Losing weight is one of the most common yet challenging body goals to achieve. When we think of weight loss, we often associate it with a healthy diet, exercise, and weighing in on the scales.

Though, what we often don’t associate it with is gut health.

Interestingly, there is a more significant link between gut health and weight loss than you may think!

In fact, weight loss and gut health often go hand in hand, with the latest research suggesting that your digestive health is not only a key component of overall health, but also the secret to optimizing weight loss.

This article discusses how gut health and weight loss are linked, how your gut health can influence your weight loss, and the importance of looking after your gut bacteria to make your body goals more achievable!

Firstly, let’s understand the basics of our gut bacteria and weight loss.

An Introduction to Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss

Gut Bacteria

Your gut is home to trillions of microorganisms, good and bad. Only in recent times have we discovered the importance of this bacterial colony living inside of us—referred to as our gut microbiome.

While some bacteria are associated with bad, such as illness and disease, the good kind of bacteria is vitally important for our immune system, heart, weight, and many other aspects of our health.

Though, the bacteria in our gut can only look after us if we look after them. When our microbiome is off balance, we experience digestive issues, poor immunity, low mood, and potentially even weight gain.

It’s of utmost importance to take good care of your gut through living an active and healthy lifestyle, including the consumption of many foods rich in good bacteria. More on this later!

Weight Loss

There are endless diets, supplements, and meal plans available claiming to help shed pounds and get lean. Though, weight loss doesn’t have to be this restricted and complicated.

Most of the time, it simply comes down to implementing healthier habits and nutritional strategies that you can adhere to long-term.

Additionally, people often blissfully ignore the fact that overall health plays a key role in the success of your weight loss. Without practising good health daily, physically and mentally, your weight loss progress will be slow and unpleasant.

This includes:

  • Eating a balanced and varied diet, including the foods that you enjoy
  • Doing regular exercise, also something that you enjoy doing
  • Staying active throughout the day
  • Practicing good sleep hygiene and stress management
  • Avoiding cutting out food groups and restrictive dieting
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Looking after your gut health!

Do specific microbes help weight loss?

There are two specific microbes known to be associated with body weight. Akkermansia muciniphila and Christensenella minuta are bacteria found in the gut, linked with preventing weight gain and often found in leaner individuals.

Akkermansia feeds on the mucus that lines your gut, which promotes its production and strengthens your intestinal barrier (note: a weaker gut lining is often found in those with obesity). These microbes also produce acetate, which is a fatty acid known to help regulate fat stores and appetite.

So, it goes without saying that these specific microbes may play a role in preventing obesity. However, what about the general link between gut health and weight loss?

The Link Between Gut Health and Weight Loss

One of the most abundant areas of gut health research is centred around weight loss. It turns out, gut health plays a bigger role in weight loss than we may think.

One particularly large study examined 77 pairs of twins, one of whom was obese and the other leaner. This study found that the obese twin had different gut bacteria than their non-obese twin.1

The obese twin was actually shown to have a lower gut bacteria diversity, indicating that our gut bacteria play a big role in our body weight management.

Additionally, other studies have shown links between high fiber intake and a lower body weight, and some gut bacteria being involved in fat storage, weight management, and nutrient absorption.

Here are just a couple of the main aspects of health and weight loss influenced by your gut:

  • Some Bacteria Affect Inflammation

Inflammation occurs when our body activates our immune system to fight off infection. This can often be caused by poor diet and lifestyle, for example consuming too much fat, sugar, and calories.

Your gut bacteria play a substantial role in inflammation, with some species influencing weight gain and some influencing weight loss.

  • Some Bacteria Affects Appetite

As you may know, leptin, ghrelin, and peptide YY are hormones that affect our appetite.

Studies have shown that certain gut bacteria can influence how much of these hormones are produced, thus indicating they play a role in how hungry we may feel.

When these hormones are out of balance, they could cause issues with regulating our appetite, which can cause weight gain.

To put it simply, our gut microbes are happy to provide their health-promoting services in exchange for us following a healthier diet and lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at how we can change our gut bacteria for the benefit of weight loss specifically!

How to Improve Your Gut Bacteria for Weight Loss

As we have established, there is a clear link between gut health and weight loss. The gut microbiota of obese and overweight individuals shows patterns of lacking bacterial diversity and poo production of key microbes involved in preventing weight loss.

Ultimately, this is just another factor contributing to the obesity epidemic in the Western world. So, how can we help our gut become more varied and diverse to help us lose weight and stay healthy?

Many studies have shown that following a plant-based diet reduces calorie intake, increases weight loss, lowers metabolic markers, and nourishes your gut bacteria through the consumption of plants and nutrients such as fiber.

As a result of consuming more plant-based foods, our diet would naturally consist of more key nutrients such as fiber and phytonutrients, which are great for our gut.

Why is Fiber Important?

Fiber is a type of indigestible carbohydrate. While most carbohydrate sources can be broken down, digested, and absorbed, fiber isn’t built the same.

Instead, it passes through our body undigested, thus helping to regulate the body’s use of sugar, controlling appetite, keeping blood sugar levels in check, and aiding our digestion.

In addition to these benefits, some types of fiber are food for our gut bacteria. Also called prebiotics, these fibers help nourish our existing bacteria, which stimulates their growth and activity.

It’s vital to consume enough fiber each day (around 25-30g) to ensure our gut is fed and our digestive system kept running smoothly.

We can get fiber from food sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, wholegrains, beans, and legumes. This brings us on nicely to the importance of plant foods!

The Importance of Colorful Foods

If you’re seeing improved bacterial diversity in your gut, you must address the potential lack of colorful foods in your diet.

It’s common knowledge that the western diet lacks fruits, vegetables, and whole grains—we are simply not eating enough!

By increasing our dietary fiber and phytonutrients through eating colourful foods, we can support not only whole-body health, but also support our microbiome.

By colourful foods we mean:

  • Red foods such as apples, cherries, and tomatoes
  • Yellow foods such as bananas, lemons, and ginger
  • Orange foods such as oranges, yams, and carrots
  • Green foods such as leafy greens, olives, and green apples
  • Blue-purple foods such as blueberries, prunes, and grapes

All of these foods would provide an abundance of good gut bacteria, as well as antioxidant properties, and blood sugar balance.

There is enough research to convince us that long-term weight gain is associated with poor microbiome diversity, so try to increase your consumption of these colorful foods to boost your good bacteria and promote overall health!

Physical Activity for Gut Bacteria

Now that we have discussed plenty about how your diet may affect your gut, you’re probably wondering if exercise, another healthy weight loss habit, influences our microbiome.

Turns out, when it comes to exercise, if someone chooses to live a very sedentary lifestyle, they tend to have a microbiome which lacks diversity compared to people who regularly exercise.

Exercising moderately, think jogging, swimming, and cycling, increases the abundance of health-promoting bacteria.

Increasing these types of bacteria can support your gut barrier function, which helps prevent inflammation (as we mentioned previously!).

These microbes also support and control the gut environment, providing stability for good bacteria and helping to fight off any potentially bad bacteria. This promotes a diverse microbiome, which we know by now is key to weight management!

Physical activity also provides many other benefits that are key for weight loss, such as:

  • Keeping our metabolic markers, such as blood glucose and blood lipids, at healthy levels
  • Training our muscles to burn more energy, promoting fat burn
  • Increasing our metabolism

So, find a physically active hobby or a training plan that you will enjoy and adhere to, and get sweating for your gut!

Can Changing Your Gut Bacteria Help Weight Loss?

The simple answer: kind of, yes. Though “help” is the keyword here, as changing and improving your gut bacteria can indirectly help in many ways.

However, it’s not as simple as taking a supplement with weight loss promoting bacteria and hoping for the pounds to shed, you must also put in the hard work to achieving fat loss while also being mindful about the role your gut plays in how easy or hard it is for you to lose weight.

As we have established, your gut bacteria play a role in fat storage and hunger, which can both have major impacts on your weight. Though you cannot simply change this bacterium to suit your needs, this is not a quick fix solution.

Weight loss requires a change in many aspects and areas of your diet and lifestyle, such as eating a more nutritious diet, being more physically active, and implementing health- positive habits into your daily routine.

Healthy and sustainable weight loss will only ever occur when you address your diet and lifestyle and make necessary changes. Typically, these changes would promote a better, more diverse gut microbiome which would in turn help make weight loss that little bit easier.

Probiotic Supplements: Good or Bad?

As we briefly mentioned supplements above, it may be worth mentioning the role of probiotics.

Probiotics are live bacteria that are good for you, your health, and your digestive system. Probiotics can essentially help restore the natural balance of bacteria in your gut, which comes in particularly useful after an illness or course of antibiotic treatment.

You can find probiotics in fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi

Though, you can also find probiotic supplements. Probiotics can be a good option for a daily health supplement if you are already in fair health, but they are mostly beneficial under specific circumstances. 

While probiotic supplements can help promote good gut bacteria, this would not be an answer to weight loss!

It’s also important you seek advice from your doctor if you plan on supplementing with probiotics.

What About Prebiotics?

While probiotics are the "good" bacteria for your gut and can add new strains, this can sometimes overload the gut, which would have the opposite effect of what you're trying to achieve. 

Many people opt for prebiotic supplements instead. Prebiotics are described as the "food" that feeds your existing gut bacteria. 

Remember we discussed the importance of fiber for the gut in a previous section? This is essentially what prebiotics are - certain fibers that feed the living organisms in our gut.

Prebiotics can help nourish your gut bacteria, thus promoting their growth and activity, resulting in a healthier, more balanced gut. You can also find prebiotics in foods such as chicory root, apple skin, garlic, and bananas. 

Our top pick prebiotic supplement is Performance Lab Prebiotic, which delivers a more reliable, natural, and comfortable microbiome support compared to probiotics. 

Performance Lab Prebiotic also includes probiotic support, benefitting the digestive system, immune function, and nutritional status. 

Additionally, it also includes soluble fiber, which can benefit weight management. The inulin-FOS contained in this supplement swells in the stomach through the absorption of water, helping to control appetite and support fat loss by:

  • Slowing down the food transit time in the gut, thus regulating blood sugar levels
  • Suppressing the hunger hormone ghrelin
  • Potentially reducing triglyceride levels
  • Reducing the calorie content of any food that is consumed

Gut Health and Weight Loss: The Take-Home Message

Your gut microbiome is a very complex, yet remarkably unique part of your body. Most of the time, most of us just go about our days not knowing the complexities taking place inside of us. Ultimately, we have more control over our health than we may think.

Your diet and lifestyle habits can have a serious impact on the diversity of our gut. A gut microbiome that’s off balance will not only cause us potential health and digestion issues but could also make us more susceptible to weight gain and obesity.

Consuming more plant-based, colorful, and fibrous foods, as well as reducing your intake of highly processed, sugary and fatty foods, and doing more exercise can enhance our gut function, promoting a healthy, more diverse gut microbiome.

Doing so would increase our abundance of healthy bacteria, enabling you to maintain a healthy weight, protecting you from inflammation, and improving all metabolic markers.

Taking a prebiotic supplement, such as Performance Lab Prebiotic, would also help support fat loss due to the soluble fiber content. This supplement would help control appetite and keep you fuller for longer, therefore supporting weight control.

References

  1. Turnbaugh PJ, Hamady M, Yatsunenko T, Cantarel BL, Duncan A, Ley RE, Sogin ML, Jones WJ, Roe BA, Affourtit JP, Egholm M, Henrissat B, Heath AC, Knight R, Gordon JI. A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. Nature. 2009 Jan 22;457(7228):480-4.