by Kristen Soper, Clinical Nutritionist
Most patients who present to my clinic mention that they’d like to lose some weight. It may not be the primary presentation – low energy, digestive upset or mood balancing are normally the main areas, but losing weight, particularly around the belly area is certainly on the wish list of most of my clients.
An inability to lose weight can be impacted by a number of areas, such as hormonal in-balances, thyroid, on-going high stress, food intolerances or nutrient deficiencies to name just a few. But digestive health and gut bacteria levels often doesn’t play enough into people’s minds.
A number of recent studies have shown that dysbiotic (or in-balanced) gut bacteria can cause weight gain and can even lead to metabolic syndrome. These studies showed that by administering prebiotics in combination with specific probiotic strains, intestinal inflammation was reduced, which then positively affected metabolic balance leading to weight loss1, 2, 3.
Your gut bacteria levels are more likely to be in-balanced if you have had antibiotics recently, or even if you had a number of rounds of antibiotics as a child, teenager or young adult. Other medications such as corticosteroids and the contraceptive pill can also impact our digestive bacteria levels. The other main cause of dysbiotic bacteria levels is untreated traveller’s diarrhoea – many patients of mine present to my clinic with “my digestion has never been the same since that trip overseas”.
Apart from being a major cause of digestive inflammation, dysbiotic gut bacteria levels can also wreak havoc on our cravings. When certain ‘good’ bacteria levels such as Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus are low in our digestive track, this allows commensal bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Alpha haemolytic strep and even yeasts such as Candida Albicans to proliferate above normal levels. These in-balanced strains can lead to increased sugar cravings and if digestive inflammation is present, our ability to absorb nutrients from our food is often reduced, leading to deficiencies in key vitamins and minerals – which again leads to further cravings of less healthy foods, impacting our ability to lose weight.
However, before you go and buy any probiotic on the shelf to help balance your gut bacteria levels, know that probiotic strains are very specific depending on your symptoms, plus are also genus, species and strain specific. The species that have the most research for helping with metabolic balance and weight-loss are Lactobacillus gasseri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium lactis. However, it is recommended that you work with a health practitioner on which strain and what dose is best suited to your individual needs.
Interested in knowing more about how your digestive health could be impacting your weight? Book an appointment with our Clinical Nutritionist Kristen Soper
- Festi et al, 2014, ‘Gut microbiota and metabolic syndrome’ World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 20, no 43, pp79-94: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25473159
- Mekkes et al, 2014, ‘The development of probiotic treatment in obesity: a review’, Beneficial Microbes, vol. 5, no. 1, pp19-28: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23886977
- Million et al, 2012, ‘Comparative meta-analysis of the effect of Lactobacillus species on weight gain in humans and animals’, Microbial Pathogenesis, vol. 53, no. 2, pp100-108: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0882401012001106