Taryn Hall-Smith who is the Director of The Contented Body www.thecontentedbody.com talks about the body's gut flora this month and how imbalances can lead to the inability to lose weight.
Could your efforts to lose weight be due to your body’s gut flora imbalance? The digestive system is home to trillions of micro organisms colonising the gut making an amazing ecosystem called the gut flora. A healthy adult has about 2kg of these bacteria in the gut. All these bacteria live in a highly organised micro-world with certain species predominating and controlling others. They play a number of vital roles in the body and without them we probably would not survive. It is absolutely essential that we take care of our gut flora, as an abnormal or damaged gut flora is one of the main root cause of many diseases including heart disease, auto immune diseases like Lupus and Arthritis, allergies, food intolerances and even cancer.
Your gut flora is made up of beneficial or “good” bacteria and opportunistic microbes or “bad” bacteria. The ideal ratio between the bacteria in your body is 85 percent "good" and 15 percent "bad" so we need far more beneficial bacteria (probiotics) than you might think in order to maintain the right balance. Beneficial bacteria are also called probiotics. They are the housekeepers of the gut and without them your gut cannot be healthy. These bacteria fulfill a whole range of vital functions in the body - they provide a natural barrier and protect us against all sorts of invaders, bacteria, parasites, fungi, viruses and toxins that are in the food and drink that we ingest every day. Apart from providing us with a physical barrier the beneficial bacteria produce antibiotic like substances that are anti fungal and anti viral.
One of the ways friendly bacteria help prevent allergies, infections and inflammatory conditions is by training your immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens, and to respond appropriately.
Your gut flora also plays a major role in weight management. Multiple studies have shown that obese people have different intestinal bacteria than slim people, and it appears that the microbes in an overweight body are much more efficient at extracting calories from food. Researchers have also suggested that certain bacteria may cause low-grade inflammation in your body, further contributing to obesity and difficulty in losing weight.
One such study found that the good bacteria taken from infants at the age of 6 months and 12 months were twice as high in healthy weight children as in those who became overweight. Interestingly, this finding may explain why breast-fed babies are also at a lower risk of obesity, as bifidobacteria (good bacteria) flourish in the guts of breast-fed babies.
Other studies have found that obese people had about 20 percent more of a certain family of bad bacteria and almost 90 percent less of certain good bacteria than lean people. All of these studies suggest that a healthy gut flora is essential in maintaining a healthy body weight, as well as other aspects of our health.
So how do we take care of our gut flora?
We should all regularly eat fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, or various pickled fermentations of cabbage, turnips, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, squash and carrots as these foods are rich in naturally beneficial bacteria. If these foods do not feature regularly in your diet then you should be taking high quality probiotic supplement on a daily basis.
You should also avoid foods that will destroy healthy micro-flora and feed bad bacteria and yeast, such as processed and sugary foods. This also includes cutting down on grains, as most grains are quickly converted into sugar in your body. Yet, even with an extremely low-sugar diet, there are other factors that influence your gut flora. Antibiotics, man-made chemicals in shampoos and laundry powder, chlorinated water, antibacterial soap, agricultural chemicals like pesticides on our fruit and other pollutants in the air will all destroy your good bacteria. Keeping your intake and exposure to these things to a minimum will serve you well in your attempts to maintain a healthy gut flora and weight. Keep in mind, of course, that although a healthy gut flora is only one part of the equation when it comes to weight loss it is a very important one. So, if weight is an issue for you, give some thought to the state of your gut flora or you may find your attempts at weight loss are futile because of this stubborn and silent barrier to a healthy weight.
For more information on nutrition and weight loss, we’d be happy to help at http://www.thecontentedbody.com/