Your digestive tract contains about 1,000 species of bacteria. Why should you care? It turns out that having a healthy balance of those bugs can help you lose weight and bust cravings for fattening foods. Consider this: Right now, as you’re sitting there, there’s a battle raging in your belly. Some 1,000 species of bacteria are duking it out, trying to establish dominance.
Why should you care? Because whether the good bacteria in your gut or the bad triumph doesn’t just decide how well you digest your dinner, respond to allergens and fend off diseases, it also helps determine how much weight you’re likely to gain or lose.
Simply put, if you get the microbiome, that collection of bacteria inside you healthy, you will lose weight. It’s less about eating a certain percentage of carbohydrates, protein and fat than about correcting the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, which is making you crave the wrong foods, triggering inflammation.
A flurry of ground-breaking findings is helping to connect the dots about how our gut bacteria may shape our shape. In a study in the British Journal of Nutrition, obese women who took a probiotic supplement (of the bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus) lost twice as much weight and fat over about six months and were better at keeping it off as those who took a placebo. Probiotics may have helped by controlling the women’s appetites, which seem to have waned as their microbiomes changed.
Unhealthy gut bacteria also produce food cravings: A study published in BioEssays suggests that some microbes may drive us to eat doughnuts or another tempting treat. These gut bugs send chemical messages to the brain that sway our appetite and mood, perhaps making us feel anxious until we gobble a square of dark chocolate or a T-bone steak.
Fortunately, we can begin to take control by feeding our microbiome the right foods. “I tell my patients, ‘The bacteria follow the food,'” says gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, MD, founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Md., and author of Gutbliss. “What we eat dictates the kind of bacteria we grow in our gut garden.”
This is big news: There are trillions of microbes in your belly that will, if you feed them well, help you fight flab and win.
Get Your Two P’s – Basically, it all begins with probiotics and prebiotics, components of food believed to play an important role in improving gut health. Probiotics are a type of good bacteria, like the ones that already reside in your gut. Ingesting these organism’s aids digestion and helps change and repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance what doctors refer to as “gut flora.” Prebiotics are plant-fibre compounds, also found in food, that pass undigested through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and help stimulate the growth of good bacteria. When pre- and probiotics are combined, they become an intestinal power couple.
Fermented foods deliver probiotics directly to the gut. A cup of yogurt a day? It’s a nice start. Look for products that say, “live and active cultures” on the label, and be careful when it comes to fruit-infused flavours: Some are loaded with sugar, which can feed bad bugs, so be sure to check the ingredients and aim for fewer than 15 grams per serving. For even more probiotics, try Greek yogurt or kefir, a tangy dairy drink that’s packed with good bugs.
A 2011 Harvard study found that yogurt was more strongly linked to weight loss than any other health food. In fact, people who ate an extra serving a day lost nearly half a kilogram every four years.Research shows that foods that are high in fibre help promote the growth of friendly bacteria. Case in point: In a University of Illinois study, people who ate high-fibre snack bars experienced a growth of anti-inflammatory bacteria in their bellies.
- What you don’t eat is every bit as crucial as what you do add to your diet. Keep your gut flora fit by cutting back on these offenders.
- Refined carbs – Fatty and sugary foods not only tend to lack fibre, which is ideal food for the microbiome, but can also cause bad bacteria to thrive. And let’s face it: If you’re pounding that bag of potato chips, chances are you’re not munching on celery sticks, blueberries and other gut-friendly eats.
- Animal protein – A diet heavy in fat and protein (such as meat and cheese) feeds a type of bacterium, Bilophilia, that has been linked to inflammation. Lawrence David, PhD, assistant professor at Duke University’s Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, saw the levels of this bacteria shoot up in study participants scarfing ribs and brisket, but not in those eating squash and lentils. Dr. Kellman suggests limiting red meat to once a week. It’s smart for your heart and hips!
Tiger Athletic is a private, appointment only strength & conditioning gym in the heart of Sandton. We offer tailor made, goal oriented fitness programs based on an individualised approach to health and fitness assessment, motivation and goal setting, coaching science and client education.
Your personal trainer Aubrey, is a Coaching Science graduate and holds a 6th degree black belt in Karate with 25 years experience as a high performance athlete and coach. He designs safe and effective exercise programs and provides the guidance to help clients achieve their personal goals through one on one’ or small group training.