We live in a time when all sorts of diets are marketed to us. It is often done at the expense of starving our bodies of valuable nutrients and eventually doing more harm than good.
But what if your ability to lose weight has as much to do with your diet, as it has to do with the health of your gut. A team of scientists at Harvard seem to think there is a direct correlation!! So let’s try and understand this a bit better, should we?
How could gut bacteria affect our weight?
Your gut is literally teeming with trillions of bacteria (called the microbiome). These bacteria help break down food and absorb nutrients from the food. But there is a secret battle going on in your gut. This is the epic showdown between the bad bacteria and the good bacteria. And who wins this battle, is entirely based on your actions!
Overweight people tend to have more of a type of bacteria called firmicutes (aka the bad guys), which convert food to calories at a higher rate than bacteroidetes (the good guys!), which is another type of bacteria that everyone else seems to have more of. As per scientists, it is the balance between these two types of bacteria that could have a direct impact on your ability to lose weight.
So, the truth is, it's less about eating a certain amount of calories each day than about correcting the overgrowth of bad bacteria, with the help of a corrective diet. These bad bacteria make you crave unhealthy fatty foods, which in turn trigger inflammation. Inflammation can result in an increase in appetite and insulin resistance, which then further increases unhealthy food cravings. It is a vicious cycle!!
So, the next obvious question is…
How can we improve our microbiome balance and shed the desired weight?
Optimal gut balance begins with your diet. To do this right you can follow the principle of “Weed, Feed and Seed”.
To help the good bacteria win the battle against the bad bacteria, you need to arm it with the right kind of food. You start with weeding out food that feeds the bad bacteria, such as processed foods, animal protein, artificial sweeteners, alcohol and unhealthy fats.
The next step is to feed the good bacteria. To do this you REALLY want to eat a diet with lots of fibre, healthy protein, and healthy fats. And finally, you need to seed the good gut bacteria by eating probiotic-rich food that helps to diversify the gut microbiome.
So to put it in a nutshell. To improve your gut health and help with weight loss follow these steps:
- Eliminate processed foods high in saturated fat and refined sugar, alcohol and increase the intake of good fats from foods such as avocados, seeds, nuts and coconut oil.
- Eat foods high in fibre such as leafy greens, vegetables, whole grains or supplement your diet with supplements that contain dietary fibre, such as inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic fibre that feeds the good bacteria (Remember you need to arm them with the right kind of food to win the battle)
- Diversify your microbiome by including fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir in your diet. Another way to increase the good bacteria is to supplement your diet with probiotics. Remember, always choose supplements that have a diverse range of strains in them and that are stomach acid resistant.
So, there you go! Before you embark on any diet, make sure that you have a healthy gut, or the fact is that all the effort you put into your diet and exercise might potentially be wasted.