Are gut bacteria the answer to weight loss?

Have you ever pledged to lose weight in January? Many of us have. In fact, surveys show that it’s one of the most common resolutions—with a third of people vowing the drop the pounds once the festive season is over.

With this desire comes an opportunistic bevy of fad diets, ‘detox’ drinks and other spurious weight-loss methods. We’re taught to believe that the next quick fix is just around the corner.

Sadly, this isn’t the case. 

An individual’s diet, lifestyle and unique metabolic needs all impact their ability to lose or gain weight. Emerging research demonstrates that the health of our gut plays an integral role in weight loss, suggesting that changes in our gut bacteria may be linked to the development of obesity too.  

In other words, there’s more to weight loss than just diet and exercise. Reaching and maintaining an optimum weight involves a complex interplay between the gut microbiome, food choices and an individual’s response.

 

How are gut bacteria linked to weight loss?

Our gut bacteria influence weight management in several ways:

1. Our microbes are involved in how we process our food, including how we absorb and utilise nutrients. Having the right gut bacteria ensures these processes are functioning optimally.  

2. Gut bacteria are vital in determining how our gut absorbs and stores calories. Research has indicated that obese individuals have similar microbiome profiles that are more efficient at extracting and storing energy from the diets.

3. Our gut bacteria are involved in activating certain brain-sensing pathways that regulate appetite and dictate when we’re full. They even play a role in influencing insulin sensitivity.

4. Gut microbes are linked to inflammation, and inflammation promotes fat storage. Fat cells can then trigger inflammatory mediators called cytokines that attack healthy organs, tissues and nerves. This leads to a host of inflammatory processes that promote fat accumulation.

So, if you’re trying to lose weight, it’s worth paying attention to your gut health too. Here’s where to start:

gut bacteria and weight loss link info graphic

DO: Incorporate healthy fats into your diet

Healthy fats have anti-inflammatory properties.

Good choices include salmon, avocado, nuts and seeds. These are are all high in essential fatty acids, which help to support gut integrity and promote weight loss.

 

DON’T: Eat trans fats

These tend to be referred to as ‘bad fats’. They’re found in processed foods, such as biscuits, cakes and fried foods.

This form of fat isn’t natural (in fact, it’s derived from industrial processes). When it’s eaten, it can inflict havoc on the balance of our gut bacteria.

 

DO: Think about a long-term approach to health

Developing a long-term approach to health and wellbeing is the best way to ensure you meet your weight-loss goals.

Add more whole foods into your diet, find an exercise buddy and learn to incorporate simple healthy swaps for your favourite treats. Try spiralised vegetables instead of pasta, and opt for homemade cacao balls instead of sugar-laden chocolate bars.

 

DON’T: Fall for quick-fix solutions

Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet when it comes to weight loss.

Short-term fixes, fad diets and juice cleanses will often leave you deprived of key nutrients and feeling fatigued.

 

DO: Aim for a diverse range of plant-based foods

The bacteria in our gut flourish on a diverse range of plant-based foods.

Aim to include lots of colour and variety when it comes to leafy and cruciferous vegetables. This supports healthy microbial composition, supporting weight loss as a result.

 

DON’T: Eat low-calorie or no-calorie sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners or low-calorie foods are often marketed as being a good alternative for dieters. Unfortunately, these foods are highly processed and contain many questionable additives.

Whilst the research isn’t conclusive, these highly processed foods are thought to actually cause more side effects, including weight gain.

DO: Work with a registered practitioner

Reviewing your microbiome test results with a Registered Nutritional Therapist or Functional Medicine Practitioner is the best way to ensure you are meeting both your nutritional and weight-loss goals.

Supplements may also be necessary, but bear in the mind that not all supplements are created equal. Your practitioner will be able to prescribe a high-quality supplement plan that is suitable for your needs.

 

DON’T: Avoid all treats

Enjoying your favourite food or having a piece of cake to celebrate a friend’s birthday is completely OK when it comes to weight loss.  

In fact, research shows that those who indulge every now and then actually lose more weight as they are more inclined to maintain their healthy eating plan over a long-term period.

 

DO: Add in more fibre

Fibre is important for weight loss as it makes you feel fuller for longer. Aim to eat at least 30g of fibre daily.

This can come from vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, beans and legumes. In the gut, fibre draws in water to form a soft bulky stool (poop), which promotes healthy bowel function.

 

DON’T: Eat lots of refined sugar

Refined sugar fills the body with empty calories, spikes our blood sugar and promotes insulin resistance. This causes us to crave and eat more of those sugar-laden carbohydrates.

If you have a sweet tooth, try to choose naturally sweet foods such as whole fruit. Berries are a great choice as they’re low in sugar but still contain essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.

 

It’s important to remember there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to weight loss.

Working with a Registered Nutritional Therapist or Functional Medicine Practitioner—who can draw from your microbiome test results, symptoms and a detailed personal health history—is the only way you can truly determine if your gut health is out of balance. They can then create a personalised plan and recommend supplements that are best suited to your unique needs.

 

For gut-healing recipes that promote weight loss, download our free e-book here.

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