the composition of the microbiota, possibly due to the changes in neurotransmitter and inflammatory cytokine levels.
Chronic exposure to stress may lead to the development of a variety of gastrointestinal diseases such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, IBD, IBS, and even food allergies.
At the end of the day, gut health is extremely important for many aspects of our physical and mental health, not just weight gain, emphasizing the importance of getting enough pre and probiotics via fermented and whole foods.
For more information, check out our 21 days to gut health program here.