Your Microbiome and Your Weight (AKA The Bugs Made Me Do It)
You know that feeling when you just simply MUST have something sweet? Or maybe it’s that crunchy savory thing that you are feeling compelled to munch on stat. Or, those greasy but oh-so-delicious French fries, that sugary donut….
You tell yourself, no, I don’t need it, I’m going to resist! But somehow next thing you know it’s in your mouth?
Usually when that happens we think it’s a failure of will power and we start beating ourselves up, calling ourself names, generally being super mean… because obviously this is just weakness, right?
Well… actually it’s a lot more than that. You might think that you are just YOU, that your wonderful brain should have complete control over your body. But the truth is there’s more to you, than YOU.
Many of us never heard of this until fairly recently, but there exists inside all of us this thing called our microbiome. It’s related to our digestive system, but it’s apart from it. And that’s because it’s not part of your body really.
And your microbiome has a direct effect on your food cravings and urges. Read on to find out why.
Your microbiome consists of TRILLIONS of bacteria that form a community inside your body. And this community lives primarily in the lining of your intestines.
It includes over 1,000 species and up to 100 trillion individual beneficial bacteria. The microbiome includes all the organisms that live in or near your body, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, worms and all of their genes.
I know, I know…Ewww!!
But this isn’t really something all that new. Most of us have been aware of the benefits of probiotics for decades now. We buy yogurt that contains beneficial acidopholus and other probiotics to keep our digestion healthy and to prevent and overgrowth of yeast. We already get it that we have some flora and fauna inside of us, we just actually don’t know the half of it.
The reason that probiotics are a thing is that the bacteria in the microbiome are varied. Some are “good guy” bacteria that do all kinds of wonderful things for your body. Others are the “bad guys.” Weirdly we do need some of the bad guys to balance out the good guys.
Those bacteria (the good and the bad) don’t just sit there and help us digest food. They have a huge impact on gut function and even the function of your brain.
Your gut health affects your ability to absorb nutrients, how hormones such as insulin are produced, and how and when fat is stored. When the microbiome is healthy and populated with a good balance of ‘good guys’ to ‘bad guys’, your metabolism is faster and you experience way less brain fog! You tend to find yourself in a good mood more often, there’s way less inflammation in your body, and of course your digestion is much healthier.
These bacteria affect so much more than your digestive system… the microbiome literally talks to your immune system telling it what to respond to. It can control inflammatory responses – think allergies! And when those bacteria are in the perfect healthy balance they can actually stop chronic immune responses.
AND, not so surprisingly, an unhealthy balance affects your weight and how easily you can gain and lose it.
When those bacteria are out of balance you can experience weight gain, belly fat and even obesity. A damaged microbiome has trouble doing its job in metabolizing blood sugar and regulating hormones… including those hormones that signal hunger and fullness.
You need a lot of diversity in your microbiome, including that balance of the good – probiotic – bacteria and the bad – pathogenic – bacteria. A typical balanced and healthy microbiome has about 85 percent of ‘good’ bacterial balanced out by 15 percent that are pathogenic.
The good bacteria mitigate the effects of the bad. When the diversity decreases, then the normally beneficial bacteria can lose their counterbalance and actually turn pathogenic. The different overgrowths stress the body, create inflammation and uncomfortable symptoms and conditions like yeast infections.
The good bacteria have a symbiotic relationship with the human body. What’s good for them is good for your body. The ‘bad bacteria’ are not parasites, but they do live in us and benefit at our expense. So, what’s good for them is bad for us. They feed on those foods that are detrimental to our health: like bad fats and heavily sugared processed foods.
But heres the kicker: Out-of-balance bad guy bacterial in your micobiome actually produce toxic by-products in your body. These byproducts not only harm you but they even persuade you biochemically to crave and eat more sugar and highly processed food.
If the bad guys are busy crowding out the good guys, you’re in trouble!
In the interest of their own survival they are manipulating their host (you) by sending their own signals to YOUR brain. Signals Like Time for a stop at Krispy Kreme! Or, We need some French fries stat.
These bugs can literally make you feel almost physically unwell until you obey their commands. They do this via neurotransmitters that they produce and then send to your brain. These can make you depressed, anxious, or experience serious cravings that seem impossible to ignore.
It sounds a little crazy that these alien bacteria could actually send messages to your brain, like science fiction movie. But it’s a fact that’s being proven by research. So, just know that if you feel like you are not in control of what you eat a big part of the problem just might be your gut bacteria getting worried about their very lives.
They are sometimes the culprit behind your addictions to certain foods. When those bad guy bacteria want it, you feel like you MUST HAVE IT.
All that will stop happening when you rebalance the bacteria in your microbiome. You want a balance of mostly good and neutral bacteria with a limited number of the bad guys – because the number of the bad guys is kept in check by the good guys. This is why it’s so important to take steps to get that balance in your microbiome. The good news is, this actually doesn’t take long!
But… the bad news is when you first start on a program to balance out these bacteria, those bad guys are going to pitch a serious fit. They start SCREAMING at you to just eat the sugar, the transfats, those unhealthy foods that they literally depend on to survive.
That’s why it’s so helpful to have a little support when you first embark on a change in your diet.
You need tools for managing those uncomfortable physical and emotional sensations. You need ways to discern what’s really going on with your maddening obsession for French fries and to keep you sane when they start to dance through your dreams!
You might be thinking that you have to go on some sort of strict regime to get a healthier balance in your microbiome. But, there’s a different approach! Rather than starving yourself through dieting and deprivation, try shifting your thinking to what will FEED the good bacteria in your gut.
One good thing you can do right away is to add more good bacteria to your gut through probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and lacto-fermented pickles, along with various strains of probiotic supplements.
It does take more than that though. If you want your probiotic foods and supplements to have the best effect, you need to feed those good bacteria with the healthy foods that keep THEM thriving and, of course, less of the foods that multiply the bad guys.
A great way to kickstart this process is a Reset or Detox program. There are lots of ways to do them and you can do this on your own. But – if you want to give yourself a far greater chance of success, the buddy system is where it’s at.
Get a buddy and start adding in the foods that will multiply your beneficial microbiome bacteria. Or, better yet, join The Complete Detox program, the online group I’m leading which starts Monday, January 13th.
Here’s where you can find out more about The Complete Detox.
It’s all fine and dandy to decide to starve out the bad bacteria by giving up certain foods…. But you know what’s going to happen. Not only will the bacteria send those nasty messages to your brain, but your primitive brain has its own hatred of any change. This makes the emotional part of detoxing pretty challenging for a lot of us.
The Complete Detox is ‘complete’ because you’ll get support on ALL of the levels, not just guidance on what to eat and not eat, with recipes and more. We’ll use EFT Tapping and you’ll learn strategies for handling those uncomfortable moments that inevitably come up when we make a big change.
Whether you decide to join us or not, consider your own best strategy for brining your microbiome into a better balance for your own health, wellbeing, and optimal weight.