Well folks, it's the traditional weight-gain time of year. From Halloween candy to New Year's h'ors d'oeuvres and champagne, many of us pack on 5 lbs or more during the holiday season. Weight gain caused by indulging in excess calories is a common means of gaining weight, but did you know that bacteria in your gut can influence weight gain (and loss) as well? [All references listed at the bottom of the page]
Have you known people who can eat whatever they want and not gain an ounce? Some lucky suckers have a bacteria in their guts called Christensenella which seems to chomp up junk food before it can have any effect on the love handles. People who have this bacteria in their gut (outside of any inhibiting factors such as chronic dysbiosis, an imbalance in gut microbes) typically don't gain an ounce during the holiday indulgence season and don't have to spend time logging calories into an app. For the last couple years, I've joked about "borrowing" the poop of people who have this rare and wonderful bacteria in their guts and introducing it into my own. Now it looks like I won't have to go to such extremes. Cornell has applied for a patent for this lovely bug and so, maybe someday, we'll be able to take it in pill form (or an enema, which is often a better option for ensuring lab-grown probiotics arrive safely in the colon).
So, what do we do in the meantime if we're not one of the lucky gut lottery winners walking around with Christensenella to keep us thin? If you've tried several means of weight loss with little to no success, you likely have some gut bugs that cause you to put weight on more easily than others, bugs that produce their own fat inside your body (yep, they're a thing!), or bugs that are sooooooo efficient at metabolizing carbs that you extract more calories from food than the next person.
And what if you're deficient in gut bacteria that produce chemicals that make you feel full? How do you know when to stop eating? Gut microbes play a huge role in weight. As you can see, it's a very complex system with a variety of possible influences on weight regulation. What's causing weight gain for one person may not be the same issue for the next. We all have a different variety of microbiota, all with different metabolic capabilities. As I say over and over, your gut microbiome is as unique as your finger print which is why what works to help one person lose weight has little to no effect for another.
The key to sustainable weight loss lies in the gut. Having the right microbes, reducing the ones that work against you, and balancing the overly enthusiastic good guys are game changers for those who have struggled to reach or maintain healthy weight.
So then how do we achieve this slimming microbial wonderland? You've likely heard a hundred times that fiber helps with weight loss, but do you know why? Is it because fiber makes you feel full, or is it because fiber is food for good gut microbes? Fiber is indeed food for gut microbes...but not just the good ones. Some pathogens enjoy consuming fiber as well. How then do we feed the good but not the bad? The key is reducing pathogens before beginning the feeding process. Undesirable microbes can be reduced with certain supplements (be careful with the use of herbal and other natural antimicrobials - they can indeed kill the good guys along with the others) but they can also be reduced with the right kind of probiotics. Sometimes a careful combination of both natural antimicrobials and true probiotics are necessary to make the shift from a fat-producing microbiome to a fat-reducing microbiome.
Then what about diet? Does diet really matter? Of course diet matters! Diet matters no matter what health issue you're dealing with. What you put in your mouth (and on your body) influences your gut microbes for better or worse. If you eat a low-fiber, high-fat diet for an extended period of time, you risk starving certain beneficial bacteria. I'll show the results of my gut sequencing before and after keto so you can see how it affected my gut (it wasn't pretty) in an upcoming post. The same goes with any extreme diet - you'll make some microbes happy and destroy others. Do you have to use extreme diets, grossly restrict calories or starve yourself in order to lose weight? Absolutely NOT and I don't recommend doing so.
Stress is another factor that can really wonk-out your microbiome and cause weight issues. Stress chemicals destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut and allow pathogens to overgrow. It is vital to decrease stress and repair gut damage from past stress in order to heal your body.
Exercise - is it necessary? No. You don't have to "exercise" in the way we have to come to define it (hours in the gym, treadmill, aerobics, heavy weight lifting) to lose weight. However, humans were not designed to be sedentary creatures and so movement is absolutely necessary. It can simply be walking. Or it can be rebounding on an indoor sports trampoline while binge-watching Outlander (confession). Your microbiome functions better if you spend most of your day in some sort of movement, even if it's moving around the house cleaning, cooking, fermenting, gardening in the backyard, etc. For those who work office jobs, stand and do a few jumps or squats at your desk if you can. Move your arms. Move what you can. For those who cannot move very much, investing in a MedMassager (a vibrating massager) can stimulate the gut (and all joints in the body!). I use mine on a low setting directly on my lower abdomen. If you can swing for the foot massager and the body massager, it's a magical combo.
[ As a side note, if you're experiencing pain (esp. joint pain) on its own or with weight gain, you may have intestinal permeability ("leaky gut") and that must be addressed and healed in order to achieve your health goals. ]
If all of this sounds complex, it's because it is. But it's not as difficult as it sounds. In my coaching programs, I explain how to repair the gut lining, reduce pathogens, balance the microbiome, neutralize the toxins that may be causing a lot of your issues, and eat healthfully without starving yourself.
While in my coaching program, people have come off medications, increased mood, lost weight, healed chronic issues and changed their lives. You can, too.
My coaching sessions range from an information-only (no follow ups) session for $99US to a 6-month intensive with regular check-ins for extra support and gut refining along the way for $999US. If you've read this post, I would like to offer you a two-for-one on the 6-month intensive coaching package. You and a partner (spouse, friend, co-worker, stranger you stopped on the street) can change your lives together for the cost of only one. Email me for more information.
REFERENCES and Further Reading:
Fiber-Famished Gut Microbes Linked to Poor Health
Reduced Dietary Intake of Carbohydrates by Obese Subjects Results in Decreased Concentrations of Butyrate and Butyrate-Producing Bacteria in Feces
Sorry low carbers, your microbiome is just not that into you, by Jeff Leach
Child Weight Gain Trajectories Linked To Oral Microbiota Composition
Interplay of Gut Microbiota, Probiotics in Obesity: A Review.
Influence of High-Fat-Diet on Gut Microbiota: A Driving Force for Chronic Disease Risk
Intestinal microbiota and obesity (PubMed)
The gut microbiota in human energy homeostasis and obesity
The role of Gut Microbiota in the development of obesity and Diabetes
Insights into the role of gut microbiota in obesity: pathogenesis, mechanisms, and therapeutic perspectives
Human gut microbiota in obesity and after gastric bypass surgery
An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest.
Human gut microbes associated with obesity