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It began with two mice—one skinny, one fat. Scientists moved the gut bacteria of the fat mouse into the skinny mouse.
Here’s where things get interesting: Within two weeks, the skinny mouse was fat. Not because it was eating more. Not because it had switched its diet around.
The skinny mouse was fat because it harbored the same gut bacteria as the fat mouse.
Eating cultured vegetables daily, made from the Veggie Culture Starter, could correct an imbalance in the gut that makes it seem impossible to lose weight.
The results of this experiment were published back in 2006, when researchers had just begun piecing together the difference between “obese” bacteria and “lean” bacteria. (1)
Since then, we have learned that gut bacteria interact with many systems in the body—influencing inflammation, appetite, how much energy you harvest from food, and how much energy you store as fat. (2)
In other words, your gut bacteria talk to your brain, your immune system, and even your fat cells.
Obesity is marked by inflammation—when you are fat, you are inflamed. What's more, your gut bacteria can make or break low-grade inflammation. (3)
What Gut Bacteria Can Teach Us About Weight Loss
You’re not alone in your body. For every one of your cells, there are 10 microbial cells to match it. (4) Each microbial cell has its own genetic instruction book.
All in all, the microbes living in your body encode 150 times more genes than your own genome. So, chances are high that the bugs living in your gut can do a lot that you can’t. (5) Like break down dietary fiber. Digest gluten. And turn hard, tough plant roughage into a special anti-inflammatory fat that nourishes intestinal cells. (6)(7)
But what happens when your microbial landscape changes? Your body changes right along with it.
Imbalances in your inner ecosystem help to explain why some people struggle with weight loss while others do not.
Stubborn fat is not just a story about calories in and calories out—your environment matters. Your genes matter. Your gut bacteria (and their genes) matter.
Fat Firmicutes and the Gut Factor
Over the last decade, we have learned that 90% of the bacteria living in your digestive tract are from two groups:
People with an imbalance of Firmicutes often carry more weight, fight hard to lose fat, and are more inflamed. (8)(9)(10) Brenda Watson, author of The Skinny Gut Diet, fittingly calls Firmicutes your “Fat” bacteria and Bacteroidetes your “Be Skinny” bacteria.
If there’s any one group of bacteria that’s linked to stubborn fat, it’s the Firmicutes.
Before you swear off Fat Firmicutes forever, know that the most famous family of probiotics—Lactobacillus—belongs to the Firmicutes group.
Like all things in life, there is no stark line between good and bad. Indeed, researchers have found that balance and diversity are more important than any one group or species of bacteria. (11)
Brenda Watson calls this the gut factor.
When it comes to weight loss, many people overlook the gut factor and instead target calories or macronutrients—like fat, carbohydrates, and protein. But a healthy, balanced inner ecosystem is pivotal to your weight loss goals.
How to Win Your Battle Against Fat
Researchers recently found that big dietary changes in a small amount of time can dramatically shift your inner ecosystem.
For example, a diet filled with animal products (like meats, cheese, and eggs) and saturated fat will favor bacteria that thrive around bile, a substance the body uses to digest fat. Unfortunately, some of these same bacteria may also contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease. (12)
Likewise, Be Skinny Bacteroidetes encode for more enzymes that break down carbohydrates. (13)
In a nutshell: The microbes living in your gut are extremely sensitive to diet. This is an adaptation that took place thousands of years ago, when feast or famine was the norm.
The foods that you eat select which bacteria will live in your gut, and which will not.
This means that your weight loss goals are within reach. Once you learn how to feed the right bacteria with a plant-based diet and cultured foods, you can begin to intentionally shape your inner ecosystem and lose weight.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
Researchers have found that balance and diversity are more important than any one group or species of bacteria.
Brenda Watson calls this the gut factor.
Many people overlook the gut factor and instead target calories or macronutrients—like fat, carbohydrates, and protein. But a healthy, balanced inner ecosystem is pivotal to your weight loss goals.
Once you learn how to feed the right bacteria with a plant-based diet and cultured foods, you can begin to intentionally shape your inner ecosystem and lose weight.
To learn more about the gut factor and your inner ecosystem, don't miss Brenda Watson’s The Skinny Gut Diet.
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- Turnbaugh, P. J., Ley, R. E., Mahowald, M. A., Magrini, V., Mardis, E. R., & Gordon, J. I. (2006). An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 444(7122), 1027-131.
- Moran, C. P., & Shanahan, F. (2014). Gut microbiota and obesity: Role in aetiology and potential therapeutic target. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, 28(4), 585-597.
- Cox, A. J., West, N. P., & Cripps, A. W. (2014). Obesity, inflammation, and the gut microbiota. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
- Bäckhed, F., Ley, R. E., Sonnenburg, J. L., Peterson, D. A., & Gordon, J. I. (2005). Host-bacterial mutualism in the human intestine. science, 307(5717), 1915-1920.
- Qin, J., Li, R., Raes, J., Arumugam, M., Burgdorf, K. S., Manichanh, C., ... & Weissenbach, J. (2010). A human gut microbial gene catalogue established by metagenomic sequencing. Nature, 464(7285), 59-65.
- Caminero, A., Herrán, A. R., Nistal, E., Pérez‐Andrés, J., Vaquero, L., Vivas, S., ... & Casqueiro, J. (2014). Diversity of the cultivable human gut microbiome involved in gluten metabolism: isolation of microorganisms with potential interest for coeliac disease. FEMS microbiology ecology, 88(2), 309-319.
- Roy, C. C., Kien, C. L., Bouthillier, L., & Levy, E. (2006). Short-chain fatty acids: ready for prime time?. Nutrition in clinical practice, 21(4), 351-366.
- Turnbaugh, P. J., Hamady, M., Yatsunenko, T., Cantarel, B. L., Duncan, A., Ley, R. E., ... & Gordon, J. I. (2008). A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. nature, 457(7228), 480-484.
- Jumpertz, R., Le, D. S., Turnbaugh, P. J., Trinidad, C., Bogardus, C., Gordon, J. I., & Krakoff, J. (2011). Energy-balance studies reveal associations between gut microbes, caloric load, and nutrient absorption in humans. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 94(1), 58-65.
- Bruce-Keller, A. J., Salbaum, J. M., Luo, M., Blanchard, E., Taylor, C. M., Welsh, D. A., & Berthoud, H. R. (2014). Obese-type Gut Microbiota Induce Neurobehavioral Changes in the Absence of Obesity. Biological psychiatry.
- Verdam, F. J., Fuentes, S., de Jonge, C., Zoetendal, E. G., Erbil, R., Greve, J. W., ... & Rensen, S. S. (2013). Human intestinal microbiota composition is associated with local and systemic inflammation in obesity. Obesity, 21(12), E607-E615.
- David, L. A., Maurice, C. F., Carmody, R. N., Gootenberg, D. B., Button, J. E., Wolfe, B. E., ... & Turnbaugh, P. J. (2013). Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome. Nature.
- El Kaoutari, A., Armougom, F., Gordon, J. I., Raoult, D., & Henrissat, B. (2013). The abundance and variety of carbohydrate-active enzymes in the human gut microbiota. Nature reviews Microbiology, 11(7), 497-504.
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