It is a common thing that I hear from my client, and particularly from other Mums. They are often struggling to shift those last few kilos, and it is usually not through lack of trying. They try changing their diet, they even try to increase their exercise (or berate themselves for not exercising when they have kids, a house, dinner to prepare, are lacking in sleep and/or working and basically doing an awesome job of making sure everyone else is looked after). This can be so frustrating, and when I ask them out of 10 how much they want to change it, the answer is usually 11. The common message with weight loss is to eat less and move more, but as obesity expert Dr Arya Sharman puts it perfectly “This advice is about as effective as telling a patient with depression ‘You know what? You just need to cheer up”.
Well what if the secret (and I aim to help make it not-so-secret) to shedding those last few kilos is something you can’t even see, and probably rarely even think about? Deep in that beautiful belly of yours (and actually right throughout your body) is an army of bacteria that play an important role in every process that happens in your body. In fact, 90% of the cells in your body are bacteria, yes you are only 10% human. We are all just shells carrying around these bacteria that we live in a symbiotic relationship with, we actually need them to survive (cue the throwing out the window of antibacterial soap). There are two main ways that we know the gut bacteria effect weight loss.
1. We need to have the right bacteria in order to lose weight:
A study (which you can read here) conducted in 2006 showed us that the gut microbiota is a contributing factor to weight gain. This study was conducted on mice, where germ-free mice that were implanted with microbes from fat mice gained weight even when they ate less then mice implanted with microbes from lean mice. Healing your gut and restoring the diversity of your gut flora could be the missing link for you to shed those last few kilos- not to mention the whole host of other health benefits that come with it. Simply taking probiotics won’t always be the answer, and nor will faecal transplant, as our gut bacteria are more complex then that. It is very hard to pick the good guys from the bad, and they act differently in different situations, therefore much research (which is currently happening) is still needed to isolate out the good guys and find out exactly what feeds them. In the meantime, avoiding processed packaged foods, trans fats, refined carbohydrates, commercially raised meat (antibiotics and hormones), and including lots of probiotic foods has fantastic results. You can read more about healing the gut here.
2. Our bacteria can effect our food choices:
Every time you eat, you are first feeding your bacteria, and they have a great impact on how you are then fed. They are involved in the process of breaking down your food and aiding in the absorption of nutrients. Your gut bacteria are actually competing with you for nutrition, so your food choices do effect the diversity of your gut flora, and the gut flora can in turn, have an effect on your food choices. An article (which you can ready here) published in 2014 concluded from the current scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behaviour and dietary choices to favour consumption of the particular nutrients that they grow best on. Can you guess what the opportunistic (bad) bacteria thrive best on? Yep, sugar and refined carbs. So you are officially off the hook, it was your bacteria that wanted the whole packet of biscuits. As a reformed sugar-holic, (Hi my name is Elyse, I can eat 2 blocks of Lindt dark orange chocolate, and a whole tub of dairy-free chocolate ice-cream in one day), I found this information very empowering. These crafty little critters, it is believed, may influence our decisions by releasing signalling molecules into our gut. Our gut is connected with our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems, and those signals could therefore have an effect on our physiologic and behavioural responses. Catch 22 hey? We need to break the cycle and heal the gut, which can alter the gut flora and the nutrition that they need. You can read more about healing the gut here.
So if you have been trying to shift a few kilos, please stop beating yourself up about it, and creating more stress in your life by forcing yourself out the door for a run (exercise IS great, just not when it is causing more stress in your life- it’s a risk outweighing the benefit thing). Start looking at the steps you could take to begin healing your gut, and if you need some step-by-step non-judgmental hand-holding kind of help, that’s what I do best, and you can get in touch with me for a free initial consultation.