Gut Bacteria and Weight Maintenance

In working with clients, I place a high level of importance on encouraging and maintaining correct gut ecology, that is, the balance of friendly and unfriendly bacteria and unhelpful yeasts and pathogens within the digestive tract. If gut ecology is out of balance health may be affected in any number of ways, including immunity, skin health, IBS, Joint and muscle pain and headaches.


It comes as no surprise therefore, to find that new research is linking gut bacteria with weight management. Nutrigold reports on the latest findings:


We have recently reported on the Updates service about a study that shows how diets influence the levels of the two major families of gut bacteria associated with obese and lean people. Jumpertz et al (2011) found the levels of Firmicutes bacteria in the gut were increased with decreased Bacteroidetes levels (the opposite to that found in lean people) when switching from a low-fat, vegetarian based diet to a high-fat, high-sugar diet. These gut bacterial populations changed in a relatively short period of time as the composition of the diet changed. In some cases the shift occurring in just one day!



Further research has revealed that a 20% increase in Firmicutes and a decrease in Bacteroidetes (the opposite of what is observed in weight loss) are associated with an increase in the harvest of energy from the diet of about 150kcal (Shanahan, 2011).These studies highlight how dietary changes have rapid effects on the composition of gut bacteria and how this may lead to changes in the amount of energy we harvest from our food and ultimately fat storage. It also develops the theory that it is solely ‘calories in versus calories out’ (i.e. energy intake versus energy expenditure) that influences weight gain.  It might not be just what food obese people are eating but also what types of gut bacteria are present and how they are processing the energy from food. Coupled to, this a recent study has shown that gut bacteria can also regulate appetite hormones (Duca, 2012). This suggests that gut bacteria can control our weight (either gain or loss) via influencing levels of nutrient sensors such as ghrelin as well as energy harvest from the food we eat.



This is early days in this area of research but these studies further reinforce the role of supporting gut health through diet and probiotic containing foods and multi-strain probiotic supplements. It seems that by supporting gut health and beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species, goes some way to maintaining optimal health.



I will frequently recommend a supplement protocol to provide friendly bacteria from both the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus species as mentioned above, whilst also recommending nutrients to address yeast levels, to ensure gut ecology is balanced.