Metabolism Booster #4 – Optimize Your Gut Health

healthygutIn previous posts, I listed factors that can sabotage your metabolism: sleep, stress, toxins in our environment, synthetic food substances, food intolerances, and imbalances in the bacteria in our digestive tract, as well as the timing, macronutrient composition (protein/carbs/fat), and quality of your foods.

If you missed the first three posts, check them out here:

Metabolism Booster #1 was Start the Day with Protein

Metabolism Booster #2 was Phase Out Frankenfoods

Metabolism Booster #3 was The Power of Sleep

In today’s post, I’ll share why the diversity of the bacteria in your intestinal tract is important for weight loss.  The body contains approximately 100 trillion bacteria in total, and these bacteria have been associated with the development and function of immunity, how well our food is digested, and more recently weight management.

In recent years, several studies have found that obese people have a different mix of intestinal bacteria than normal weight people.  In September 2013 a study published in Science showed that intestinal bacteria from lean people transplanted into mice prevented them from becoming obese.  Importantly, a healthy diet must be part of the equation to encourage the bacteria associated with leanness to become incorporated into the gut.

The type and number of bacteria in your intestinal tract can be disrupted by antibiotics, chlorinated water, agricultural chemicals, and by your food choices. Foods high in fat and/or sugar, the type of carbohydrates (simple vs. complex), the type of dietary fats (saturated vs. unsaturated), and restricting calories all may alter the type and number of your intestinal bacteria.

With so many health benefits associated with the healthy gut bacteria, many people are adding foods rich in probiotics to their diets.  Probiotics are microorganisms, mainly bacteria, that keep disease-causing microbes in check, play a role in immunity, and even synthesize specific nutrients important for health.

Probiotic-rich foods to include in your diet include yogurt, kefir, naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented soybean products such as tempeh, miso, and natto.  Probiotics may also be taken in supplement form and are often prescribed by healthcare practitioners after a round of antibiotics.  While probiotic supplements are widely available over the counter, it is important to seek advice from a healthcare practitioner who is familiar with different probiotic strains to ensure that you select the right one for your health condition and goals.

To improve the health of your digestive tract, here are 4 tips to get started:

  1. Reduce/eliminate refined sugar and flour products.
  2. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
  3. Choose at least one probiotic-rich food daily (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempheh, miso, or natto).
  4. If you’ve recently taken an antibiotic, seek advice from your healthcare practitioner about taking a probiotic supplement to replenish the healthy bacteria.

Metabolism is complicated and weight management is about so much more than measuring calories in vs. calories burned.  Incorporate one or more the metabolism boosters to make your weight management journey successful in 2014.

Wishing you and your family a Happy and Healthy New Year!