When you think of the word “germs,” you probably associate the term with illness, disease, and other unpleasant things (like when someone sneezes in your personal space – isn’t that the worst?). But what you may not know is that germs have a good side, and having a healthy colony of friendly bacteria in your gut may be far more important for weight loss than we ever even thought.
My Oh My, Would You Look at that Microbiome?
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to health news this past year or so, you’ve probably heard the word “microbiome” come up at least a few times. Microbiome research is essentially the study of an individual’s “germ profile” – each of us has a unique print that can govern our susceptibility to illness, weight loss, genetic conditions, etc. And new research is beginning to show that the genetic diversity of germs in your gut could play a significant role in how obesity develops.
But let’s back up a second and talk about why bacteria is so wonderful (yes, wonderful). Having a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut is what keeps you from dying when you catch a cold — it helps the body fight off illness and build immune resistance to foreign agents that enter your body. The bacteria levels in your gut can become compromised, however, when you take a lot of antibiotics, have a poor diet, or drink a lot of alcohol, among other things.
So, How is This Related to Weight Loss?
Several studies published over the last few years have shown that people with diverse bacteria in their guts are less likely to have markers associated with increased risk for obesity-related conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Findings have also revealed that people with low diversity in gut bacteria tend to have higher levels of adiposity (fat) and insulin resistance.
Another study recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that certain probiotics – supplements that add more “good” germs to the gut – helped women who were on a weight-loss diet shed even more pounds than women who were on the same diet but not taking probiotic supplements. The women taking probiotics lost an average of 10 pounds (while the other women lost an average of 6), and they continued to lose weight even after the weight-loss phase was over.
Exactly how healthy gut bacteria affects weight is complicated, but probiotics can help build up the intestinal wall, which keeps inflammatory agents from entering the bloodstream and contributing to the reactions that cause insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Another theory is that “bad” gut bacteria can hinder fat oxidation, which will prevent the body from burning fat effectively.
So, What Do I Do?
According to Dr. Frank Lipman, building a better microbiome will not only detoxify your body and keep you slim, but it will also protect your immmune system and keep you free from disease. Here are three things you can do to love your gut:
1. Get dirty. One way to exposure yourself to friendly microbes is to get your hands dirty – literally. Mow your law, do some gardening, and get some fresh air. You’ll connect to trillions of microbes that will help out your immune system. It also doesn’t hurt to ditch the hand sanitizer. Lipman explains:
“Sure, we’re “clean,” but we’re also severely limiting our exposure to a wide diversity of microbes, whose presence in our guts (and on our skin) have a protective, immunity-boosting effect. In other words living in a HAZMAT-suit lifestyle so many of us take comfort in, may actually be our undoing, making us less able to fend off illness and disease – which is the opposite of what all that cleanliness was supposed to do in the first place.”
2. Watch your diet. Foods that mess with your microbial balance include sugar, wheat, processed foods and those with GMO ingredients, says Dr. Lipman. Also avoid factory-farmed meats that are often loaded with gut-disrupting antibiotics.
3. Take probiotics. In addition to avoiding antibiotics for any sort of minor health problem, you can protect your microbiome with probiotics. This will keep your gut full of beneficial organisms that aid in digestion, elimination, immunity, and weight loss.
“Look for probiotics that deliver 20-50 billion live organisms per dose and contain a combination of different strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria,” Dr. Lipman says. “Be Well Probiotics contain the 5 best-researched, most viable and stable strains bacteria known today. Take probiotics as directed, once or twice a day, preferably with meals.”