The Gut Microbiome’s Fascinating Impact on Weight Loss

Calories in, calories out? If only the story around weight loss were so simple. This is Part 2 of a five-part series called Your Weight Isn’t Your Fault.

Today we are exploring the role of the microbiome.

You can’t see it, count it or sweat it out. But your gut microbiome plays a fascinating role in your ability to maintain a healthy weight.

It’s the “skinny bitch” phenomenon, finally making sense! Why can some women eat anything they want and not gain a pound while others look at a pizza and put on weight? To be sure, the skinny bitch might have some other significant health issues going on…but for today we’ll focus on the woman who is frustrated by her weight.

To understand, let’s first talk about the two main “teams” of bacteria inside the gut:

Team 1: The Bacteroides
They wear red, white and blue uniforms, always play fair, like to eat vegetables and remember to call their mom on Mother’s Day. I just made a lot of that up but you understand – these are the good guys. And they do, in fact, like to eat vegetables. This is the team that promotes good health. Why they’re called Bacteroides? I’m not sure but that’s science for you. Skinny bitch likely has a gut full of Bacteroides.

Team 2: The Firmicutes
Neither firm nor cute, The Firmicutes are related to obesity. They don’t have uniforms, I’m guessing. And they don’t play fair – metabolizing more calories no matter what you eat. They spit out vegetables and manipulate the behavior of their host (that’s you!) with cravings for sweets and junk food instead.

As you might guess, a person who has trouble losing weight is likely carrying around a gut full of Firmicutes, with relatively less Bacteroides. This shifted gut population is associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes.

In other words, no matter how many hours you spend at the gym, it’s your microbial balance that could be thwarting your efforts.

What causes a less-than-ideal gut microbiome?

– Your mother’s microbiome
– Being born by c-section or in a hospital
– Bottle fed as an infant
– Antibiotic use
– Genetics
– Stress
– City living environment
– Over-hygiene, use of bleach, etc.
– Age
– Anatomy of digestive tract
– Use of NSAIDS (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.)
– Disrupted circadian rhythm; lack of sleep
– Processed food
– Lack of movement/exercise

Women are not to blame for the powerful, obesogenic forces at play in our modern world. You were bottle fed, grew up in the city and take Advil for a week every month for cramps? Jenny Craig never told you it mattered. No one did.

Really, it’s all about gardening.

You can’t exactly pull the weeds of your microbial garden.

But you can starve out your Firmicutes by not eating sugar or processed food. A ha!

Then you can feed the Bacteriodes population with fresh, real foods including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans and additional fiber from flax seed or psyllium. You can eat a wide variety of seasonal foods to further help diversify your microbe population, as well as a couple Tablespoons of lactofermented veggies each day.

Sleep. Try to avoid painkillers like ibuprofen. Skip the antibacterial soaps. Get out in nature. Reduce stress.

Weight loss is one of the more tricky health issues to solve because it is so multifactorial.

Let’s be done with the days of “no pain, no gain.” In fact, the stress of overexercising (combined with processed diet food) sets up the gut for a lifelong struggle with weight.

That might be good for an industry that thrives on a woman’s discontent. But it’s not good for you.

It’s time to create a smarter strategy around weight loss:

Coming up next in this series…Part 3: A New Perspective on Hormone Disruption & Weight Loss.