The average person has just shy of five pounds of bacteria in their bodies. Much of that is centralized in the gut. The gut microbiota (the bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the gut) control the obvious processes like digestion and the not-so-obvious functions like mood and weight gain.
The gut microbiome (bacteria, fungi, and viruses plus any genes in the gut that are affected by factors like health, age, sex, lifestyle, diet, medications, environment, etc.) can experience imbalances. These imbalances lead to inflammation (an underlying factor of chronic disease) and the inability to lose weight.
Metabolism: The Root of Gut Health
Many people trying to lose weight – especially that last bit of stubborn fat that seems impossible to lose – have experienced the “yo-yo dieting” phenomenon.
While studies are ongoing, early research indicates that popular restrictive diets can exacerbate imbalances in the microbiome. So, while the diet might work for a bit, it won’t give a lasting solution because it’s not fixing the underlying issue: A broken metabolism.
The gut produces energy that gets delivered to the rest of the body. If there are imbalances in the gut bacteria, the gut will become unhealthy, which will mean that it can’t provide sufficient energy to the rest of the body. As a result, the body goes into “preservation mode.” In this state, the body will refuse to lose weight, thinking it needs extra energy stores.
An imbalanced gut can also lead to an imbalance of hormones, particularly insulin (the “belly fat” culprit), estrogen, and thyroid hormones.
Improved Gut Health Helps to Promote “Good” Bacteria
Improving gut health (taking the body out of preservation mode and rebalancing hormones) means removing stressors to the gut and feeding the “good” bacteria as opposed to the “bad” bacteria.
Gut stressors include artificial flavoring, preservatives in packaged foods, and any foods that cause sensitivities in the body. These sensitivities are different for different people, but a good rule of thumb is to be wary of foods that consistently cause gas, bloating, belching, or allergy-like reactions.
After you remove stressors, it’s important to focus on feeding the “good” bacteria in the gut. These bacteria love healthy foods that are full of vitamins and fiber.
Fiber is a “prebiotic,” which means that the gut feeds off it instead of the mucous lining, an action that helps inflammation. In contrast, people wanting to lose weight need to limit the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria and yeast, which feed on sugar.
It’s important to note that the idea of gut health is a much more holistic picture of the body than simply eating more vegetables to lose weight. If you feel like you’re doing “all the right things” to lose weight and still struggle with stubborn fat, it might be time to talk to a doctor about the other components of your gut health that could be preventing weight loss.