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The Secret to Healthy Weight Is In Your Microbiome

KAIBAE organic baobab fruit powder being added to a healthy smoothie recipe of organic fruits, vegetables and nuts and is being poured into a glass. The smoothie is bright pink and full of nutrient dense gut microbiome loving ingredients!

Fad diets, exercise programs, weight loss supplements…why aren’t any of these helping you feel better and manage a healthy weight? You might be missing a key piece of the puzzle. The answer you’ve been seeking has been right in front of you the whole time—a healthy gut microbiome!

Poor food choices, modern lifestyle habits, and stress cause a disruption in the diversity of the gut microbiome and the rhythm by which nutrients are extracted from your food.  This takes a toll on the body and results in inflammation, reduced metabolic health, and weight gain.

You’ve taken probiotics and heard of the term “microbiome,” but what does it really mean and how can you make sure your microbiome is at its best?

What is the microbiome and how does it relate to our health?  

The microbiome is essentially an ecosystem of tiny bacteria, a living layer that covers every surface of your body that contacts the outside world. The balance of the human gut microbiome is closely tied to digestive health, immune system function, skin regeneration, and body composition, to name a few. Disturbances in the probiotic diversity of the gut are associated with a number of inflammation related disorders including obesity, diabetes, neurological disorders, allergies, and autoimmune diseases [1]. 

Organic fruit and vegetable smoothie with a heaping Tablespoon of Prebiotic baobab fruit powder added to your organic farmers market smoothie

 What we eat and when we eat affects the gut microbiome

The gut microbiome determines absorption, breakdown and storage of nutrients, and it is also linked to how our bodies use energy. The composition of gut microbiota has been shown to differ between lean and obese people. The human gut is home to millions of diverse bacteria. The ratio of two major types of bacteria, called firmicutes and bacteroidetes, plays a role in whether or not we gain weight. Previous studies have shown that gut microbes aid in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates, but according to research published in Cell Host & Microbe,  they also affect fat metabolism.[2] Firmicutes are involved in fat absorption and are found to be more abundant in people who consume a diet rich in fat.  It’s also important to note that there is an ebb and flow to the microbiome. Firmicutes are more prevalent during a meal and diminish during sleep and fasting while bacteroidetes appear to do the opposite.[ 3,4,]

It’s not hard to imagine how the Western diet, high in fat, sugar, refined carbohydrates and dairy products contributes to blood sugar problems and weight gain.  On top of this, many Americans are snacking more than ever. Eating throughout the day disrupts the body's circadian rhythms which impacts digestion, nutrient absorption, and energy levels.

Alternatives to the Western Diet

Further research into eating to support a healthy gut microbiome demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet greatly enhances probiotic balance and gut barrier health.[6]  The Mediterranean is characterized by a high dietary intake of olive oil, fruits, nuts, and vegetables; a moderate intake of fish and poultry; a limited intake of dairy and red meat.  Prebiotic fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains including chicory, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, and onions. For a tastier sweet and tangy source of prebiotic fiber, Baobab powder is a great option. It goes well in smoothies, yogurt, and oatmeal [6].  Beyond its great taste, baobab stands out from other prebiotic foods because it’s extraordinarily rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and polyphenols. Studies on Hunter-gatherer societies such as the Hadza in Tanzania – whose  diet  includes  tubers and baobab – showed a greater gut microbiome diversity. [5]  

Nutrients like omega 3s are also crucial building blocks for gut health and we can get these by consuming fish, algae, and olive oil. Omega 3s are anti-inflammatory and also support an essential bacteria in the gut wall, called Akkermansia. These bacteria are known to help prevent weight gain and metabolism impairment. [8]

It’s also important to eat foods in their natural state because it encourages the production of short chain fatty acids in the gut. Short chain fatty acids fortify the gut barrier and support cell communication throughout the body. The  fermentation of fiber produces acetate, propionate, and butyrate, which support the gut wall and prevent the movement of toxins from the gut into circulation.[8] Short chain fatty acids are essential messengers that  regulate energy metabolism with far reaching benefits throughout the body including with  burning fat  and decreasing fat storage. [9,10]

Intermittent fasting, Circadian fasting, Monk Fasting, Caloric restriction 

They can all benefit gut health.  Research has shown that individuals incorporating  intermittent fasting or caloric restriction experience similar benefits for weight loss and metabolic health. Circadian fasting restricts eating to daytime hours from 7am to 7 pm. It encourages people to make breakfast the largest meal of the day and eat a light dinner within a window of 12 hours. Eating less can improve gut microbiome balance and help you lose weight and live longer too. [11]

Your body has a circadian clock where every organ, every cell, and even the gut microbiome operate in a rhythmic fashion to produce, store, and use energy. A rhythm that  is influenced by the light and dark cycle of the earth and also by our diet and lifestyle. All day snacking  and prolonged  light exposure, particularly blue light from phones and computers disrupt these circadian patterns and the overproduction of  messengers that move us towards metabolic imbalance  and weight gain. Constant eating and snacking also increase microbiota in the gut (the bacteria that extract nutrients from food for storage), reduce insulin sensitivity, and contribute to abdominal fat mass.

When striving for healthier weight, sleep is another important element to consider.  Sleep deprivation affects hormone balance. When ghrelin, the hunger hormone, outpaces leptin in the body, it triggers food cravings. Sleep is a time when the body repairs itself. It allows melatonin and growth hormone to stimulate muscle and protein synthesis and break down fat. Late night eating reduces quality of sleep and interferes with the body’s regular  melatonin and growth hormone production. [12,13]

Research into the effect of skipping breakfast  showed a disruption in the cortisol rhythm and elevated blood pressure. Breakfast is the most important meal and a smoothie with protein, fats, prebiotic fiber, and polyphenols can be a great way to start the day (check out Baobab/berry power smoothie.) [14,15,16]

Man jumping over boulders out in nature enjoying the fresh air and good health from prebiotic baobab fruit powder. He is healthy because he feeds him gut microbiome nutrients rich foods, high in fiber and wild plants rich in antioxidant polyphenols, vitamin C and minerals.

Movement matters

Nothing feels better than a walk in nature. It relieves stress and puts us in a better mood. It should not come as a surprise that movement in green spaces improves immune health  and hormone balance. It can also add to the diversity of your microbiome [17] in the gut and on your skin. If you have not been active for a while, gradually work your way into a regimen that alternates between weight training and walking, biking, or swimming. Working with a trained professional can also help put you on the path to better fitness.

Healthy mind, healthy body

Start a daily breath work and meditation practice to calm the mind. Meditation  helps us to be in the moment and builds resilience. According to research published in BMJ 2014, breath work poses the added benefit of weight loss as we actually breathe out the fat we lose.  Mindfulness can also be incorporated into the way we eat. When we eat without distractions, chew more slowly, and enjoy our food, it actually increases satiety faster. [18]

In conclusion: 

The gut is the interface between our inner world and our environment. We can achieve better health and weight by eating foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet, increasing our intake of prebiotic fiber, and limiting meals to the daytime.

Here’s 10 suggestions of where you can start:  

  1. Eat breakfast as your largest meal for the day, consider the Baobab Berry Power Smoothie
  2. Emphasize a Mediterranean diet, a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
  3. Increase prebiotic fiber and polyphenol intake, Baobab fruit includes both.
  4. Start Circadian fasting 3-4 times a week. Eat two meals per day at 7am & 7pm.
  5. Get regular sleep, this is the time when your body repairs and burns fat
  6. Move your body. Walk 30 minutes a day, practice yoga, and work with a trained professional. If you need guidance to increase the intensity of your regimen, consult with your doctor.
  7. Consider a Fitbit, a great tool to monitor your sleep quality and exercise progress.
  8. Spend as much time as you can in green spaces, parks, forests. Nature has a replenishing effect on the mind, body and spirit.
  9. Meditation and breath work are calming, build resilience and support weight loss.
  10. Mindful eating, eat slow for faster satiety.

Farmers market basket filled with organic fruits and vegetables that are a great source of fiber, and nutrient dense foods that are beneficial to the gut and skin microbiome and weight loss.

 

1.Barko PC, McMichael MA, Swanson KS, Williams DA. The Gastrointestinal Microbiome: A Review. J Vet Intern Med. 2018 Jan;32(1):9-25. doi: 10.1111/jvim.14875. Epub 2017 Nov 24. PMID: 29171095; PMCID: PMC5787212.

2.Ivana Semova,Juliana D. Carten, Jesse Stombaugh, Rob Knight, Steven A. Farber, John F. Rawls Microbiota Regulate Intestinal Absorption and Metabolism of Fatty Acids Cell Host & Microbe Vol. 12 Issue 3p 277–288 September 13, 2012 ps://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2012.08.003

3..Koliada A, Syzenko G, Moseiko V, Budovska L, Puchkov K, Perederiy V, Gavalko Y, Dorofeyev A, Romanenko M, Tkach S, Sineok L, Lushchak O, Vaiserman A. Association between body mass index and Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio in an adult Ukrainian population. BMC Microbiol. 2017 May 22;17(1):120. doi: 10.1186/s12866-017-1027-1. PMID: 28532414; PMCID: PMC5440985

4.Ley RE, Bäckhed F, Turnbaugh P, Lozupone CA, Knight RD, Gordon JI. Obesity alters gut microbial ecology. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 2;102(31):11070-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0504978102. Epub 2005 Jul 20. PMID: 16033867; PMCID: PMC1176910.

5.Schnorr SL, Candela M, Rampelli S, Centanni M, Consolandi C, Basaglia G, Turroni S, Biagi E, Peano C, Severgnini M, Fiori J, Gotti R, De Bellis G, Luiselli D, Brigidi P, Mabulla A, Marlowe F, Henry AG, Crittenden AN. Gut microbiome of the Hadza hunter-gatherers. Nat Commun. 2014 Apr 15;5:3654. doi: 10.1038/ncomms4654. PMID: 24736369; PMCID: PMC3996546

6.Ghosh TS, Rampelli S, Jeffery IB, Santoro A, Neto M, Capri M, Giampieri E, Jennings A, Candela M, Turroni S, Zoetendal EG, Hermes GDA, Elodie C, Meunier N, Brugere CM, Pujos-Guillot E, Berendsen AM, De Groot LCPGM, Feskins EJM, Kaluza J, Pietruszka B, Bielak MJ, Comte B, Maijo-Ferre M, Nicoletti C, De Vos WM, Fairweather-Tait S, Cassidy A, Brigidi P, Franceschi C, O'Toole PW. Mediterranean diet intervention alters the gut microbiome in older people reducing frailty and improving health status: the NU-AGE 1-year dietary intervention across five European countries. Gut. 2020 Jul;69(7):1218-1228. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-319654. Epub 2020 Feb 17. PMID: 32066625; PMCID: PMC7306987.

7.Aoun A, Darwish F, Hamod N. The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity in Adults and the Role of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics for Weight Loss. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2020 Jun 30;25(2):113-123. doi: 10.3746/pnf.2020.25.2.113. PMID: 32676461; PMCID: PMC7333005.

8.Pal A, Sun S, Armstrong M, Manke J, Reisdorph N, Adams VR, Kennedy A, Zu Y, Moustaid-Moussa N, Carroll I, Shaikh SR. Beneficial effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on the metabolic profile of obese female mice entails upregulation of HEPEs and increased abundance of enteric Akkermansia muciniphila. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids. 2022 Jan;1867(1):159059. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2021.159059. Epub 2021 Oct 4. PMID: 34619367; PMCID: PMC8627244.

9.Coppola S, Avagliano C, Calignano A, Berni Canani R. The Protective Role of Butyrate against Obesity and Obesity-Related Diseases. Molecules. 2021;26(3):682. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.3390/molecules26030682

10.Goverse G, Molenaar R, Macia L, Tan J, Erkelens MN, Konijn T, Knippenberg M, Cook EC, Hanekamp D, Veldhoen M, Hartog A, Roeselers G, Mackay CR, Mebius RE. Diet-Derived Short Chain Fatty Acids Stimulate Intestinal Epithelial Cells To Induce Mucosal Tolerogenic Dendritic Cells. J Immunol. 2017 Mar 1;198(5):2172-2181. doi: 

10.4049/jimmunol.1600165. Epub 2017 Jan 18. PMID: 28100682

11.Megumi Hatori, Christopher Vollmers Amir Zarrinpar, James A.J. Fitzpatrick, Mark Ellison, Satchidanada Panda,Time-Restricted Feeding without Reducing Caloric Intake Prevents Metabolic Diseases in Mice Fed a High-Fat Diet, Cell metabolism VOL 15, issues 6, P848-860, June 06, 2012.

12.Mavanji V, Teske JA, Billington CJ, Kotz CM. Partial sleep deprivation by environmental noise increases food intake and body weight in obesity-resistant rats. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jul;21(7):1396-405. doi: 10.1002/oby.20182. Epub 2013 May 13. PMID: 23666828; PMCID: PMC3742663.

13.Pot GK. Sleep and dietary habits in the urban environment: the role of chrono-nutrition. Proc Nutr Soc. 2018 Aug;77(3):189-198. doi: 10.1017/S0029665117003974. Epub 2017 Oct 25. PMID: 29065932.

14.Van Hul M, Cani PD. Targeting Carbohydrates and Polyphenols for a Healthy Microbiome and Healthy Weight. Curr Nutr Rep. 2019 Dec;8(4):307-316. doi: 10.1007/s13668-019-00281-5. PMID: 31161579; PMCID: PMC6904403

15.Rebecca Garvey, Miriam Clegg, Shelly Coe The acute effects of baobab fruit (Adansonia digitata) on satiety in healthy adults Functional Food Centre, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UKFirst Published April 17, 2017 Brief Report  https://doi.org/10.1177/0260106017704361

16.Garvey R, Clegg M, Coe S. The acute effects of baobab fruit ( Adansonia digitata) on satiety in healthy adults. Nutr Health. 2017 Jun;23(2):83-86. doi: 10.1177/0260106017704361. Epub 2017 Apr 17. PMID: 28413912.

17.Mailing LJ, Allen JM, Buford TW, Fields CJ, Woods JA. Exercise and the Gut Microbiome: A Review of the Evidence, Potential Mechanisms, and Implications for Human Health. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2019 Apr;47(2):75-85. doi: 10.1249/JES.0000000000000183. PMID: 30883471.

18.Ruben Meerman, researcher, Andrew J Brown, professor,Gastroenterological Tracts When somebody loses weight, where does the fat go?BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7257 (Published 16 December 2014) BMJ 2014;349:g7257

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