Your Gut Can Make You Slim

By Aviva Patz | Health.com | October 2014

Looking to dump some extra pounds? Here’s a hint: Work those good bacteria.

Consider this: Right now, as you’re sitting there, there’s a battle raging in your belly. Some 1,000 species of bacteria are duking it out, trying to establish dominance. Why should you care? Because whether the good bacteria in your gut or the bad triumph doesn’t just decide how well you digest your dinner, respond to allergens and fend off diseases — it also helps determine how much weight you’re likely to gain. Or lose.

“Simply put, if you get the microbiome — that collection of bacteria inside you — healthy, you will lose weight,” says Raphael Kellman, MD, a New York City physician and author of The Microbiome Diet. “It’s less about eating a certain percentage of carbohydrates, protein and fat than about correcting the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, which is making you crave the wrong foods, triggering inflammation.”

Unhealthy gut bacteria also produce food cravings: A study published in BioEssays suggests that some microbes may drive us to eat doughnuts or another tempting treat. These gut bugs send chemical messages to the brain that sway our appetite and mood — perhaps making us feel anxious until we gobble a square of dark chocolate or a T-bone steak.

Fortunately, we can begin to take control by feeding our microbiome the right foods. “I tell my patients, ‘The bacteria follow the food,'” says gastroenterologist Robynne Chutkan, MD, founder of the Digestive Center for Women in Chevy Chase, Md., and author of Gutbliss. “What we eat dictates the kind of bacteria we grow in our gut garden.”

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