Gut Bacteria for Weight Loss & Health and How to Stop Bad Bacteria
7 minute read
Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria. Because bacteria are typically associated with a disease, this may be alarming, but it actually is a good thing.
Most of these bacteria are friendly and help support a healthy digestive system. Since you are what you eat, these digestion-supporting bacteria can help promote a healthy weight or, conversely, contribute to weight gain.
There are harmful bacteria in your gut as well, but as long as a balance is maintained that favors the beneficial strains, your gut health will be optimal. The bacteria you want to support are responsible for producing essential vitamins as well as communicating with your immune system, thus helping with infections.
When it comes to your weight, these bacteria impact the digestion of foods and influence chemicals that make you feel full.
Gut Bacteria and Digestion
The majority of the friendly bacteria live in your large intestine, where most digestion occurs. As a major part of the digestive process, they affect nutrient absorption and energy utilization.
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Unbalanced gut microbiome can interfere with efficient digestion, so it is important to maintain optimal bacterial levels with probiotic supplements. As long as the balance is maintained, obesity or excessive weight gain can be avoided.
Studies have found that overweight individuals have different gut bacteria present in their digestive tract. Specifically, there was less diversity among the bacterial strains in those who were overweight.
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This indicates that greater numbers and more strains of bacteria are beneficial is keeping weight maintained. When bacteria from obese individuals were placed into mice, the mice gained weight, confirming the connection.
There also appears to be a connection between fiber content in your diet and weight control. The connection has to do with gut bacteria. Your body cannot digest all forms of fiber, but certain gut bacteria can.
When these are present in your intestines, fiber is more easily digested, and beneficial chemicals are produced to support weight loss. High fiber intake is therefore strongly associated with weight control via the actions of gut bacteria.
Within digestive processes, weight gain can also be influenced by fat and oxidative damage. Oxidative damage and inflammation caused by unbalanced gut bacteria contribute to excess fat storage.
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In addition to this, gut bacteria influence how fat is absorbed and stored in the body. Certain gut bacteria are able to digest powerful antioxidants, like flavonoids, which fight oxidative damage. This, combined with more efficient digestion and storage of fat, can help to keep your weight within healthy limits.
Weight Control by Feeling Full
Hormones, such as leptin, help to control your appetite, and gut bacteria can influence the production of these hormones. Certain bacteria release chemicals during the digestion and breakdown of fiber.
One such chemical directly influences the production of appetite-controlling hormones, thereby influencing your hunger. Probiotics containing the strains known to release these chemicals keep hunger down, reduce food intake, and can help with controlling weight.
The gut-brain axis is responsible for the communication between your gut bacteria and your brain. These chemicals travel to the brain, triggering a feeling of fullness.
It is thought that this behavior of the bacteria is a form of self-preservation. High intake of fatty and sugar-laden foods allows harmful bacteria to thrive.
When this happens, good bacteria become diminished and you are at increased risk for disease. Good bacteria help you to feel full, so you avoid the foods that will wipe them out.
No Inflammation, No Obesity
An unhealthy diet contributes to excess inflammation in your gut. Not only does your immune system become impaired, but a takeover by harmful bacterial strains can impact your weight, too.
Certain bacteria produce chemicals, like LPS (lipopolysaccharide), which causes inflammation and weight gain. Individuals with obesity were found to have lower bacterial diversity in their guts and increased inflammatory markers in their blood.
Just as there are strains that can increase weight gain, there are others that can reduce weight. Bifidobacteria is one such strain that protects the lining of your intestine and prevents inflammatory chemicals from entering the bloodstream.
In doing so, inflammation is reduced and unnecessary weight gain can be prevented. These actions also prevent leaky gut syndrome, which is known to contribute to inflammatory responses and problems with weight.
Helping the Bacteria Help You
To maintain the positive balance of gut bacteria, you can incorporate changes to your diet. Ensuring that the strains you want are in full force is the best way to promote digestive health and support a healthy weight.
High-quality probiotic supplements are an ideal way to make sure gut bacteria numbers remain high, especially after poor diet or antibiotics may have wiped them out.
In addition to probiotics, eating plenty of fiber is recommended to increase bacteria diversity and because digestion of fiber contributes to feeling full. Whole grains and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are the best sources for dietary fiber to let your bacterial friends thrive.
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and kefir contain beneficial bacteria strains. These active cultures add to the colonies already living in your gut, reinforcing numbers and supporting weight control.
How to Avoid Helping Bad Bacteria
Just as there are foods to support bacterial growth and gut health, there are foods to avoid. Sugary foods stimulate the growth of harmful bacteria that contribute to weight gain as well as health problems.
In the same boat are artificial sweeteners, which kill off your friendly bacteria, allowing the balance to tip in favor of those that will lead to high blood sugar as well as excess fat. Unhealthy fats also support the growth of disease-causing bacteria and should be avoided too.
The Bottom Line
The gut in your bacteria influences your health across several mechanisms. As main players in the digestive processes, the actions of your gut bacteria influence nutrition absorption, energy use, and weight.
With the right diet and probiotic support, your friendly gut bacteria can flourish, keeping digestion running smoothly, immune systems optimal, and your weight within healthy limits.