Gut Makeover


Good Housekeeping (Philippines) - - News -

Get Slim, Healthy, And En­er­gized

Our bod­ies are awash with bac­te­ria—around 100 tril­lion of them. They’re on our skin and in our mouths, but the vast ma­jor­ity are in our guts, where they’re col­lec­tively known as the mi­cro­biota. As well as en­abling us to di­gest food, they man­u­fac­ture vi­tal B vi­ta­mins and brain chem­i­cals such as sero­tonin, which main­tain mood and in­ter­act with our im­mune and ner­vous sys­tems. To­gether, they make up a com­plex and del­i­cate ecosys­tem that seems to be cru­cial to good health and main­tain­ing a healthy weight. So cru­cial, in fact, that the di­ges­tive sys­tem is now be­ing dubbed The Sec­ond Brain.

We know that there are a num­ber of genes that in­flu­ence ap­petite and weight. And while mi­crobes can’t al­ter our genes, they can mod­ify their ac­tiv­ity—switch­ing them on or off, up or down. These mi­crobes are, in turn, af­fected by what you eat. It’s now thought that the mix and di­ver­sity of our in­di­vid­ual mi­crobes may af­fect how hun­gry we are, how we store fat, the per­cent­age of calo­ries ex­tracted from dif­fer­ent foods and our sen­si­tiv­ity to in­sulin. This may ex­plain why two peo­ple can eat the same num­ber of calo­ries and ex­pend the same en­ergy yet not gain the same amount of weight.

Ground­break­ing ex­per­i­ments have shown that obese and slim mice have very dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions of gut bac­te­ria, and cru­cially, that the bac­te­ria seem to cause the obe­sity rather than the other way around. When bac­te­ria from obese mice were im­planted into the guts of slim mice, they gained weight de­spite eat­ing less. Other re­search on iden­ti­cal hu­man twins—one obese, the other slim—found that the leaner twins had far greater di­ver­sity in their gut mi­crobes—and more ben­e­fi­cial mi­crobe species than those twins who were obese.

It’s still the early days and we cer­tainly can’t say what the ideal gut looks like. There is no one-size-fits-all—ev­ery­one’s gut is as in­di­vid­ual as his or her fingerprint, with its own unique mix of bac­te­ria. How­ever, what is be­com­ing abun­dantly clear is that the key to a healthy body and a healthy weight lies in both the di­ver­sity and the num­bers of mi­crobes in the gut—and the way to build va­ri­ety and num­bers is through diet. “Think of your mi­cro­bial com­mu­nity as your gar­den,” says Pro­fes­sor Tim Spec­tor, au­thor of The Diet Myth. “You need to make sure the soil (your in­testines) that the plants (your mi­crobes) grow in is healthy, con­tain­ing plenty of nu­tri­ents. To stop weeds or poi­sonous plants (toxic or dis­ease mi­crobes) tak­ing over, you need to cul­ti­vate the widest va­ri­ety of plants and seeds pos­si­ble.”

In other words, the ideal diet is var­ied and highly nu­tri­tious—yet modern Western di­ets are packed with pro­cessed foods, su­gar, and re­fined carbs, and low in fiber and nu­tri­ents. And it’s not just a junk-food diet that takes its toll. A course of an­tibi­otics can wipe out ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria, and farmed fish, meat, and dairy prod­ucts of­ten con­tain an­tibi­otic residues that can also dam­age gut bac­te­ria.

The good news is that chang­ing your diet can boost the num­ber and di­ver­sity of ben­e­fi­cial gut bac­te­ria, and the changes start to hap­pen within days. With the help of Pro­fes­sor Spec­tor, we’ve de­signed a sim­ple four-week plan to give your gut a com­plete makeover.

Thought the only role of our di­ges­tive sys­tems was, well, di­ges­tion? The truth is that the tril­lions of mi­crobes liv­ing in our guts can af­fect ev­ery­thing from mood to im­mu­nity, and even weight loss. Get the bal­ance right and the health ben­e­fits can be amaz­ing.

Eat­ing a var­ied diet can im­prove your gut bac­te­ria—and your over­all health.

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