Even though you sometimes eat too much, surely you shouldn’t be gaining this much weight. Perhaps your weight gain has something to do with your gut bacteria. Slim people have a different balance of gut bacteria than people who are overweight. Your gut bacteria have many functions in your body, from digestion and immunity to producing certain vitamins. Research is increasingly focused on the role they play in weight gain and the development of obesity.
Kayleigh loved traveling. A couple of years ago, she spent a year backpacking around Australia, picking up casual work where she could. When her year was up, she’d extended her trip, spending six weeks traveling around Asia.
She fell in love with Indonesia the moment she arrived. Unfortunately, she hadn’t been there long when she picked up a nasty bug. Despite several rounds of antibiotics, it took her months to start to feel normal again.
Since then, she’s seemed to get more than her fair share of bugs everything from colds and sniffles to an ear infection that normally only children get! In the past couple of years, she’s had more antibiotics than in the rest of her twenty-six years put together.
Kayleigh’s immune system clearly wasn’t on top form; she wanted to know what to do about it. She’d also started to feel awkward about her weight. Over the last few years, the weight had been inching ever higher, and it just didn’t feel like her.
For the most part, Kayleigh ate pretty healthily, though she did have a sweet tooth and loved her puddings. What she hadn’t realized was that the sugar was feeding the ‘bad’ bacteria in her gut, exacerbating any bacterial imbalance.
The high levels of antibiotics hadn’t helped either, as they kill off the ‘good’ bacteria as well as the bacteria they are aiming for. So, it was highly likely that she had an imbalance in her gut bacteria. This may well have been involved in her weight gain.
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How your gut bacteria affect your weight?
Your guts contain hundreds of different species of bacteria, but there are two main types. One is the Bacteroidetes. Slim people have more of these. The other is the firmicutes. If you have more of the firmicutes bacteria, you are likely to carry more weight. If you are overweight, you are likely to have an imbalance between the different types of bacteria in your gut.
This bacterial imbalance can increase your appetite by making you resistant to the hormone leptin, that regulates your appetite. This makes you want to eat more. The firmicutes bacteria are also able to extract more calories from what you eat.
Let’s say Alice has a different gut bacterial balance than her friend, who is slim. As a result, Alice probably wants to eat more than Mia. But even if she ate exactly the same amount, she would obtain more calories from it and gain weight. On top of that, imbalances in your gut bacteria may slow your metabolism and increase the amount of fat you store.
So, it’s a triple whammy. Not only do you want to eat more, but you also get more calories from the same food and you burn less fat. Moreover, gut bacterial imbalances can increase inflammation and increase your gut permeability, which is linked to food intolerances. Both inflammation and food intolerances can lead to weight gain.
Changes in gut bacteria have been found to exist before we gain weight. Could we therefore manipulate gut bacteria to affect the amount of fat we store? Would bacteria have received through a fecal transplant from a lean donor help you lose weight? Initial research is promising, and clinical trials are currently being carried out. I’m not suggesting that you should have a fecal transplant! I’m highlighting that your gut bacteria play a role in weight gain, and changing your gut bacterial balance may help you lose weight.
Quick questionnaire—Are your gut bacteria contributing to your weight?
If you answer Yes to three or more questions, then your gut bacteria may be contributing to your weight.
- Do you get bloated or suffer from gas?
- Do you get constipated or have diarrhea?
- Do you suffer from gas?
- Do you have abdominal cramps?
- Do you eat a diet high in sugar or refined carbohydrates (white flour, white bread, white rice, pasta, pastries, etc.)?
- Have you been under a lot of stress? Learn More
- Have you had antibiotics recently or have you taken a lot in the past?
- Do you often get infections or colds?
- Do you suffer from anxiety or depression?
Key things you have learned in this article
- Slim people have a different balance of gut bacteria than people who carry more weight.
- Some gut bacteria, found in larger quantities in overweight people, extract more calories from your food. So, you might eat the same as your slimmer friend, but absorb more calories from it.
- These gut bacteria, that overweight people have more of, also increase your appetite and make you store more fat. From inflammation and food intolerances to a slowed metabolism, they affect your body in a number of ways that increase weight gain.