Hey there. Heidi here. Are you happy with your weight?
As a fifty-something woman, for me it’s now a daily battle. I don’t know about you but fitting into my pants is super high on my list. I can’t afford to buy a new wardrobe every year. With a 5’3” petite frame, a 5 pound weight gain is a whole new size for me. This can happen almost over a weekend! And those expensive jeans I bought in January are almost too tight…again.
So I am on a quest. A quest to figure out WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?
And this isn’t easy. Our bodies are incredibly complex. Looking at weight management as a simple calories in and out equation doesn’t cut it anymore. While still important, it’s just WAY more complicated than that.
Our body systems are interconnected and different from one person to the next. And there are so many ways that a lack of balance in one area can show up on the scale tomorrow. In fact, difficulty losing weight can be a signal that some area of the body, such as the thyroid, is not functioning the way it should. Or our sleep habits may be in need of adjustment.
So lately, I’ve been researching the affect that our gut—yep that’s what it’s called–plays on weight loss. And why good bacteria flourishing in our gut may just be the key to wearing the same jeans for years!
Gut Bacteria 101
Did you know that we host more bacteria than cells in our bodies? Kinda gross, I know, and as strange as that might sound, we are now learning that these bacteria play a major role in maintaining health and weight loss. Scientists call this the human microbiome or the garden of micro-organisms that live within our gut. These little bacterial friends not only influence digestion, but can also affect immunity, mental wellbeing and a bunch of other things. In fact, science is just beginning to understand how “good” bacteria or “bad” bacteria, appears to play a role in how much fat we carry.
Bacteria and Weight Loss
So far it’s been found in both animal and human studies, that some bacteria play a role in raising our metabolism or “using up” calories from our diet. Imagine that. Its kinda like I eat and the good bacteria finish up the leftovers. (I want more of those!) In contrast, when they look at an obese person’s gut microbiome they find that the gut bacteria pull more calories from the food they eat to be stored as fat. Scientists call this “increased energy harvesting.” In a study on rats, for example, when the germ-free animals had “obese” rat gut bacteria put into their guts, their body fat increased significantly as compared to when they were colonized with “lean” rat gut bacteria. Got that?
And here’s the kicker. Did you know that chickens and cattle are fed antibiotics the last few weeks of their life to not only cut down on infections in feed lots but also to make them gain weight? That’s right. Getting rid of the bacteria fattens them up! Which is great for their bottom line. But maybe not so great for ours. Remember we eat the meat that might still be loaded with a detectible antibiotic residue. Which in turn may make us fat. Hmmm. Gets ya kinda thinking huh?
So if you are tracking with me here, this is where my brain went.
Limit antibiotic use. Check.
Can we just buy some of that “lean” type of bacteria in a probiotic supplement or something?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Here’s why.
Scientists are just beginning to understand how these little creatures live inside of us. Plus, with the widespread use of antibiotics, and a diet composed of highly processed foods and very little fruits and veggies, the composition of our gut bacteria isn’t as diverse as it should be. In other words, these “thin-body-making” gut bacteria aren’t surviving!
So while you can take a good bacteria probiotic supplement, if you don’t change your diet too, you’ll just starve out those good little guys that are trying to make a new home. They need lots of fiber from fruits and veggies to survive. So here is the new equation: GOOD DIET + GOOD BACTERIA = SKINNY JEANS
So here is what you may want to try.
- It can be helpful to consume at least one generous serving of fermented food per day. Im talking yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso and others.
- Eat a plant–focused diet with LOTS and lots of foods that have prebiotic fiber. This is the food that keeps those skinny-making bacteria alive. Foods like oatmeal, whole grains, asparagus, artichoke, beans, fruits, and leafy greens have prebiotic fiber. Google it!
- Eat less sugar and refined carbs made from white flour. This is because the bad bacteria thrive on this stuff and will get stronger, outgrow and kick out the good bacteria. If you crave sugar this may be a sign that you have too many of those bad bacteria having a party in your gut. Time to starve them out!
- When you can, choose meat that is raised without antibiotics. I try to buy organic when possible.
- And lastly it is wise to take a probiotic supplement always after antibiotic use and always in consultation with a nutritionist or medical professional.