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The ScoopCan better gut health help you manage your weight?

Part seven of  a seven-part series

Over the course of our gut health series we’ve learned that our gut impacts everything from our skin, mood & sleep to our immunity & heart health. In this final part of the series, let’s explore the latest research to learn about the link between our gut and our weight.

How gut bacteria affect weight

When you eat food, your gut breaks it down into nutrients that fuel your metabolism, boost energy levels, and improve digestibility—all of which affect your body weight.

Many factors contribute to how much we weigh, but studies show that gut flora is a key part of the puzzle:

  • According to a review published in the Nutrients journal, gut microbiota of obese people may contain fewer beneficial bacterial strains.
  • In a Danish study on 123 non-obese and 169 obese individuals, those who had fewer gut microbial genes present in their stool were characterized as having greater overall fatty tissue, compared to those with greater bacterial richness.
  • And in an analysis published in the Gut Microbes journal, losing weight tends to result in an increase in the diversity of gut microbes, and also favors the growth of more beneficial strains.

It seems the good bugs in our gut, when combined with our food choices and activity levels, have a direct impact on our body weight.

How gut hormones affect your eating choices

One way good gut bacteria can affect your weight is by helping you feel full.

In part four of this  series, we learned that our gut produces different neurotransmitters and hormones involved in maintaining energy and mood. Some of these hormones also affect your eating behavior.

Studies like this one in the Journal of Obesity show that some gut hormones (like leptin) will suppress your appetite, and others can make you more hungry.

Leptin, the appetite suppression hormone, helps signal your brain that your body has enough energy stores and lets you know that it’s time to stop eating. However, factors like an unbalanced gut microbiome, can compromise how efficiently your hunger hormones function. 

How gut bacteria affect cravings

Research shows that your gut might be what’s driving the foods you choose to eat (or at least the foods you can’t stop thinking about). Insatiable food cravings are often a good sign that your gut health balance is off.

When we eat, we not only feed ourselves, we also feed our gut bacteria. And different microbes may influence your food preferences to improve their own chances of survival.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined mice in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, taking a close look at how the gut might influence an individual’s preferred diet.

The researchers divided mice into three categories and introduced different gut microbes to each category. They found the mice in each group chose food rich in different nutrients, showing that their microbiome changed their preferred diet.

How to gut health and manage your weight 

While more research needs to be done there is clear evidence that a healthy gut microbiome supports weight loss—and we’ll call that a healthy win over fad diets any day.

If you’re trying to lose weight, your gut bacteria deserve some attention. We know that a healthy gut is essential to maintaining overall health, and the best way to support the microbes in your gut is to consume probiotics and high-fiber, prebiotic foods. Follow the good-gut-health tips in part one of this series to work on improving your gut microbiome. It could be just what your body needs.

Gut health series:

Your gut is the gateway to good health (part 1)  

How does gut health affect your skin? (part 2)   

For a balanced immune system, look to your gut (part 3)   

Improve your mood by improving your gut health (part 4) 

How a healthy gut can be the key to a healthy heart (part 5) 

Is your gut making you tired? (part 6)