Research shows an “obese” gut microbiota is different from a “lean” one. This review of studies explains how certain bacteria populations can make you hold on to weight for dear life. It turns out that you can have energy-efficient, calorie-consumer bacteria strains, or ones that mess with your metabolism and make you fat. Which ones do you want to cultivate, and how?
take gobs of probiotics?
You may think that probiotic pills are THE thing to change your gut microbes for the better. But do you know anything about the kinds of bacteria you are dumping into your gut relative to what’s already there? Do you actually need more of the strains you’re taking? And is what you’re ingesting actually colonizing, or are they feeding other strains you want to grow? It turns out there’s more to consider with probiotics.
Some say the amount of bacteria in a capsule matters most, while others say it’s the number of different strains that are key. But really, it’s the type that matters. Do you need that type or do you already have too much of it?
ways to assess
Take the right test
The gold standard to test your gut bacteria is a genetic PCR stool test. This technology can give you a window into what you already have and what you need to cultivate. It can also tell you if you have too much growth of something undesirable! You won’t get this test from your GI doctor. They don’t offer this option – you need to get it on your own, or through an integrative or functional doctor.
Go by symptoms
Do you have resistant weight loss, even though you do “all the right things?” Do you also have bloating, sluggish bowels, stinky gas, reflux, belching, or frequent diarrhea? These are signs of dysbiosis (an imbalance in gut microbes).
Let’s talk about what you can do to balance your microbes and cultivate the ones that help make you lean….
feed the good gut bacteria
Too much bacteria in the Firmicutes phylum can shift you towards weight gain. These are the ones you find in most probiotic pills and foods (like raw sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, and kefir). The Bacteroides phylum includes the ones shown to make you lean. These are anaerobic and don’t come in pill form. You have to feed them. It turns out that they like polyphenols, which is a phytochemical found in plants.
Where do you get polyphenols?
If you want to really geek out about polyphenol content in different foods, check out this database.
But to make it simple, eat these foods:
- All berries, especially blueberries
- All colorful fruits, especially pomegranate seeds and black currants
- Nuts and seeds, especially pistachios, hazelnuts and pecans
- Beans, especially black and white beans
And drink these beverages:
- Wine in moderation, coffee and black tea
What about polyphenol supplements?
These are popular right now – think pomegranate concentrate, isoflavones, resveratrol, and many more. There can be reasons to use these medicinally, but as with all supplements, get guidance other than Dr. Google, as too much of a good thing can be, well, too much! This study speaks to the risks of overdoing polyphenol supplements.
If you go for a supplement, you get far more from a powder than you do from a pill. You can get a good quality “red” powder, like PaleoReds, and add a TBsp into your smoothie, juice or water. Do check for additives and fillers, which may not be good for your gut, and dilute the precious polyphenols.
How do you get your polyphenols? I’d love to hear your ideas!