Heal Your Gut To Lose Weight

Feed­ing the bac­te­ria in your belly may be the key to drop­ping pounds. Liz Krieger in­ves­ti­gates.

Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Small can be very pow­er­ful—look­ing at you, split atom, mi­crochip, and mos­quito—and that def­i­nitely holds true when it comes to bac­te­ria in your gut. The 100 tril­lion tiny mi­crobes, aka gut flora, that call your di­ges­tive tract home play a piv­otal role in ev­ery­thing from your im­mune sys­tem to your di­ges­tion and your mood. How­ever, re­searchers are now con­vinced that there’s some­thing else your mi­cro­biome (your in­ter­nal mi­cro­bial ecosys­tem) af­fects—your weight.

“The gut is con­nected to ev­ery­thing,” says Mark Hy­man, M.D., di­rec­tor of the Cleve­land Clinic’s Cen­ter for Func­tional Medicine. “If your mi­cro­biome is out of whack, i.e., it doesn’t have enough good bac­te­ria or too much bad bac­te­ria, it can af­fect how your food is metabolised as well as lead to in­flam­ma­tion.” It’s a cas­cade of ca­su­al­ties: Bad bac­te­ria in the gut can trig­ger in­flam­ma­tion—in your skin, joints, brain, ev­ery­where—and send your body’s im­mune re­sponse into over­drive as it tries to rid the body of the bac­te­ria. This can lead to in­sulin re­sis­tance, which can pro­mote weight gain, says Hy­man. The the­ory is that more good bac­te­ria helps you process food more ef­fi­ciently and re­duces crav­ings.

We are ac­tu­ally all born with very lit­tle bac­te­ria in our guts, but through ex­po­sure that amount slowly in­creases. It varies wildly based on the type of birth (vagi­nal ver­sus C-sec­tion), en­vi­ron­ment (city ver­sus coun­try), and diet and life­style fac­tors. The av­er­age Amer­i­can to­day has a lot less bac­te­ria than in the past, mostly be­cause of a mod­ern-day diet that’s low in probiotics (live micro­organ­isms, in­clud­ing bac­te­ria) and pre­bi­otics, the fi­bres that feed probiotics, says Josh Axe, a clin­i­cal nu­tri­tion­ist and the au­thor of Eat Dirt. Top it all off with an­tibi­otic and hand-sani­tiser overuse, both of which wipe out vi­tal gut flora, and you have an im­bal­anced gut that could be caus­ing you to hold on to ex­tra pounds.

If it all sounds rather dire, con­sider this happy fact: Changes that you make to­day can very quickly—within a few days—be­gin to over­haul your mi­cro­biome pro­file, im­prove your over­all gut health, and help ef­forts to lose weight. Here’s your ac­tion plan. EAT CLEANER Avoid pro­cessed foods and items high in sugar and car­bo­hy­drates, says Axe. Stud­ies have shown that both sugar and ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers can de­crease good bac­te­ria lev­els in the gut. GET (WAY) MORE FI­BRE, IN­CLUD­ING PRE­BI­OTICS Fi­bre can lower blood sugar, re­duce choles­terol, and pro­mote weight loss, says Hy­man. What’s more, fi­bre slows the rate at which food en­ters your blood­stream and in­creases the speed at which it ex­its your body through the di­ges­tive tract, keep­ing you fuller longer. While all fi­bre is good, here are some great pre­bi­otic fi­bre sources: Jerusalem ar­ti­chokes, onions, gar­lic, and leeks, as well as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds. Aim for 25 grams a day, if not more. Or con­sider a fi­bre sup­ple­ment, says Hy­man. Try: PGX, a blend of kon­jac root and sea­weed fi­bres. IN­GEST MORE PROBIOTICS In one study, women who took probiotics for 24 weeks lost 51 per­cent more weight than those who didn’t. Yo­gurt and ke­fir prod­ucts con­tain live, ac­tive cul­tures, as do fer­mented foods like kim­chi, miso, and sauer­kraut. It’s also a smart bet to take a pro­bi­otic sup­ple­ment twice daily, says Hy­man. “Look for at least 25 bil­lion live CFUs [colony-form­ing units] from di­ver­si­fied strains of bac­te­ria,” such as lac­to­bacil­lus and Bi­fi­dobac­terium, he adds. CHECK YOUR THY­ROID There’s a com­plex in­ter­play be­tween your hor­mones and your gut and how they af­fect one an­other, notes Raphael Kell­man, M.D., an in­te­gra­tive and func­tional medicine physi­cian and the au­thor of The Mi­cro­biome Diet. Low thy­roid func­tion, in par­tic­u­lar, can con­trib­ute to gut slug­gish­ness.

The bot­tom line: Nur­tur­ing the ben­e­fi­cial crea­tures in your di­ges­tive tract may be the surest route to reach­ing your health­i­est weight. “Within a week of fol­low­ing a gut-friendly diet, you will no­tice a drop in crav­ings,” prom­ises Kell­man. “And you could be eat­ing the same amount of calo­ries as you were be­fore, but you will lose weight. In fact, you may be able to eat even more.”

Feel com­fort­able bar­ing your skin, even when you’re in the spot­light

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