Your gut, contains more bacteria than there are cells in the entire human body by a ratio of 10:1, which means we are technically more bacteria than we are human! Infact there are approximately 100 trillion microorganisms living inside the human gut – which has the surface area equivalent in size to a tennis court! I’ll admit this may sound pretty hard to wrap your head around, but it’s these very statistics that dictate the function of each and every cell, organ and body system – including your metabolism! So the question begs, have we been looking in all the wrong places when it comes to the secret to losing weight? In my opinion, yes! And counting calories and pounding pavements is not the answer to long term weight loss. Sure, reducing your overall intake of the wrong foods and exercising more can go a long way to helping your weight loss efforts – but these factors in isolation are not the key to effective long term weight loss – as many health experts would have us believe. The real key lies in the bacteria living within our small and large intestine – or gut.
Recent research has revealed that the bacteria living within our gut play a significant role in determining our risk of developing obesity and diabetes. So how do these gut bacteria determine whether we get fat or not? Well there are a variety of strains of bacteria that live within our gut – around 400 to be precise – some good, some bad. But when the balance of our gut bacteria tips in favour of the bad guys, (including the overgrowth of a pathogenic (bad) fungus known as Candida Albicans), the mechanisms that determine how our body stores fat and regulates glucose levels in our blood, along with how we respond to hormones that regulate our appetite, becomes discombobulated. In essence the wrong composition of microbes within our gut, can help set the stage for obesity and diabetes from the time we pass through our mother’s vaginal canal during birth!
How our body’s can be programed for obesity and disease from the time we’re born
Babies born to mothers with an imbalance in their gut flora colonies and not breast-fed, are more likely to develop unhealthy colonies of gut bacteria themselves. It’s these early differences in gut flora that may predict whether a child will become overweight and or obese in the future. Furthermore, babies delivered by cesarean section and / or are bottle fed formula, have a higher risk for developing obesity and diabetes than babies who are breast-fed and delivered through a vaginal birth. One explanation for this, stems from the fact that substances contained in breast milk that help to maintain healthy levels of beneficial bacteria and limit colonization of harmful species, are not present in baby formula. Another interesting finding in a recent Canadian study, revealed bacteria in the guts of babies who were formula fed, were not present in breast-fed babies until the introduction of solid foods. According to researcher Dominguez-Bello, the presence of these particular bacteria before the gut and immune system has matured, may be one explanation these babies are more susceptible to allergies, asthma, eczema and celiac disease, as well as obesity.
Studies have also shown that the composition of the gut flora differs in people who are obese and diabetic, compared to people who are of a normal weight. In studies of twins who were both lean or both obese, researchers found that the composition of gut bacteria in lean people included a wide variety of bacterial species – a little like having a wide variety of plants within your garden, vs just a few. On the other hand, the composition of gut bacteria in obese individuals was less diverse.
One of the reasons why some people may possess a wider variety of good bacteria colonies within their guts, is thanks to the presence of a protein known as toll-like receptor 5 (TLR5). This particular protein acts to keep levels of bad bacteria in check, or from getting out of control. A study published in Science magazine demonstrated how mice that lacked this bacteria within their gut, were more likely to develop diabetes, obesity and fatty liver disease when they were fed a high-fat diet. The same study also revealed that excessive levels of bad bacteria within the gut, caused low-grade inflammation in the mice, causing them to over eat and develop insulin resistance – the stage preceding diabetes.
Other studies have revealed that changes in our gut flora can increase the rate at which we absorb fatty acids and carbohydrates, and increase the storage of calories as fat. Put simply this means that someone with an excess of bad bacteria within their gut, could eat the same amount of food as someone with a healthy balance of gut flora, yet gain more weight because they absorb more calories from their food.
What we eat is also extremely influential in determining the balance of our gut flora. This is where the saying ‘We are what we eat’ really comes into play. If you consume a diet high in processed foods, you’re more likely to have a far less diverse variety of good bacteria living within your gut, and this translates to a much higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity.
Other factors that contribute to unhealthy gut flora:
- Leaky gut caused by:
- Antibiotics and other medications like oral contraceptive pill birth and NSAIDs
- High sugar diets and processed foods
- Gluten from wheat and processed vegetable oils
- Chronic infections
- Chronic stress
Now, I’m not suggesting that poor gut health alone is the single cause of obesity and diabetes, but I am suggesting that it is a very likely contributor – especially considering that the increasing diabesity epidemic has coincided with the prevalence of factors that disrupt our gut flora.
So what’s the best way to maintain and restore healthy gut flora?
Even if your mother may have had unhealthy gut flora colonies when you were born and / or you were not breast-fed, or you were born via caesarian, it is still possible to restore a healthy balance to your gut flora colonies and prevent or overcome weight problems and type 2 diabetes by following these steps:
- Remove all inflammatory and toxic foods from your diet
- Include dietary sources of fermentable fibre – starches like sweet potato and pumpkin
- Take a high-quality probiotic each day
- Eliminate any intestinal pathogens (such as parasites)
- Get plenty of quality sleep – the hours before midnight are the most important & most people function best with 8hrs per night
- Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life, including meditation, yoga, Tai Chi etc
If you’re keen to overcome any digestive conditions, including IBS, Candida Albicans infection (eg: chronic thrush), food intolerances, seasonal allergies, autoimmune conditions, or you simply want to lose weight and regain your energy, then why not sign up to my next 6WK online program, starting September 3rd and I’ll guide you through exactly what you need to do!