Feed your gut microbes well, and they will help keep you trim.
We are all too familiar with the broken refrain that to lose weight we must eat less and exercise more. However, starvation portions and more time on the treadmill doesn’t work. This series examines several simple tweaks that help keep weight off.
It would be wonderful if obesity were cured as simply as “here, take this strain of probiotics and poof! the weight will disappear.” Perhaps some of the ads you’ve seen for different brands make you think that it could work, but so far, it doesn’t seem to be that simple. What the research shows is that naturally skinny people tend to have a different mix of bacteria than naturally plumper people. The reason is multi-factorial most likely with a mix of genes, diet, and environment exposures all coming together to create your microbiome. Let’s focus on the things that you can influence:
- Eat more fiber! Good gut bacteria live off of fiber (pre-biotics) and the more you eat (and the more varied the sources) the more your good bacteria will flourish. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, whole grains – all sources of a healthy diet.
- Eat some fermented foods on a daily basis. A little goes a long way as a booster to your natural flora. Yogurt is familiar (unsweetened is best) to most Americans, but be adventuresome and check out kefir, kombucha, kimchee, tempeh, miso paste, and fresh saurkraut if you haven’t yet done so. Make sure to check labels for “live active cultures.”
- Reserve antibiotic use for true emergencies only. If you need to use antibiotics ask your doctor if a specific one is appropriate for your case and avoid broad-spectrum antibiotics unless there is no other alternative.
If you have an interest there are two excellent books that have come out recently that are engaging and highly readable. One is “10% Human” by Alanna Collen and is a careful explanation of the current research on how our microbiome influences our health. The other is “Gut” by Guila Anders which is a whimsically illustrated romp into how the digestive system works and much of the final third is devoted to the microbiome. Both are excellent reads and highly enjoyable.
Small steps add up, especially ones that aren’t particularly burdensome to try. Thanks for enjoying this series and hopefully you found something that worked well for you.
Dr. Alethea Fleming, ND is a passionate advocate for naturopathic geriatric medicine. A 2007 Bastyr University graduate, she also earned a certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington. Dr. Fleming is the owner and lead physician of the Vital Aging Clinic in Anacortes, Washington where she provides primary care to all adults as well as adjunctive geriatric care. Dr. Fleming is active in multiple community organizations as well as a member of WANP, AANP and OncANP. In her off hours, Dr. Fleming can be found hiking the beautiful trails of Fidalgo Island, spending time with her wonderful husband and son, or with her nose firmly in a good book.