Happy Gut, Happy Weight
Probiotics in food and supplements are rapidly growing, both on the store shelves and in research. You may be thinking that if you don’t have any digestive issues, you don’t need probiotics. Think again! Probiotics and good gut health have also been linked to weight loss, reduced inflammation, and improved immunity. Let’s delve into what probiotics are and how they might help you to lose weight.
Meaning “for life”, probiotics are those good and friendly bacteria that you want populating your digestive tract, also known as your gut. Probiotics are living microorganisms that can benefit your health when you consume them in adequate amounts, either from food or supplements. Over your lifetime, the balance of our intestinal bacteria (also called your microflora) can get out of whack. This starts from birth, based on the method of your birth and if you were breastfed or not, leading up to all the antibiotic rounds you have taken in your life, and concluding with the types of foods you eat currently. If you aren’t actively trying to improve your gut health and friendly bacteria, chances are your microflora balance isn’t as good as it could be.
Good gut health has been linked to weight loss in a few different ways. A positive microflora can help to balance the hormones in your gut, which are connected to how your body responds to food and helps you feel more satisfied after a meal. When you have imbalanced microflora, your body may not release as much leptin, which is known as the “satiety hormone”. Another way that probiotics are related to weight has to do with inflammation. When your body is inflamed, it focuses all its energy on fighting that fire, rather than focusing on shedding pounds! Most people who have inflammation in their bodies don’t even know it! Studies with probiotics have found that daily supplementation can reduce chronic inflammation in the body.
Probiotics are most commonly used to promote good digestion and help alleviate discomfort associated with some digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Probiotic supplements can often help with symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea. Research regarding probiotics and IBD is still mixed, depending on the severity of an individual’s disease. The mechanism in which probiotics could benefit those suffering from IBD is that the good bacteria can help to reduce inflammation, as well as heal the digestive tract tissue.
The reason why probiotic supplementation can reduce inflammation has a lot to do with your immune system, which is primarily located in your gut. Researchers think that the microbes in your gut communicate with your immune cells to help strengthen your defense system against invading pathogens, viruses, and bad bacteria. In various studies, people who took probiotic supplements took less sick days at work and had shorter duration of colds compared to people who didn’t. The combination of reduced inflammation and a stronger defensive barrier may result in a healthier you!
Where do I find probiotics??
In foods, probiotics are found in fermented or cultured products, including:
An important note about yogurt and kefir is that some brands can be very high in sugar- be sure to get unsweetened to get the best health benefits!
Sometimes it may be hard to eat these foods every day, so supplementation may be beneficial. Supplements generally contain more bacteria than foods, so they may be a more concentrated source. However, you should be careful when picking out a probiotic supplement. Good supplements should have 3 to 4 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) of bacteria. Different supplements may also have different strains of bacteria. Some strains are used specifically to help treat certain digestive disorders, while other strains are more general. It’s usually better to choose a probiotic supplement that has multiple strains of bacteria. Medifast’s Essential1 Digestive Health contains over 4 billion CFU’s of three different bacterial strains, and also contains fructo-oligosaccharides, which are prebiotics. Prebiotics are essentially food for the probiotics, which enables the good bacteria to thrive in your body.
If you struggle with digestive issues, inflammation, a weak immune system, or trouble losing weight, getting more probiotics in your daily routine may be the answer!