Weight Loss Tips: Start With the Gut
Updated: Feb 6
Weight loss is not always as simple as calories in vs calories out. If it was only about calories, we’d be a lot more successful at losing weight and keeping it off.
So of course there’s more to the story! And it comes down to what’s happening in your gut. Your gut is a huge chemical factory that helps to digest food, regulate hormones, produce vitamins, and excrete toxins. What happens there affects your entire body, from your hormones to your metabolism.
If your gut microbiome is imbalanced, it can cause what is known as dysbiosis – meaning you have lower levels of beneficial bacteria and a greater number of opportunistic pathogens.
Gut dysbiosis has been linked to chronic diseases including autism, IBS/IBD, diabetes, allergies, autoimmunity, depression, cancer, heart disease, fibromyalgia, eczema, and asthma.
Poor gut health can also sabotage your weight loss efforts in 3 ways:
Dysregulation of hunger hormones.
Poor breakdown and assimilation of nutrients.
Existing bacteria cause inflammation.
GUT BACTERIA AND WEIGHT LOSS
Often referred to as the ‘second brain’, the gut directly affects the brain and brain signals, influencing hormones that signal hunger, appetite and satiety. Gut microbes are the key regulators of these signals and help control when and how much we eat.
Gut bacteria has an impact on nutrient metabolism and energy expenditure. If you are not effectively breaking down and utilizing nutrients, or if you have more “bad bacteria” or yeast than good bacteria, it can hamper your weight loss efforts and keep you from feeling your best.
What’s more, research has found that obese and lean people actually have different types of bacteria in their gut. In a 2016 study, researchers compared the gut microbiomes of obese and lean volunteers. The lean group had more diverse, anti-inflammatory gut bacteria. In comparison, the obese group had significantly more inflammatory gut bacteria and less bacterial diversity.
So how can you improve your gut to support sustainable weight loss?
It is estimated that 60% of the variation in our microbiota (compared to other people’s) is a product of your environment, including medications, diet and exercise. With that in mind, here are 3 steps you can take to improve your gut health and increase fat-burning microbes.
STEP 1 - DIET CLEAN UP
Focusing on diet is an important part of fixing the gut to support weight loss. A low-toxin, anti-inflammatory, high-nutrient diet will help good bacteria thrive and keep the bad guys at bay. Removing processed foods and opting for whole foods is the first step towards improvement.
Cutting out excess sugar and starch will also help to starve the bad gut bacteria. And when bacteria are “hungry,” you will burn more fat. This is because gut microbes make a hormone called fasting-induced adipose factor (FIAF) which tells the body to stop storing fat and burn it instead. To ramp up FIAF production, ditch the processed food products.
By cutting sugar and opting for fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you will increase those fiber-rich foods that provide prebiotics and polyphenols to feed the healthy gut bacteria.
You may also want to include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kombucha, and miso, all of which provide good amounts of probiotics so your healthy gut bugs can be fruitful and multiply. But be careful: not everyone tolerates fermented foods! Do not force them if you feel bad after eating them. Some people are especially sensitive to the histamines in these foods.
Emphasize nutrient dense foods - nutrient deficiencies often lead to a poorly functioning metabolism. Eating colorful foods that include antioxidants, protein, healthy fats and fiber will help to maximize available nutrients. Supplementing with omega-3 fats, magnesium, zinc and vitamin D and K2 may also be helpful to support a healthy metabolism as they are common deficiencies.
STEP 2 - RESTORE THE GUT
Cleaning up the diet in itself will help to support healthy digestion. However, you may also need digestive enzymes, bitters, lemon water, or apple cider vinegar to help effectively digest foods and assimilate those nutrients.
Adding a squeeze of lemon or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to water before meals can help to “prime the pump” and get gastric juices flowing for digestion. Of course, like anything, if you experience burning or pain discontinue use - it might not be right for you!
In addition to enzymes, multi-strain probiotics may be beneficial in protecting against fat accumulation and metabolic disturbances. Which gut bacteria cause weight loss? Some of the best probiotics for weight loss include:
S. boulardii: has shown a decrease in fat and in circulating inflammatory markers;
Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus: alters lipid metabolism;
Lactobacillus gasseri: linked with a decrease in body and belly fat;
Lactobacillus acidophilus: supports weight loss when combined with other weight-loss probiotic;
Lactobacillus rhamnosus: has been directly linked to weight loss.
Exercise can be an effective way to maintain the balance of the microflora or to rebalance dysbiosis. Research suggests that elite athletes have a higher gut microbial diversity, especially those bacterial species involved in amino acid biosynthesis and carbohydrate/fiber metabolism. These bacteria produce key metabolites for a healthy metabolism such as short-chain fatty acids.
A 2017 study, Differences in gut microbiota profile between women with active lifestyle and sedentary women, demonstrated that physical exercise “can modify the composition of gut microbiota” in a positive way. They also found that “body fat percentage, muscular mass, and physical activity significantly correlated with several bacterial populations.”
STEP 3 - REPAIR THE GUT LINING
Repairing, or “healing and sealing” the gut lining, is the final, important step in creating long-lasting improvements in gut health.
Intermittent fasting, or time-restricted feeding, allows for digestive rest which can be beneficial for the gut in many ways. First, bacteria have a circadian rhythm which means different bacteria species are more active at different times of day. Research has shown that time-restricted feeding partly restored the normal circadian cycle of gut bacteria, especially the species that involved metabolism and helped reduce body fat.
Practicing a 12-16 hour overnight fast also gives the gut the time it needs to restore its integrity. This is especially important for those with “leaky gut”, also called intestinal permeability, where the gut lining is weakened. This allows toxins, partially digested foods and pathogens to enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation.
In addition to intermittent fasting, I recommend zinc carnosine, among other supplements, for gut healing. Several studies support ZnC's benefits in restoring and maintaining the gastric lining and healing other parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Zinc also helps metabolize protein, carbs, and fat.
YOUR NEXT STEP:
In short, sustainable and effective weight loss demands a healthy gut. A balance of healthy sources of proteins, fats, fiber, and carbohydrates is the most important factor in maintaining good gut bacteria. Adding in time-restricted eating and regular exercise can also have marked improvement on your gut health. These are all strategies I help clients incorporate in both my FASTer Way to Fat Loss program and in my individual consults.
Click here to learn more about my FASTer Way to Fat Loss program if you're ready to improve your gut health and burn more fat.
Download my Guide to Better Digestion for more information on supporting good digestion.
Set up a complimentary 15-minute Strategy Call to learn which program is right for you.
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Cell Press. "Gut microbes signal to the brain when they're full." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2015.
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