Nutrition

Does Obesity Start In The Gut?

We are constantly trying to find out how to get and stay thin. We spend billions on fitness and diet products searching for the cure for obesity. Many blame genes, poor eating habits and a sedentary life style which definitely have a contributing factor, but there is another area to look at that many have overlooked in the past; the intestinal bacteria we have in our gut.

A new study done on microbial bacteria in our gut shows that it may play a key role in breaking down and eliminating fat, balancing our hunger hormones, and keeping our glucose levels in check. This all translates into having a great effect on our weight. Without the right bacteria doing what they do best in our gut, we could be battling obesity on the losing side.

Good Bacteria in the Gut

Our body is full of tiny microorganisms that work in miraculous ways on our overall health. The largest concentration hangs out in our large intestine. These little microbes vary widely in their type and job description. According to this new study done on intestinal bacteria, the more diverse the microbes are in the person’s gut, the lower their body weight. Those with fewer amounts or kinds of bacteria were prone to obesity. This study also proved that by introducing new bacteria to the gut, you can reverse the effect and lose weight. The bacteria in our gut communicates directly to the brain sending messages of satiety and hunger control, insulin response, and gastric emptying.

It’s no surprise that the types of bacteria one has in their gut is closely tied to their diet. People who regularly eat processed foods will have less healthy bacteria in their large intestine, slowing their ability to process food as energy and causing them to become obese. The Western style diet, including a diet high in fat and refined carbs and low in fiber, can interrupt any development of healthy bacteria in the gut.

Another determining factor would have little to do with choices one makes. These factors include the choices that parents make. A study showed that children born of a C-section had significantly higher chances of becoming obese because of the lack of traveling through the birth canal where the baby would have swallowed bacteria from the mother. This bacteria would later become a wealth of microbes in the gut keeping that person lean. Breastfed babies will also have more obesity fighting microbes in their stomach from the mother’s milk as opposed to formula fed babies. The lack of these bacteria in babies bodies not only make them more susceptible to obesity but also to asthma, allergies, and eczema.

good bacteria in the gutAntibiotics used in children are also considered a reason many grow up with a lack of good bacteria in the gut. These antibiotics that are prescribed usually for an infection of some kind, kill the bad bacteria as well as the good. A study showed that the amount of prescribed antibiotics to children directly coincided with obesity percentages in the area.

Antibiotics can also be ingested through meat from cattle or other animals treated with antibiotics. Eating plenty of these meats or being over-prescribed with antibiotics can lead to a disbyosis of the gut, or a dysfunctional gut microbial environment. This can make the body better at extracting energy from food, so even when you cut back on your caloric intake, you can still put on weight. The metabolism is slowed and weight gain increases.

Inflammation in the Gut

Eating the Western diet, which effects your gut bacteria negatively, will also cause inflammation in the gut which will inevitably cause a chain reaction of a more negative bacterial flora in the gut. Ti will also lead to more stored fat, weight gain, and insulin resistance. Inflammation in the body is also known for causing not only incredibly easy weight gain but also type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, dementia, and cardiovascular problems.

Ways to Enrich Your Microbial Power

yogurt as probioticsJust as our diet can cause a lack in healthy bacteria in our gut, we can reestablish a diverse environment of microbial flora in our digestive system by changing the way we eat. Yes, it might be cheaper and more convenient to eat a Western style diet or boxed microwave dinners, processed foods, and fried snacks, but it won’t help you stay lean and healthy in more than one way.

There are probiotics in a capsule form but the absolute best way to get your microbial count up in your gut is by eating foods that provide natural probiotics and foods known as prebiotics, setting up the stomach to absorb the probiotics. These foods include fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and yogurt as probiotics, and asparagus, garlic, beets, and beans as prebiotics. Eating a diet rich in these foods and cutting way back on fatty and sugary carbs as well as processed foods will create a strong colony of bacteria that will help you stay slim and healthy. There are many probiotics that are mainstays in different cultures around the world. Here are a few for you to try:

  • Miso soup has been used in Japan to help regulate the digestive system. It is traditionally made from fermented beans but can also be made from fermented rice, barley, or rye.
  • Kefir is a popular drink in India made from fermented grains and goat’s milk. It can be found in Indian restaurants with different flavorings like mango and strawberry. It can also be found in many international grocery stores.
  • Kombucha is fermented tea that is made from mushrooms. Its origins are unknown. The Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian all have their own versions but it has grown in popularity in the US and can be bought bottled in most major grocery chains.
  • Tempeh is a grain of fermented soy. It is a great choice for vegetarians to get their probiotics.
  • Poi comes from Hawaii and is made from smashed taro root. Even though poi isn’t considered a probiotic per se, it still contains a high amount of healthy bacteria. Unfortunately you can’t get this anywhere but in Hawaii or in a Hawaiian’s home.
  • Microalgea is basically ocean algae bought in a powder form or a pill and include spirulina, chorella, and blue-green algae.

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Shaw Academy

Updated: Oct 20, 2015

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