Probiotics are all the rage right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Scientists continue to uncover evidence which shows that gut bacteria are absolutely integral at every level of functioning.
Some even say that it’s important to have healthy levels of specific types of gut bacteria to lose and maintain healthful weight.
But is this really true? Can the little critters running around inside your gut really affect your ability to lose weight? Read on to find out if probiotic health is the science-backed way to lose weight:
How the gut works
Research shows us that unhealthy gut bacteria can make you fat, increase the frequency and intensity of cravings, affect the types of food you crave, increase fat deposition and produce endotoxins which are responsible for increasing appetite and fat storage via hormonal pathways.
Now, the primary factor that affects microbiome health is what we feed them. Since gut bacteria live within us, that’s the same as what we feed ourselves. Beneficial bacteria love fiber and polyphenols. Basically, the stuff found in whole, high-fiber, plant-based foods.
Can probiotics help you lose weight?
Probiotics are often bantered around in healthy weight-loss discussions but, can they directly help your body lose weight and burn fat? If we look at the research, we see that the direct link between probiotics and fat loss is weak. One systematic review took a look at relevant research from 1946 to 2016 and came to the conclusion that the effect of probiotics on fat mass is quite insignificant.
Another systematic review paper published in 2016 came to the same conclusion stating that after analysis the data showed no significant effect of probiotics on body weight and BMI.
So, are probiotics worthless when it comes to fat burning? It’s hard to make such a blanket statement. Both of these research papers had trouble finding studies that met their criteria. The most recent review started out with 800 articles but only included 15 in their final paper and of those, the subjects only stayed on the probiotics for 3 to 4 weeks, which is too short a short time to fully evaluate how fat loss was impacted.
Secondly, when we take into consideration the positive effects that probiotics have on the gut microbiome, it’s possible to conclude that probiotics might have an indirect but intriguing impact on fat loss.
For instance, numerous studies show that the gut microbiome of obese people, differs from that of lean people and this study supports that statement by performing an interesting experiment.
The researchers performed gastric bypass surgery on obese mice and soon after surgery they noticed that the gut microbiome of the mice changed in a way that resembled that of the lean mice.
Intrigued, the researchers went a step further and transplanted the intestinal bacteria from the gastric bypass mice into a group of unaltered mice and the result was that those mice now rapidly lost weight.
Even if we can’t come to a conclusion about the immediate correlation between fat loss and the gut microbiome, probiotics are essential for proper immune system functioning and for the production of several important hormones. So a healthy gut is vital for your overall health, regardless of whether a probiotic supplement will help you lose weight or not!
What kind of probiotics should I buy?
When it comes to purchasing a probiotic, it pays to prioritize quality over price. That’s because cheaper probiotics usually contain sugars and/or a slim variety of good bacteria strains. The better brands have a wide spectrum of bacterial strains (a dozen or more).
If you’re going to make the investment of taking a probiotic every day to grow your gut garden, you’ll be best served if you eat in a way that fertilizes that garden. You can do that by eating prebiotic foods that are high in fiber, such as leafy greens, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Other goods that are great for your intestinal flora are fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and sugar-free full fat yogurt.
Probiotics are the seeds of your bacterial gut garden and prebiotics are the fertilizer. If you’re taking a probiotic, but eating a poor diet that is filled with sugar and lacking in fibrous plant foods, you’re taking one step forward and one step back.
Probiotics and losing weight
Over the past few years, tons of studies have come out extolling the beneficial effects of probiotics. We’re finding that they play a role in the development of heart disease, metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammation, hormone imbalances, thyroid under function and so much more. All of these factors can definitely influence weight gain or lack of weight loss.
But, this argument then becomes a “chicken or egg” scenario where you actually wonder what came first; the obesity or the imbalanced microbiome? Did a poor diet cause fat gain, or did it just feed the wrong bugs that make you fat? What’s the cause and what’s the effect?
The problem is the two are so intertwined that it’s difficult to dissect because it goes against our single-solution-oriented society.
Simply put, the health of your gut is interdependent on everything in your surrounding environment, your nutrition, and your lifestyle. Everything is dependent on everything else, and there is no one single thing that is going to fix all your issues and problems.
That’s why I am such a big proponent of lifestyle improvements as the best bang for your efforts. Improving what’s “normal” for you as far as your eating habits, your sleep quality, your stress management, and your exercise regimen is the only way to get healthier and stay that way!
If you’re ready to start making some solid improvements and permanent changes, contact me for some options. We’ll do it together J