Want to lose weight? It’s all about your gut bacteria…

There is a lot of research out now about how powerful your gut bacteria are in determining your health.  From ulcerative colitis and heart disease, diabetes and PCOS, to acne and anxiety, your microscopic gut dwellers can make or break your health for good or bad. But hang on to your hats…(as hat wearing is making a comeback, and not just at the royal weddings)

The research NOW tells us that our gut bacteria can make us fat.  Seriously? You mean to say that bacteria in my gut are responsible for those 10 extra pounds?  Could be. Read on to find out why.


There is one specific type of bacteria in the human gut that triggers inflammation AND signals cells to ignore insulin. And when your body ignores insulin, all kinds of waist-expanding hi-jinx ensue. (So to be clear I’m not 100% sure of how you spell hi-jinx nor ensue, and while we are at it, questionnaire gives me troubles).   But back to my point. What happens when you ignore insulin? You then need MORE of it to get sugar out of your bloodstream. And what happens when you have MORE insulin around?

Insulin — our fat storage hormone.  

When your body ignores insulin, and you need to make more of it, the end result is you get fat.  There may be more steps in between, but that’s the gist. And by more steps, I’m referring to the bag of chips I may or may not have finished off while researching this article.  

Akkermansia muciniphila or AKK normally breaks down fiber into butyrate and acetate, 2 short chain fatty acids that help repair gut inflammation and feed our good gut bacteria.  If the AKK population is low, butyrate levels drop and our cells ignore insulin.

So, does the AKK population in your gut matter? Can its absence make you fat and presence make you lean?  

When obese diabetic adults were compared to lean healthy individuals, those adults with the healthiest metabolism (as measured by blood glucose/sugar levels, and body fat) had the highest levels of AKK bacteria.  So should you all run out and find probiotics chock full of AKK? Not so fast.

Probiotics don’t take up residence in your gut.  They are just passerby’s.  They do good things like reduce inflammation and support the good guys that do live there.  But they don’t hang out, U-haul their prized possessions and live happily ever after.

So how can you increase your AKK bacteria? Eat your vegetables…

The answer is “Eat your prebiotics.” Prebiotics are basically non-digestible fiber.   Non-digestible to us. But a filet mignon to our beneficial bacteria. Those good guys need to chow down on those fibers to grow and flourish.  And the key here is quantity and variety.

If your menu of vegetables is comprised of potatoes and iceberg lettuce, you are not doing yourself a favor.  Our US obsession with white, processed flour foods is making us sick and fat.  And feeding your kids off the “kids” menu is a really bad idea. I think those menus need to be outlawed.  Our kids and now adults have such narrow taste tolerance that the idea that they will ever start eating arugula, dandelion greens, jicama and kimchee — amazingly robust prebiotic foods is a pipe dream.  But all is not lost. If you are anti-veg, read on.

Bring me the polyphenols!

So if consuming volumes of plant foods are not your jam, polyphenols found in fruits and spices may also promote AKK bacteria.  Here’s a short list of polyphenols that can also serve a prebiotic function even if they aren’t the standard “fiber-ous” fare.

  • grapes (resveratrol)
  • apples and onions (quercetin)
  • catechin (green tea),
  • turmeric spice (curcumin)
  • Cinnamon
  • pomegranate (ellagitannins)
  • olives (oleuropein)
  • cranberries (proanthocyanidins).

If you are looking for some supplement support  — look for these excellent prebiotic fibers:

  • Cellulose
  • Gum arabic
  • Wheat Bran
  • Oat bran
  • Pectin
  • Resistant starch

Let’s get to the point!

  • Your gut bacteria can impact your metabolism
  • When you don’t feed your gut bacteria properly, you start growing the “make ya fat” variety
  • The best way to grow the good, “make me skinny” kind is to feed them with vegetable fibers and polyphenols
  • If all else fails, then the LEAST you can do is find a great prebiotic fiber blend to add to a diet that may not make the grade regarding 7 to 11 vegetable servings  a day.   Check out Fibermend, Fiber-Plus, Opti-fiber lean, Amazing Greens as some trusted brands. Start slowly — bloat is a real concern.  And I can’t have THAT hanging on my conscience.

Rotate Your Probiotics–the Kardashian’s of the supplement world

This will be a quick one.  Probiotics are pretty complex.  There’s a lot of nuance, complexity, controversy and sensationalism surrounding what they do, who they hang out with, who were they seen with, which bars they frequent.  It’s a lot to keep up with.  Probiotics are the Kardashian’s of the supplement world.  I’m going to break it down to the most important salient points.

First, let’s dispel a few myths

  • “All probiotics are the same”  Uhm.  No. They are not. You have many millions or billions or gazillions of different bacteria residing in your gut.  All sorts of strains and subtypes.  So there isn’t really such a thing as “A” Probiotic.   They do different things, they impact your body in different ways, they communicate different functions with regard to hormone balance, nutrient assimilation, danger warning signals, calming inflammation, metabolism, you get the picture.
  • “The more “billions” on the bottle the better!”  Well, this is not really accurate.  You may be starting out with billions that are packaged in the manufacturing plant. But, are they shelf stable? Are they acid resistant? Are they actually making it to your outer colon? (FYI — there is no such thing as an “outer” colon).  The point is what it says on the bottle packaging is what happened at time of manufacturing and doesn’t tell you what is ultimately happening.
  • “Yogurt is a great source of probiotics” No. They are not.  Not unless you make your own yogurt at home, with real cultures. And though most of you probably are already doing that every Sunday, those of you buying Dannon or Fage are not getting a probiotic supply.  Yogurt on the shelf is pasteurized.  It is pumped with probiotics after processing and therefore the final “billions” you get is bogus.
  • “Quality doesn’t matter” Does this need explaining?

What to do about probiotics?

  • For most people, a probiotic is helpful.  It can help improve IBS symptoms, reduce bloating, regulate bowel movements, reduce general inflammation, help with mood and may impact weight management.
  • Probiotics are not for everyone. There are situations where taking a probiotic can make certain symptoms worse.  IF that’s the case, there is something going on with your gut balance and you may need to try different strains or investigate for food sensitivities or maybe even some gut infections.
  • Dosing matters.  If one does nothing for you, you may need to increase your dose.  If one bothers you, reduce your dosing.
  • Rotate the type of probiotics — there are 3 categories of probiotics:
    • lactobacillus/bifidobacteria/streptococcus/bacillus individual and combo strains
    • Saccharomyces boulardii – containing probiotics
    • Soil-based probiotics
  • If one category doesn’t help, try another one.   You may not respond to one but another may do the trick.
  • Every few months, pick from another category.  Your gut microbiome is about diversity.
  • Make sure to feed your own good bacteria with plenty of fruits, vegetables with soluble and insoluble fibers — your prebiotic balance.
  • It’s worth seeing what probiotics can do for your health.  Give it a spin! and at least 4 to 6 weeks to see what they can do for you and your lovely internal good guys!!!