The trillions of bacteria in our gut affect us much more than we realized.
In fact, we didn’t even know about gut bacteria until a hundred years ago, but for many decades science concluded that the bacteria didn’t affect our health.
Scientists thought they were like leaches, simply using us.
More recently, we’ve discovered this “biome” of bacteria is a much needed part of our bodily functions, and they have a huge influence on our moods, immune system health, and food cravings.
Some people have gut bacteria that cause healthy food cravings.
Other people gain weight even though they try diet programs, cleanses, and even exercise.
Exciting new research shows that we can boost our weight loss by changing our gut bacteria.
That’s because the bacteria break down food along with our stomach acid and even affect the kinds of foods we crave.
The balance in our gut biome
The bacteria in our gut are an ecosystem, which can be in or out of balance.
That’s not a strange idea. We have a balance of yeast on our bodies, and when it gets out of balance, we get a yeast infection.
It’s not that we don’t have yeast present on our skin normally. The problem arises when there’s too much yeast and not enough of other things.
Gut bacteria is a complicated balance too, and we’re just learning how much it affects us.
Gut bacteria produces substances that we absorb through our stomach and into our bloodstream, which affects our body chemistry.
When we eat, our gut breaks down our food. The bacteria actually helps with that, and some bacteria called Christensenellaceae are better at it.
Studies have found that people with Christensenellaceae tend to be slim, while lower levels of the bacteria Christensenellaceae show up in people who are obese.
If we have more of the bacteria that are good at breaking down food, we can lose weight easier.
On top of that, we’re learning that having a larger diversity of bacteria is good for our overall health and for losing weight.
In fact, a diverse mixture of microbes in the gut is one key to staying slim, according to Jeffrey Gordon, M.D., the director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at the Washington University School of Medicine.
A 2013 study found that lean people have 70% more gut bacteria and more variety than overweight people.
The good news is we can change our gut bacteria by eating certain foods.
What kind of “eating right” is eating right for gut health?
We know about eating right in general, but that usually applies to eating the right foods to nourish our body.
What about nourishing our gut bacteria? That’s a different and new way of thinking.
You can take 3 steps to massively change your gut bacteria and health to boost your ability to lose weight:
We know the high level of sugar in the American diet is hurting our health.
It also hurts your gut bacteria by actually starving the gut flora.
That might be one more reason by obese people have much less gut bacteria—and that creates a vicious cycle.
The sugar and bad diet hurt gut bacteria, and having less and/or the wrong kind of bacteria leads to craving unhealthy foods.
Bacteria need complex carbohydrates like whole grains in order to live and multiply.
When you get too many calories from sugar, corn syrup, and other sweeteners, the bacteria either die...or adapt to feed on the mucus inside your intestine.
When bacteria eat mucus off the stomach lining, it leads to low-level inflammation and obesity.
We can get too much sugar from just a couple of sugary drinks a day, but most people don’t stop there.
We often have mochas, sugar-loaded yogurt, alcohol, energy drinks, sports drinks, vending machine food, and other convenient yet unhealthy foods and drinks.
Of course, if you’ve been trying to lose weight, you’re most likely avoiding sugar.
The problem is sugar hides in our diet in juice, packaged foods, processed grains, and even health foods.
Read labels and look for ways to cut sweets from your diet. Switching to fruit will help cut added sugar and it’ll also add fiber to your diet.
Fiber is a huge factor in healthy gut bacteria, and we’ll talk about that soon.
After you cut sugar so you’re not hurting your gut bacteria, you can think about actually feeding the bacteria.
Feeding your gut bacteria is how to get the good kind that will break down your food more and help you supercharge your weight loss.
That’s where prebiotics and probiotics come in.
Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fiber compound.
Prebiotic compounds are found in foods like flaxseeds, seaweed, leeks, asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichokes, jicama, apples, bananas, and dandelion greens.
They pass through the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract and remain undigested.
Once they pass through the small intestine, they reach the colon, where they’re fermented by the gut microflora.
Eating prebiotics are like adding fertilizer to your garden to help it grow better.
You’ll feed the right bacteria, change your food cravings, and lose weight easier.
You can also add probiotics for better gut health.
Probiotics sound similar but are fermented foods that offer health benefits. These include foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso.
Yogurt is a probiotic rock star—just be careful to eat healthy yogurt, and not the flavored kind loaded with sugar.
You can add berries or fruit and get added benefits because the natural sugar in fruit doesn’t hurt us the way added sugar does, mainly because we’re getting fiber with it.
A landmark study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that yogurt was the food most strongly correlated with weight loss.
Adults tend to gain a pound a year after a certain age, but people in the study who regularly ate yogurt actually lost weight.
Eating more fiber is the #1 thing you can do to promote the right kind of gut bacteria and supercharge your weight loss.
That comes from Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D., an assistant professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University.
Fiber nourishes your microbes, making them more diverse, which was been proven to be linked to being slim.
But before you go stock up on those health foods with added fiber, be aware that it’s way better to get fiber from the source.
Eat vegetables, fruits, berries, and whole grains for your fiber.
Build up so your body can adjust (resulting in less gas), aiming for 2 to 3 servings of both produce and whole grains each day.
Your goal is to consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day.
This gives you the added bonus of prebiotics, and we learned those are the type of fiber that your gut bacteria flourishes on.
If you’d like more proof that fiber supercharges your gut health and weight loss, consider the Hadza Diet.
The Hadza tribe of Africa hunt and gather on the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania, and they eat enough fruit, root vegetables, and seeds to get 100 grams of fiber per day.
This group of people have the absolute best gut bacteria of anyone in the world.
For contrast, an average woman usually consumes 9 grams of fiber a day.
If you can mimic the eating habits of the Hadza, you can improve your gut bacteria by 20% within the first 72 hours.
But suddenly consuming that much fiber will have other results that you might not like.
Some people can go as high as 40 grams right away, but 25 grams a day is a reasonable goal that will nourish your gut bacteria and speed up weight loss.
The key is replacing many of the low-fiber foods you eat, like processed carbs, with fiber rich foods.
To get started, replace snacks and treats with fruits, berries, and vegetables.
You might also consider high fiber meals, and keep track of what you’re eating.
Here’s some meal and snack ideas to raise your fiber intake, which will benefit your gut bacteria and rev up your weight loss.
Here’s a delicious salad that heals your gut and offers 9 grams of fiber:
3 cups of mixed greens and sliced veggies
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup of crumbled goat cheese
1/8 cup of walnut halves and 2 Tbsp. of vinaigrette
Top with grilled chicken, salmon, or warmed beans—the bean will add an extra 6 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup).
*You might top with a little chicken or salmon and add beans too.
Drain and rinse white beans from one 15-ounce can. Toss with:
4 oz. shredded cooked chicken
2 oz. of crumbled feta
1 bunch of chopped parsley
1 pint of halved grape tomatoes
4 tsp. of minced garlic
2 Tbsp. of olive oil, 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.
For yummy soup, try Campbell’s Well Yes! Braised Beef and Black Barley, with 8 grams of fiber, or Amy’s Organic Lentil with 12 grams of fiber.
For snacks, an apple has 4 grams of fiber while an orange has 3.
1 cup of baby carrots has 7 grams of fiber.
For a dip, have 2 tablespoons bean dip, hummus, or guacamole, with 3 to 4 grams of fiber.
Are you ready to learn even more about how your food affects your health and lifespan?
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