By Sarah O'Brien

June 8, 2022

food freedom workshop

Just a few short years ago, most healthcare professionals scoffed at the theory of leaky gut or the importance of the microbiome. Patients who suspected their gut might be the root of their health struggles were laughed off and left to blaze their own treatment path via internet searches for the scarce bit of information available at that time. Nowadays, you can hardly read a health publication without running into an article on the microbiome. Research continues to prove that leaky gut is no longer just a theory and the importance of gut health is widely recognized by professionals across many different health disciplines. Even though all this attention seems to be quite recent, it is not really such a new area of new research, but one whose importance was known to ancient medicine, forgotten with time and is now being revived.

What Is The Microbiome?

The Importance Of Gut Health
The Importance Of Gut Health For Weight Loss 2

The microbiome is commonly known as the gut, and previously was also known as the intestinal flora. It is the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, virus and fungi) that populate the intestinal tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach, large and small intestine and rectum). Taken altogether they weigh about 2 kilos, which is more than the weight of the average human brain and just the microorganisms in our intestine alone outnumber the rest of the cells in our entire body! Interestingly, our mouths and skin also have their own distinct microbiomes. Some of these microbes are good and necessary to maintain health and others are harmful. So, if the population of good microbes is weak, and the bad ones get out of check it can create a lot of problems. In the past, not much importance was placed on the microbiome but scientists are now recognizing it as the seat of immune health and really, of all health. It is responsible for digesting food, synthesizing certain vitamins, regulating hormone function, moods and even regulating metabolism and weight. If it is sick, then the rest of the body will be also.

 If you’d like to learn more about the microbiome, this is an excellent TED talk by biochemist and gut health specialist Erika Ebbel Angle.

Why Is Gut Health So Important?

So, why is the microbiome so important? First, it is responsible for breaking down food into the different chemical compounds that our body’s cells MUST have to function properly. If our cells don’t get what they need, disease begins. It also produces certain vitamins like B6, B12 and K. We receive some vitamins from our food, but others are actually produced in our gut by the beneficial bacteria that reside there. It also allows our body to properly absorb the other vitamins that we receive from food, as well as keeps harmful substances (toxins and partially digested food) from entering the bloodstream. When these substances escape through the gut wall because it is damaged, food intolerances and eventually autoimmune disease can develop. This is what is commonly called leaky gut syndrome. It also produces and controls hormones which regulate neurotransmitters, which is why the gut is now being pinpointed as a major factor in mood disorders and autism. Most importantly for our purposes, researchers have recently begun to realize that the microbiome is fundamental to controlling the metabolism and regulating weight. They’ve even isolated a specific probiotic strain called akkermansia that is key to regulating the metabolism of glucose. If learning more about how to keep this strain healthy and happy interests you, you can check out this excellent podcast

Weight Loss and Gut Health

So, if you’re trying to lose weight and want to keep your gut healthy, what can you do?

  • Don’t use antibiotics and other gut damaging medications unless truly necessary.
  • Avoid common gut damaging foods – grains that have not been fermented or sprouted, conventionally produced dairy and ultra-processed foods.
  • Don’t stress -Try techniques like prayer, meditation, mindfulness, and exercise.
  • Don’t over-sanitize – Over-sanitizing kills off the good bacteria as well as the bad. Really only soap and water is necessary to be clean in most cases.
  • Exercise – Movement helps with digestion as well as stress reduction
  • Spend time in nature and with animals – One reason children today have weakened microbiomes is that they do not spend enough time outside in contact with the soil and animals where friendly bacteria reside
  • Eat more probiotic foods – These are naturally fermented (not pickled) foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or yogurt.
  • Eat more prebiotic foods – Prebiotic foods are foods with vegetable and fruit fiber, which the good bacteria need to survive. If you give them more food, their population will increase.
  • Consider a probiotic supplement – Although there’s still a lot of research being done and probiotics and they are not regulated by the FDA there is evidence to support their effectiveness for those with poor gut health. The thing is, everyone’s gut is highly individual and they do not produce the same results in every person. For more help on choosing a probiotic that is right for you, you can check out this post on how to identify a quality probiotic. Always make sure to consult with your doctor before trying new supplements.

Importance Of Gut Health – The Takeaway

There is no doubt that gut health is massively important for overall health and especially weight loss. If you want to live a long, happy, disease-free life, caring for it is a must. As you begin to heal your gut, your body will be able to heal nutritional deficiencies and reduce inflammation which will give noticeable results towards your weight loss goal. Though at first the lifestyle changes necessary for improving gut health may seem daunting, they are achievable if you make them little by little in a way that is sustainable for you. For more tips and specific help in healing your gut, don’t forget to check out this post from Completely Healthy Life.

Sarah O’Brien

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