Elite Living Nutrition – Can Altering Your Gut Flora Aid Weight Loss?
Multi-Award winning nutritionist Laura Warren explains how our diet affects our microbiota.
Laura explains that over the past few years, our understanding of the human microbiome has grown exponentially. These tiny tenants, especially those in our gut, are now known to play a critical role in our overall health, influencing everything from digestion and immune function to mental health. More recently, an intriguing question has been brought to light: could our gut flora also affect our weight? Let’s delve into the burgeoning field of microbiome diet and explore whether tweaking our gut flora could aid weight loss. Billions of microorganisms inhabit our bodies which play a critical role in our overall health, influencing everything from digestion, immune function and our mental health.
Our gut is home to a complex ecosystem of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, collectively referred to as the microbiota. The genes of these microorganisms, along with ours, make up the microbiome. The composition of an individual’s microbiota is as unique as their fingerprints and is shaped by various factors such as genetics, diet, age, and environment.
Research has consistently shown differences in the gut microbiota composition between obese and lean individuals. People with obesity tend to have a less diverse gut microbiota, and certain types of bacteria are either more or less abundant compared to lean individuals.
Some of these bacteria appear to be particularly proficient at extracting energy from food, meaning that individuals with a higher proportion of these bacteria might absorb more calories from their food, contributing to weight gain. Furthermore, an imbalanced microbiota, known as dysbiosis, is associated with inflammation, which is believed to interfere with weight regulation and promote obesity.
Laura explains that by eating a diet that is rich in the consumption of fibre-rich, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. These foods are high in prebiotics, which are fibers that our body cannot digest but serve as food for our gut bacteria, stimulating their growth and activity.
There are two broad categories of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance, which can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oats, peas, beans, apples, and citrus fruits.
Insoluble fiber, on the other hand, does not dissolve in water. It adds bulk to the diet, helping prevent constipation by moving material through your digestive system more quickly. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and vegetables like cauliflower and potatoes are good sources of insoluble fibre.
For gut health and weight loss, another classification is perhaps more relevant: fermentable and non-fermentable fiber.
Laura encourages the intake of probiotics, but to source them naturally from our food to benefit from the live beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (which is Laura’s favourite) Both prebiotics and probiotics are thought to help increase the diversity and functionality of the gut microbiota.
Laura takes a holistic approach to weight management with all her clients. She educates her clients on the importance of good gut health which can potentially support weight loss and overall health but she reminds us that it’s crucial to remember that while a healthy gut plays a vital role in the field of nutrition and weight management, a diet rich in diverse, whole foods benefits not only us but also our microbial allies.
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