Your diet goal for 2023 should include hacking your gut biome — here’s why
If your New Year's weight loss resolutions have stalled, consider your gut health. Last month, if you logged on to the r/nutrition subreddit, the buzzword “gut microbiome” popped up.
“A growing number of studies conclude that the gut microbiota is strongly [affects] Many aspects of our bodies – composition, weight, mood, mental clarity, etc.,” posted by u/Dr.Melbourne.
This guy probably has “Dr.” in his username, but Reddit isn't the best place to go for medical advice. We Asked a Real Doctor: What Is the Gut Microbiome?
It's “the collection of bacteria that live in your digestive tract,” notes Dr. Kenneth Brown, a gastroenterologist and host of the podcast “The Gut Check Project.” It may affect your weight loss goals.
“The gut microbiome … has been shown to affect metabolism and energy balance, suggesting it may be a key factor in weight loss,” Brown said.
Brown and other experts share why.
What's the Link Between Gut Health and Weight Loss?
Gut health and weight loss are intertwined.
“Your intuition is the gateway to optimal health,” says Dr. Amy Myers, a two-time New York Times Best-selling author and internationally renowned medical and functional medicine physician.
A 2018 study suggested that the composition of a person's gut microbiome may hold clues about a person's obesity risk.
“Compared to lean people, obese people have a different composition of gut microbes,” says Rachel Dykman, a registered dietitian nurse in private practice in New York City. “Our gut bacteria may affect the amount of calories we extract from the food we eat. Our gut microbiota may also affect our blood sugar regulation and appetite, which can both affect our body weight.”
Myers agrees that diet has an impact on gut health. Other factors include:
Like diet, these lifestyle habits and environmental exposures can affect the number on the scale.
“All of these factors contribute to weight gain and prevent you from losing weight,” says Myers. “Sometimes your gut can get out of balance and directly lead to weight gain, which can happen when you develop autoimmunity.”
Can fasting reset the microbiome?
The first few months of the new year — and even the first few months of summer — are known for diet and weight loss advice that often includes a “cleanse.” These are often euphemisms for fasting. Can Fasting Help Your Gut Health?
“There is some promising evidence that fasting can positively alter the gut microbiome and reduce body weight. This weight loss may be due to increased microbiota diversity and abundance of Akkermansia muciniphila [a keystone microbe associated with weight loss] After fasting. Calorie restriction through fasting may be a promising approach to modify the composition of gut microbiota. “
McManus points to a 2021 study that found that fasting can alter the gut microbiome and help people with metabolic syndrome lose weight. It also helps lower blood pressure. She also points to a 2015 study of overweight people who found that weight loss with a fasting program and probiotics improved the gut microbiome.
But what you do after your fast is just as important as the fast itself.
“These microbes are basically starvation food, so the first thing you put in your body after fasting is very important,” McManus said. “You're deciding who gets a jumpstart from food! So when you When breaking your fast, consider supplementing your good bacteria with foods such as foods high in fiber and polyphenols.”
McManus recommends consulting with a healthcare provider before beginning.
“Fasting programs can be bad for everyone's lifestyle,” she notes.
How to Improve Gut Health
You may need a quick fix. However, it is unclear how long it takes to improve the gut microbiome.
“The time it takes to improve the gut microbiome varies based on factors such as an individual's current gut health, diet and lifestyle,” Brown said.
All you can do is do your best. Experts share best practices for trying to move things forward.
eat gut-friendly foods
If you're looking to add gut-healthy foods to your diet, focus on fiber, suggests McManus.
“High-quality dietary fiber is found primarily in whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains and seeds,” says McManus. “Prioritizing foods that contain soluble fiber, such as pears, apples, avocados, broccoli, and sweet potatoes, can help support a healthier gut.”
Bonus: “The coolest thing about fiber is that it also promotes satiety, which can help prevent overeating and lead to weight loss,” says McManus.
She also recommends foods rich in antioxidant polyphenols.
“Plant foods such as pomegranates, cranberries, grapeseeds, plums, and artichokes are rich in polyphenols,” says McManus.
Myers recommends avoiding certain foods that can affect your gut microbiome, including:
Consider Probiotic Supplements
Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so they can sometimes be controversial. However, McManus says there is evidence that probiotic supplements can help with gut health and weight loss, such as a 2015 study.
“All studies support a role for Akkermansia muciniphila in weight management, which would be an ideal microbe,” she said. “There are other strains that are readily available that help metabolize fiber and produce a powerful short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate is important for many different metabolic processes that occur in the body and can be used as part of a weight loss strategy beneficial.”
get regular physical activity
Gut-healthy foods are helpful, but exercise is still a key part of losing weight.
“Regular physical activity can help improve gut health by increasing the population of good bacteria in the gut,” Brown said.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
Improving gut health can help with weight loss. Diet plays a vital role. Aim to eat fiber-rich, gut-healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Getting foods that contain polyphenols, such as pomegranates and prunes, is also beneficial. Regular physical activity can also improve gut health. Fasting can help, but experts know it's not for everyone. Be sure to discuss your concerns or any changes to your diet plan with your doctor first. They can let you know if you are at risk for adverse reactions and can develop a better plan for you to help improve your gut health.