How to lose weight naturally with Probiotics and Prebiotics
You’ve probably heard a lot about the gut benefits of adding probiotics to your diet, and prebiotics get some hype for helping feed the friendly bacteria that lives in your digestive tract too. Combined, the two seemingly have superpowers when it comes to keeping your gut healthy and feeling its best. To add to these benefits, research proves that altering the gut biome can help in the treatment of obesity.
Studies have found that helping the gut biome flourish with good bacteria, while simultaneously battling and eliminating the bad bacteria can help lower BMI, as well as reduce overall fat and body mass. Both probiotics and prebiotics can achieve this with the former helping reduce body size and the latter helping lower body weight.
Eaten together, evidence is increasing that probiotics and prebiotics are a powerful tool in fighting obesity and helping people achieve a healthy weight and body size. While more research is needed, there’s a growing excitement in the medical community regarding the use of probiotics and prebiotics for aiding in weight loss.
The Role of Probiotics in Weight Loss
Of course, there’s no magic cure for obesity and the best way to slim down is to cut calories by eating healthy foods and getting plenty of physical activity. It appears however, that altering the gut biome can help the process and ensure good overall health along the way, as there is promising evidence that probiotics and prebiotics are a healthy way to supplement traditional weight loss advice.
Over the years, there have been a seemingly endless supply of quick tricks for losing weight. From using pregnancy hormones to the lemon juice cleanse, from the grapefruit diet to Atkins, people have tried countless ways to shed excess pounds and slim down. Clearly, some of them are less than healthy and in fact, can be quite dangerous to your overall health, so where do probiotics fit in?
Probiotics are essentially just a form of good bacteria that are found in the digestive tract and that help keep bowel function healthy and regular. However, more research is finding that the health of your gut influences your health in a variety of other ways too, weight being one of them. The precise function is still being studied, but it shows definite promise.
Studies have found that overweight people tend to have higher levels of bad bacteria in their gut, while slimmer people have more good bacteria in their intestines.
What researchers are trying to determine is if thinner people naturally have more good bacteria or the increased amount is a result of their healthier diets. In general, people who are not overweight tend to eat more plant foods and less junk food, which helps promote a healthy amount of good gut bacteria. Again, more research is needed, but experts are increasingly suggesting that everyone add more probiotics to their routine.
The Role of Prebiotics in Weight Loss
Prebiotics, or prebiotic fiber as it’s sometimes called, is a form of indigestible fiber that can be found in abundance in grains, fruits, and vegetables. They aid in the production of friendly gut bacteria, something that plays a role in good overall health. Not all fiber is considered prebiotic so simply increasing your intake of fiber will not increase your friendly gut bacteria.
To be qualified as a prebiotic fiber, a food must meet a certain set of criteria which include: a resistance to being digested in the upper intestinal tract; encourages the growth of good bacteria; and becomes fermented in the intestines. As you probably know, fiber is an effective tool for weight loss because it digests so slowly, which means more control over appetite, helping prevent overeating. The added benefit of growing the healthy gut biome is that it can aid in reaching the goal weight.
It’s also important to note that prebiotics can’t exist without probiotics as the two have a symbiotic relationship of sorts. It’s best to consume both prebiotics and probiotics together for the most benefit. If one is consumed without the other, the ability for it to flourish isn’t as well enhanced as when they are together in the digestive tract.
The Gut Biome and Eating Behaviors
Going right back to prehistoric times, experts have discovered that your gut biome may play a role in eating behaviors. In early humans, the gut biome may have been originally used to help drive survival by manipulating things like appetite satiety, the way a food tastes, and how it makes a person feel. The theory is that when there is too much bad bacteria, the good bacteria focuses on competing for space in the gut, rather than helping support good health.
At the same time, an unhealthy balance of good and bad bacteria can skew metabolism and influence a person to make poor eating choices. However, the good bacteria appear to have more influence on a person, therefore increasing it can help a person lose weight. So, by driving up the amount of good bacteria and lowering the amount of bad, a person’s gut can focus on health and this may also speed the metabolism. And, as mentioned previously, probiotics and prebiotics tend to come from healthy, lower-calorie foods, which further support healthy weight loss.
What Foods Contain Probiotics and Prebiotics?
One of the easiest and most valuable ways to boost the presence of probiotics and prebiotics in the gut is to eat foods that contain them. As mentioned earlier, prebiotics are best found in grains, fruits, and vegetables, though not all contain them. Raw vegetables such Jerusalem artichokes, raw garlic, raw asparagus, raw or cooked onion, and raw leeks are prime sources of prebiotics. Chicory root, bananas, dandelion greens, apples, oats, barley, flaxseed, wheat bran and seaweed are other top sources of prebiotics.
When it comes to probiotics, you’ve probably heard that yogurt is an outstanding choice. That’s true, but it’s not your only option. Other ideal sources of probiotics include anything that’s been pickled or fermented – pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and kefir, to name a few. Due to the great attention that is being paid to gut health, all of these products have become more readily available in recent years. Take note though, that the process of pasteurisation can destroy a vast amount of the good bacteria, so look for unpasteurised/raw versions where possible.
The best way to tap into the benefits is to include a good selection of items from both lists in your diet, as probiotics and prebiotics work together to help your gut biome flourish. If you’re just getting started on a diet overhaul, a nutritionist is an ideal resource for helping you develop an eating plan you can stick to and lose weight at the same time.
A Word on Supplements
There are a multitude of proprietary probiotic supplements available in various forms, but that doesn’t automatically qualify them as a good choice. Yes, they will bump the quantity of good bacteria in your gut, but most health experts recommend getting your nutrients, probiotics and prebiotics included, from your meal plan where possible.
If you choose to go the supplement route, make sure you choose one with L. acidophilus, B. longum, and B. bifidum strains of bacteria. Collectively, these three strains do the best job of boosting the health of your gut biome. In addition, always use one that has at least 50 billion CFUs (Colony Forming Units) per capsule.
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The takeaway message here is that, while probiotics and prebiotics show potential as a weight loss aid, they cannot be relied upon on their own to fight obesity. Instead, they should be used in conjunction with a healthy meal plan and plenty of exercise to promote a healthy weight and a healthy body in general.
As always, if you have specific health issues, it’s best to discuss the addition of a supplement with a health professional before getting started.