A new book focuses on gut bacteria as the key to a healthy weight. Follow your gut has a whole new meaning. The impact of gut bacteria on our health is, by now, impossible to ignore.
Good Poop Diet Is the Next Big Thing – The Daily Beast
One of the most fascinating findings is that the microbiome influences body weight. Studies have shown that transplanting feces from obese mice into thin mice cause the mice to fatten up. Researchers have asserted that the “obese microbiome has an increased capacity to harvest energy from the diet.” Early findings suggested that the obese tended to have a lot of a certain type (“phylum”) of bacteria, called Firmicutes, and a low number of another phylum of bacteria, Bacteroidetes. At least one study showed that weight loss resulted in an increase in the number of “Bacters” and a decrease in the “Firms.”
Now a new book, The Skinny Gut Diet, by nutritionist Brenda Watson, tracks the progress of people who follow a diet specifically designed to alter the gut microbiome. Watson recommends a high fiber diet, since fiber isn’t just good for bulking up stool, it’s also the primary source of food for many “good” gut bacteria. The diet is also low carbohydrate, which prevents the feeding of the kinds of bacteria that have been implicated in weight gain and food cravings.
“My diet was designed to prevent carbohydrate cravings,” Watson told The Daily Beast. This means supplying proteins and fats because our bodies tend to need to eat less frequently when we consume them. But consider that when we eat, the bacteria are actually fed first. By starving out the carb-loving bacteria, over time the bacteria that thrive on low carb food would flourish, and we would no longer be controlled by inexplicable cupcake cravings. This is a significant shift in the way we think about nutrition. It’s also a useful way to change our own behaviors: Resisting the cake isn’t about denying ourselves, it’s about denying our bacteria. That might make walking away from dessert a bit easier.
We can’t really interpret these findings as proof that lowering the number of “Firms” or increasing the “Bacters” is causing weight loss. Watson has simply documented how bacterial populations change with weight reduction—something that has also been observed in the laboratory. Her findings are fascinating, but in a quick fix era, they beg the question—why not just transplant the stool from thin people into the obese?
— This was nicely explicated in an Atlantic article whose title says it all: Your Gut Bacteria Want You To Eat A Cupcake.
If you aren’t schooled in dietetics or nutrition, the facts may or may not be convincing. So here are a few supporting articles on this topic:
blood pressure – The latest connection to be investigated between the microbiome and health is that of gut bacteria to blood pressure.
anxiety and depression – Mayer and others stress that a lot more work will be needed to know whether that probiotic — or any others — really could help people feel less anxious or help solve other problems involving the brain.
autoimmune diseases – A lot of immune-system cells live in the gut wall, where they have the unenviable task of distinguishing friendly bacteria from hostile ones.