Updated: Apr 26
The microbiome seems to be a source of exciting research and study lately. I am constantly getting sidetracked and losing myself in studies exploring new research about those little creatures that call our bodies home. I have already touched on their role in my article about adolescent gut health but have decided to go into a bit more detail with respect to their newly emerging role in weight management.
As I excitedly explained the topic of this article to my husband he stopped me and asked, “What the heck is a microbiome”? Good question. Your microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria in your body, the majority of which are found in your digestive tract. It is home to trillions of microbes that help govern nearly every function of the human body. A healthy microbiome has a positive influence on your immune system, mood, digestion, hormonal balance, inflammation, cognition, autoimmune disease, weight and in many other areas.
Several studies caught my eye.
One compared the intestinal bacteria of lean and obese individuals and it was clear that microbiota of the lean people was diverse and large, while the microbiota of the obese people was not as diverse.
In another study, scientists transferred bacteria from the guts of two strains of mice – one lean and one obese, into a third strain, which was raised to have no gut bacteria. When they transferred the gut bacteria from the obese mice the bacteria-free mice became fat, and the bacteria-free mice that got the bacteria from the lean mice stayed lean.
My favourite is the human twin study. Scientists took 4 obese women and their lean twins and transferred their intestinal microbes into specially bred bacteria-free mice. The mice ate the exact same diet. The animals that received the microbes from an obese twin gained more weight and had more body fat than the mice that received the microbes from the lean twin. The interesting part is that they repeated the experiment but put all of the mice together. When they did this all of the mice remained lean! This showed that the mice with the obese bacteria somehow picked up some of the lean mouse bacteria (most likely from consuming their feces). Am I suggesting that we eat the poop of our lean neighbours – absolutely not. Is this interesting information – yes!
What is very important to note, is that your diet has a direct effect on the type and amount of bacteria in your gut’s microbiome. High fat, processed diets led to an increase in the bacteria associated with weight gain and a decrease in the bacteria (Lactobacillus species), which is associated with weight loss and fat loss. Strategies to increase Lactobacillus species have shown anti-diabetic and anti-inflammatory effects in type 2 diabetes. (1)
As the connection between the microbiome and weight and diseases such as type 2 diabetes becomes more evident we can make efforts to ensure a healthy and diverse microbiome:
This starts at birth, the process of which, allows for inoculation from our mother’s vaginal flora through the process of being born
Breastfeeding provides us with specific nutrients which the new bacteria need to grow and diversify
By avoiding antibiotics as much as possible we can reduce the chances of wiping out our important microbiome
Eating a healthy diet, emphasizing prebiotic foods (non digestable, oligosaccharides) which feed our good bacteria such as vegetables, whole fruits and beans like adzuki beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, amaranth, buckwheat, sauekraut, kimchi and quinoa.
Take a good quality probiotic daily.
Signs that your microbiome may be off:
Poor immunity – frequent colds and flus
Digestive disturbances – gas, bloating, IBS, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, reflux
Anxiety and depression
There are many different contributors to weight gain some of which I discuss in my article Hormonal causes of weight gain. Getting adequate sleep, exercise and eating the right foods are foundational. Supporting the microbiome though, seems to be an essential step towards reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
To learn more about my 8 week weight loss program book a complimentary 15 minute consultation with Dr Marika Berni.
1. Lecomte, Virginie et al. “Changes in Gut Microbiota in Rats Fed a High Fat Diet Correlate with Obesity-Associated Metabolic Parameters.” Ed. Pratibha V. Nerurkar. PLoS ONE 10.5 (2015): e0126931. PMC. Web. 28 May 2018.
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