Q: How your gut bacteria might be making you fat & how to improve your gut flora
In the recent years, while poring through articles and books on health, one topic keeps cropping up: gut health. Even in JewelPie’s last interview with Sara Ding, a health coach who advocates juicing, it was mentioned that the biggest health lesson she had learned is to keep her gut healthy. (Q&A With Sara Ding: How to improve health through juicing).
Studies on out gut (which includes our mouth, stomach, intestines and rectum) is still at its infantry, but growing by leaps and bounds in the last decade. More and more studies show the link between our gut and the brain. Bacteria in our intestines might contribute to illness such as depression, diabetes, parkinson and cancer.
In the international best-selling book “GUT: The inside story of our body’s most underrated organ”, Giulia Enders, a young German scientist and medical student, even explained how out gut bacteria might be making us fat.
HOW GUT BACTERIA MIGHT MAKE US FAT?
According to Giulia Enders, 90% of our nutrition comes from what we eat. The remaining 10% is fed to us by our bacteria. Thinking about our weight only though the idea of calories is too simplistic; we need to take into account of the bacteria in our tummy. She proposed three theories on how bacteria might be making us fat:
- More ‘chubby’ bacteria – In a body of an obese person, there might be way more ‘chubby’ bacteria than normal weight people. This bacteria is very efficient in breaking down carbohydrates. It means that even though an obese person eat the same amount of food as a skinny one, he is extracting more calories.
Studies carried out on obese subjects show that they have less overall diversity in their gut flora and that certain groups of bacteria prevail – primarily those that metabolize carbohydrates
- Bacterial infection cause the slow burning of fat – People with metabolic problems such as obesity has ‘slightly increase level of infection markets in their blood’; it causes the thyroid gland to ‘produce fewer thyroid hormones, slowing the rate at which the body burns fat.’ (Note: bacteria is not the only cause of subclinical infection. Other things like ‘hormone imbalance, too much estrogen, lack of vitamin D, or too much gluten-rich food’ might be the culprit too)
…what you eat will still make you put on weight. But we now see that the gut bacteria can influence 10 to 30 % of your body weight
- Bacteria may affect our appetite – A new hypothesis proposed in 2013 suggests that our bacteria might be have as say on what we feel like eating!
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH?
While Ender did not specifically advise how we can combat obesity, the message is clear that we must improve and protect our gut flora. To do so means giving our body the good bacteria that we need and avoiding anything that might deplete our microbes such as antibiotics.
- Avoid antibiotics unless necessary – In some countries, antibiotics are dispense too carelessly and even when it’s not needed. For example, some doctor prescribes antibiotics (a bacteria) to combat flu (which is most often caused by virus); an act which is utterly useless as antibiotics has no effect on virus.
- Choose organic meat and vegetables – Enders also warned of eating commercially-raised meat with antibiotic residue and advise us to wash vegetables thoroughly (Try making your own DIY fruits and vegetable wash)
- Don’t be excessively clean – The goal of cleaning is not to remove all the bacteria. Washing our hands with water and mild soap is more than enough. We don’t need disinfectant in our home. The cleaner the country, the higher the number of allergies and autoimmune diseases.
…cleaning does not mean annihilating all bacteria. Cleanliness is a healthy balance of sufficient good bacteria and a few bad ones.
- Be careful when going abroad – Be extra careful with food and hygiene when traveling; you could return home carrying highly resistant bacteria. Ender suggests a ‘Cook it, peel it, or leave it’ mantra.
- Eat more probiotic and prebiotic food – These food provides the healthy bacteria that our body needs. Probiotic food are fermented food like natural yoghurt, soy sauce and kimchi. Whereas prebiotic is food for our probiotic bacteria, in which bad bacteria cannot eat. Some prebiotic food includes garlic, onions, wholegrain wheat and oats.
Illustration of prebiotic (credit: ‘GUT: The inside story of our body’s most underrated organ’)
It looks like studies on our gut is too new to come to any definite conclusion. I believe in leading a balanced life. This wisdom applies to our diet too; eat in, eat fresh and eat traditionally. If you do so, you will naturally consume food that supports your gut health.
Are you struggling with your weight? Could it be traced to an unhealthy gut?
GUT: The inside story of our body’s most underrated organ
The key to living a happier, healthier life is inside us. Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and let s be honest somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important, and even miraculous parts of our anatomy.
And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer s. Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research, and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook.