Part 2: What’s on the menu for gut bacteria? Probiotics
Updated: Jun 16
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are intended to provide health benefits when taken orally. Some probiotics have been shown to assist with weight loss, but care must be taken with probiotic selection as complications can occur.
Probiotics can be found in an either a supplement form or in fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut and kimchi. Due to the increased interest in the microbiome, probiotics are now also being added to a range of processed foods and cosmetics.
Probiotics and Weight Management
The gut microbiota is predominated by two bacterial families; Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes, both of which serve important functions in the body. In a healthy gut, these two families are found in specific proportions relative to each other. There are several other bacterial families that are present in lower numbers in the gut but are also maintained in specific relative proportions. When healthy proportions between the families are maintained, everything works well.
A diet high in sugar or processed foods, certain medications, alcohol and various other toxins can change the balance of these bacterial groups.
Studies have shown that obese individuals tend to have a less diverse gut microbiota with a higher amount of Firmicutes and less Bacteroidetes than lean or normal weight individuals (1, 2). This disparity in weight is believed to be due to differences in the processing of foods and energy-harvesting capacity between the two families. Firmicutes secrete enzymes that are able to extract more calories from food than Bacteroidetes, resulting in more calories being absorbed from the same food (3). Firmicutes like to eat simple carbohydrates such as those found in sweets or white bread, so if these products are consumed on a regular basis, Firmicutes will thrive and make weight loss more difficult.
Other studies have shown that the composition of an individuals’ gut microbiota prior to commencing a weight loss program influences the amount of weight lost and the ability to maintain a lower weight long-term (4).
Fortunately, the gut microbiota is malleable; it’s composition can change depending on what we eat or ingest – and this is why prebiotics and probiotics can make a big difference.
There has been extensive research into the effects of probiotics on health and weight management with some promising results.
Probiotics have been shown to assist with weight management in several ways:
Certain strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria assist with restoring diversity and balance of gut bacteria (5). A higher microbial diversity has repeatedly been associated with a healthy weight (6, 7).
Several studies have demonstrated a link between probiotics and reduced inflammation (8). Inflammation is now known to be a key factor in the development of insulin resistance and obesity (9).
A specific strain of Lactobacillus has been shown to reduce the absorption of dietary fats, therefore reducing energy intake (10).
Probiotics can influence the release of gut peptides, such as glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which has been shown to reduce appetite by influencing the secretion of insulin and delaying the absorption of carbohydrates (11).
Several species of Lactobacillus have been shown to increase the amount of weight loss during calorie restriction (12-17). Some studies have gone on to show that the weight is regained when the probiotic is stopped, therefore providing evidence of its benefit in weight management (18).
It’s important to keep in mind that most of the research has involved the use a specific strain or strains of live and pure bacteria, given in a specific dose under controlled conditions. This means that similar results may not occur given the slightest deviation from these conditions. Certain strains of Lactobacillus have even been shown to cause weight gain, so care needs to be taken when choosing a probiotic (19).
Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria have been extensively researched and are shown to help restore a healthy diversity in the gut microbiota. Microbial diversity has repeatedly been associated with a lean body mass. For these reasons, the use of a probiotic that contains several different strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria is a good choice for weight management.
Probiotics and Medical Conditions
Research has shown that probiotics can help improve immune function and temporarily restore a healthy balance in gut bacteria, particularly after a diarrhoeal illness or treatment with antibiotics (20, 21). In addition, probiotics can improve symptoms of irritable bowel disease (22). However, probiotics have also been associated with an increase in the risk of infections in people with lowered immunity and may increase the risk of complications in inflammatory bowel disease (23, 24).
If you have a medical condition, it is strongly recommended that you seek medical advice before commencing probiotics.
Quality of Probiotics
With our increasing understanding of the benefits of the gut microbiota in human health, probiotics have become big business. It seems that every health blog and every health company is getting on board - but beware. Probiotic supplements are not regulated and do not undergo strict quality control. This means you can’t be certain of their quality, type or viability of the microorganisms contained. And you can be fairly certain that probiotics that have been added to packaged corn chips, will have very little value!
There are several reputable companies that produce probiotics which are commonly dispensed under practitioner or pharmacist supervision. It is best to look out for these when choosing a probiotic.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that promote a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. Mainly found in fermented foods, known health benefits of probiotics include aiding weight loss and weight management, supporting immune, heart and digestive health as well as many more. Below is a list of probiotic foods that can improve your health.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a vinegar made from apples. It is known to promote digestion and support a healthy immune system. Apple cider vinegar helps soothe dry throats, remove body sludge toxins, maintain healthy skin and promote youthful, healthy bodies.
Apple Cider Vinegar can be added to dressings and used for pickling vegetables. Consumption in moderation is recommended.
Kefir is a fermented milk beverage, made from live cultures. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties and contains Vitamin K2, D, phosphorus, magnesium and calcium required for bone health. Kefir boosts immunity and is known to improve allergies, skin and digestive health.
Kefir is consumed as a drink and can be added to smoothies.
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made from fermented salted vegetables, mainly cabbage and various seasonings. Kimchi is known prevent diabetes and gastric ulcers as well as reduce food cravings and severe symptoms of food allergies. It contains anti-aging properties, antioxidants aiding in the prevention of cancer and improves immunity and digestive health. These health benefits are due to the essential nutrients found in kimchi consisting of fibre, amino acids and minerals such as calcium, selenium and iron as well as Vitamin C, Vitamin A and Vitamins B1 and B2.
Kimchi is best eaten cold as a side dish.
Kombucha is a fermented tea, made from a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). It contains essential nutrients which improve the digestive system and strengthen immune health. Other benefits of drinking kombucha include liver and heart disease prevention, managing diabetes and improving mental health. It also has antibacterial properties and is beneficial for heart health.
Kombucha is consumed as a beverage and can be found in most stores. It is important to check the sugar content before purchasing.
Miso is a paste made of soybean. Full of essential nutrients miso aids in strengthening of the immune system and reducing the risk of some cancers. It is high in antioxidants protecting against free radicals and known to improve digestion and lower cholesterol. Miso is rich in calcium, iron, protein and potassium and a good source of B vitamins, Vitamins E, K and folic acid.
It is commonly used in a soup however can be added to marinades, broths, dips and sauces.
Olives are small fruit that grow on trees. A powerful antioxidant, Olives are high in Vitamin E and mono-unsaturated fats that not only increase good cholesterol but also aid cancer prevention. High in fibre and essential vitamins and minerals, olives are known to benefit heart health and brain function as well as prevent infection.
Olives and olive oil can be added to all meal types and can be roasted, baked, grilled, fried and consumed raw.
Pickles are cucumbers that are soaked in a brine or vinegar and left to ferment, this process is called pickling. Pickles are a rich source of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals aiding in digestive, liver and stomach health.
It is important to find a product without any additives such as sugar or white vinegar and not to over consume, as pickles are high in salt.
Pickles can be eaten on their own as a snack or added to most meals including salads, sandwiches, dips and soups as they can be eaten raw or cooked.
Sauerkraut is made by fermenting cabbage. It has many health benefits which include improving immunity, high blood pressure and digestive disorders. Sauerkraut aids in the prevention of infections and inflammation as well as boosting energy levels and mental health . These benefits are attributed to the essential nutrients it richly contains including fibre, Vitamins A, C, K and calcium.
Sauerkraut can be eaten on its own, as a side dish, in a salad, soup or stew.
Tempeh is a traditional Indonesian food made from fermenting soybeans, with cultures into a cake form. It is a high source of protein, vitamins and dietary fibre aiding bone health and lowering cholesterol. Tempeh is rich in antioxidants known to reduce the development of chronic illness and absorption of free radicals.
Tempeh is best seasoned or marinated before being added to meals. It can be baked, grilled, sautéed or steamed.
Yoghurt is made by fermenting milk with a yoghurt culture. It provides benefits to promote immune, digestive and heart health. It is high in protein, B vitamins, Vitamin D and calcium essential for healthy bones and teeth.
Coconut yoghurt is a non-dairy form of yoghurt. Whilst it has the same benefits as plain yoghurt it is dairy-free therefore suitable for persons suffering from lactose intolerance.
Both plain and coconut yoghurt can be used in smoothies, sauces, marinades, dressings, desserts, as a topping or enjoyed on its own.
There is certainly enough evidence to support the role of probiotics in weight management, however care must be taken. The factors discussed above were considered during the development of BiomeMD™. For these reasons the protocol starts with the use of a Bowel Formula that helps restore diversity in the gut microbiota and heal the cells lining the gut wall. This then allows for the safe introduction of probiotics in Stage 2, when they further help to improve microbial diversity and assist in other functions such as reducing inflammation and regulating appetite. The probiotics used in BiomeMD™ are sourced from a reputable company that is involved in extensive research into the microbiome. These probiotics can only be dispensed by a health practitioner, who can also determine suitability of the use of probiotics in each individual case.
BiomeMD™ is available through a number of clinics across Australia, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find a clinic near you.
Gut bacteria: what’s on the menu? Part 1: Prebiotics
Gut bacteria: what’s on the menu? Part 3: Fermented Foods
How your gut bacteria effects your ability to lose weight
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