Digestion Connection: Body Weight is influenced by Your Gut

Many of my clients have goals to lose unwanted weight. They are expecting me to recommend more vegetables and less sugar but are surprised when we also start talking about their gut. The amount of fat your body holds is a complex matter.  It involves a perfect balance of many hormones, food, exercise, stress management, less toxins, inflammation and your microbiome – the ecosystem of microorganisms or bugs in your body, especially in your digestive tract or “gut”.  Your microbiome is intricately involved in digestion, detox, hormones, immunity, brain AND metabolism.

Inflammation and Metabolism

Inflammation results when your immune system attacks an invader (such as a virus, pathogen, and food allergy or sensitivity) and as it fixes damaged cells and tissues (like when you cut your finger). It’s the collateral damage of your immune system doing its important job.  Most of your immune system is in your gut so if an invasion strikes there – and it often does – your immune system reacts with inflammation. This can be from eating the wrong foods for your body and/or when your microbiome bugs are imbalanced, a condition called “dysbiosis.”  The resulting inflammation increases insulin and insulin stops fat burning and starts fat storage. This damages your metabolism, contributes to fat gain and makes it very hard to lose unwanted weight.  Fat cells also create inflammation which leads to more insulin creating a vicious cycle.

Furthermore, your imbalanced microbiome causes:

  • Your hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin to get out of whack. Now you’re hungrier and are challenged with portion control.
  • Increased cravings, especially for sugar and carbs.
  • Certain methane producing bugs can break down foods that we wouldn’t normally break down and are shown to slow transit time increasing the amount of time your intestines are exposed to food thereby absorbing more calories.
  • Estrogen dominance, which can also lead to weight gain.

How Your Bugs Get Out of Whack (Dysbiosis)

  • Born C-section
  • Antibiotics
  • Eating meat from animals fed antibiotics
  • Past stomach flus, food poisoning and traveler’s diarrhea (even if years ago)
  • Processed foods and artificial ingredients
  • Low fiber diets with too many refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, baked goods, etc.)
  • Regular sugar consumption
  • Stress
  • Eating fast and not chewing thoroughly
  • Parasite exposure from foreign travel, pets, swimming in fresh water lakes

Nurture your good bugs to fix your metabolism by consuming the following foods and supplements:

  • Probiotics – high quality blend of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium with Lactobacillus gasseri. I like Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Metabolic Formula.
  • Prebiotic rich foods to make short-chain fatty acids which increase metabolism and mitochondrial functional and protect intestinal barrier. Radishes, onions, leeks, garlic, cold potatoes, lentils, asparagus, plantains and green bananas, and supplement with inulin, arabinogalactans or butyrate.
  • Polyphenols from colorful fruits and vegetables – rainbow chard, red onions, carrots, bell peppers, purple cabbage, blueberries, raspberries – the more color the better.
  • Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, collard greens.
  • Herbs and spices such as turmeric, rosemary, oregano, cacao powder.
  • Organic, antibiotic-free beef, poultry and eggs.
  • Drink spring or filtered water.

Squash the bad bugs:

  • Following the “nurturing tips” above feeds the good bugs which out-crowds the bad guys.
  • Avoid sugar and processed foods with artificial ingredients, gums and emulsifiers.
  • Eat garlic – chop or press and let sit for 10 minutes before cooking to activate the anti-microbial compound.
  • Certain people may need to eradicate pathogenic or overgrown bugs with special anti-microbial herbs.

Two good books on this topic are The Microbiome Diet and the Belly Fat Effect.

Happy bugs = smooth running metabolisms = happy you!

Past posts in the Digestion Connection series:

How Stress Affects Your Gut

How Your Gut Affects Your Hormones


Disclaimer: Nutrition therapy is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, prescription, or cure for any disease, or as a substitute for medical care. Jen Marshall and Stacy St Germain are not licensed medical providers. Nutrition plans are not intended as a substitution for traditional medical care, nor should be interpreted as medical advice, but instead is an adjunctive and supportive therapy.