The Secret to Healthy Weight Is In Your Microbiome
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 .
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. 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. 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 . 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. 
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. 
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. 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. 
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]
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  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. 
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:
- Eat breakfast as your largest meal for the day, consider the Baobab Berry Power Smoothie.
- Emphasize a Mediterranean diet, a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
- Increase prebiotic fiber and polyphenol intake, Baobab fruit includes both.
- Start Circadian fasting 3-4 times a week. Eat two meals per day at 7am & 7pm.
- Get regular sleep, this is the time when your body repairs and burns fat
- 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.
- Consider a Fitbit, a great tool to monitor your sleep quality and exercise progress.
- Spend as much time as you can in green spaces, parks, forests. Nature has a replenishing effect on the mind, body and spirit.
- Meditation and breath work are calming, build resilience and support weight loss.
- Mindful eating, eat slow for faster satiety.
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