My 43-year-old patient, a high-profile attorney who juggled crazy hours with a husband and two kids, arrived in my office at wit's end. Despite strictly following a well-designed low-sugar diet, working out consistently, getting optimal sleep, and trying to control stress levels, she carried about 20 extra refuse-to-vacate pounds.
She often woke up bloated and either constipated or, as she said, "eventually bolting to the bathroom." She felt exhausted, achy, and suffered frequent headaches. As she sipped her gargantuan coffee during our initial visit, she struggled to stay focused, occasionally checking her phone for business messages or looking around the room.
As a medical doctor who specializes in gut health, I've worked with numerous patients who, despite their best intentions, overlook a primary culprit for weight-loss resistance: an out-of-balance gut.
Literally everything starts in your gut.
Out-of-sync gut bacteria—meaning the wrong type of microbial diversity and/or lack of diversity—can affect numerous things including weight loss. Among its duties, your gut moderates fat storage, fat-regulating hormones, and blood sugar balance: key factors that determine whether or not you lose weight.
That makes sense when you consider your gut constantly processes nutrients, toxins, food additives, microbes, and drugs that pass through your digestive tract. As a health-regulating gatekeeper, your gut helps optimize your immune system while keeping out potentially detrimental substances.
These and other roles depend on a healthy gut flora. You'll always have some bad bugs, but you want the balance tipped toward healthy, good flora within your gut.
Do you have dysbiosis?
Dysbiosis—an imbalance between favorable and unfavorable gut microorganisms—means you've got too many bad guys and not enough good ones hanging out, so you don't digest food well, you're not eliminating properly, and your gut can't effectively communicate with your brain to stop eating.
As Jennifer and numerous other patients attest, out-of-whack gut health becomes a bad-news recipe for weight gain as well as miserable conditions like headaches, allergies, autoimmunity, skin rashes, and fatigue.
While numerous things contribute, focusing on these three factors helped Jennifer and many other patients optimize gut flora to lose weight and regain their health.
3 factors to consider when optimizing your gut flora:
1. Your diet.
If you want to get to the root causes of gut health or disease, look at what you're putting at the end of your fork. Food is information. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD)—loaded with sugar, processed foods, and food additives—promotes growth of harmful bacteria and yeast while turning on unfavorable genes. A milkshake, hamburger, and French fries turns on genes that promote inflammation, whereas 2 cups of steamed broccoli turn on anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory gene pathways. While Jennifer ate a pretty decent diet, she wasn't incorporating enough plant foods as well as fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut. Doing that alone improved her bacterial diversity, helping her lose 6 pounds the first week alone.
2. Stress levels.
Want a surefire way to wreck gut bacteria? Stay chronically stressed out. Like many patients, Jennifer’s super-hectic work schedule meant she neglected self-care, so stress levels quickly accumulated. I recommended yoga, meditation, and deep breathing while taking daily downtime. At her first follow-up visit, Jennifer told me doing just 10 minutes of yoga and staying mindful helped tremendously reduce stress.
3. Unnecessary antibiotics.
Like many patients, past doctors had overprescribed antibiotics for Jennifer. During a follow-up visit for an ear infection, she asked for antibiotics. Knowing the damage that antibiotics inflict on our gut flora, and that most infections do not require antibiotics, I explained rest and immune support were enough to resolve that infection. Sadly, antibiotic overuse has created antibiotic-resistant, difficult-to-treat bugs. Each time you take antibiotics, you adversely alter gut flora for up to 12 months, taking a toll on your waistline and causing metabolic issues.
A few simple changes, and you could be on your way to better gut health. If you want to learn more, get this free Quick Start Guide to a Happy Gut.