Sick of feeling bloated, having stomach pain or helplessly trying to lose weight with no success? When you’ve tried every possible avenue to improve your bloating and weight but nothing has worked, the next step is often a total lack of motivation.
I hear you and I get it. I’ve been there! But I invite you to stop blaming yourself, read this blog and learn why it may not be your fault.
Say hello to your gut microbiome
Ever heard of the terms ‘microbiome’, ‘gut flora’ or ‘gut bacteria’? They all refer to the trillions of little microbes (mainly bacteria) which live in the soft, mucus lining of our intestines. Our bodies harbour more microbes than we do human DNA, and they have a huge impact on our health!
These little creatures could be the reason for your persistent bloating or inability to lose weight.
The relationship between the microbiome and humans is a two-way street. We rely on the health benefits our gut microbes deliver us. In turn, our gut microbes depend on the environment our bodies create for them. What we eat has a massive impact on this.
When your food choices upset your gut – que bloating
The friendly bacteria living in our guts digest the complex carbohydrates that humans cannot (insoluble fibre). They use this as an energy source to grow and multiply. When we don’t eat enough fibre, the good guys lack food and begin to get overcrowded by the not so good bacteria. When the ‘not so beneficial bacteria’ have a chance to grow, the soft mucus lining of our intestines becomes compromised.
Now, our gut microbes are imbalanced, and our intestinal mucus lining is degraded, making it thinner. This impacts the ability of our immune system to defend itself from disease. A compromised microbiome has been linked with inflammation, pain, bloating, obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome.
Healthy gut barrier and microbiome (left). ‘Leaky’ gut barrier and imbalanced microbiome causing inflammation and bloating (right). Photo credit: Microbiome Labs.
Why your gut bacteria may cause painful bloating
The foods we eat determine which bacteria grow in our intestines, and therefore what effect the microbiome has on our health.
One study found that foods such as nuts, fish, legumes and vegetables may cause an increase in anti-inflammatory bacteria. Polyphenol-rich foods (including coffee and red wine – yay!) also seemed to promote anti-inflammatory bacteria. Dark chocolate (70%+) is also rich in polyphenols, and so is also thought to lower inflammation!
In addition to certain foods combating inflammation, the study found that some foods could encourage it. This included processed meats, sugar and fast foods. These foods promote the growth of mucus-degrading bacteria, which damages of the gut lining and makes it ‘leaky’.
When your gut lining is ‘leaky’, toxins and bacteria can get into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response. This causes inflammation, which can result in painful bloating. If your gut is continuously inflamed, it may lead to irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and even colon cancer.
Plus, weight loss is difficult to come by when you’re so inflamed!
Foods that reduce inflammation:
- Legumes and beans
- Fish (especially oily – salmon, sardines, mackerel, trout, herring, anchovies)
- Nuts and seeds
- Fruits and vegetables
- Red wine
- Dark chocolate
Foods that drive inflammation:
- Poor quality meat (especially with a high-fat content)
- Fast food and fried foods
- Total alcohol intake and spirits (so not too many glasses of red wine!)
- High-sugar soft drinks
Your microbiome could make weight loss harder
Your gut bacteria may well be making it harder for you to lose weight. There are many studies that have shown differences in the microbiomes of slimmer individuals and those who are overweight/obese.
In people who are overweight, the microbiome tends to be less diverse overall, as well as having a slightly different balance of bacteria species. These differences suggest that particular bacteria play a role in weight loss.
If you read my January blog, you would have learnt that our resting metabolic rate (RMR) is a big determinant of our ability to lose weight. In short, our RMR is basically how many calories we burn at rest. Therefore, if RMR is low, people tend to gain weight faster.
Our microbiome is thought to play a role in why this rate varies between individuals. A study of overweight/obese women, with low RMRs, found their gut bacteria differed from those with normal RMR. As our gut bacteria determine our digestive efficiency (the efficiency with which we extract calories from food), it is likely that they are very involved in how many calories we burn at rest.
One species of bacteria that may have a big part to play in weight loss is Akkermansia Muciniphilia. This bacteria has gained a lot of attention recently and is thought to be key to weight loss.
What Akkermansia does in our gut:
- Promotes a healthy, thick mucus lining throughout the digestive system
- Supports the growth of beneficial bacteria
- Promotes gut microbiome diversity (which as stated above, is found in slimmer individuals)
What this means for your health:
- Reduces weight gain
- Curbs appetite and helps us feel more full
- Lowers body fat
- Promotes metabolic health (e.g. greater insulin sensitivity and smaller fat cells)
To the important part – what do we eat for more Akkermansia to support weight loss and reduce bloating?
Fibre, fibre, fibre!
Many fibrous foods are termed prebiotics, as they ‘feed’ the bacteria in your gut. Insoluble fibre is not digested by our own enzymes, but our gut bacteria digest them no problem! Fibre, therefore, feeds the bacteria and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Fibrous foods include:
- Leafy green veg
Prebiotics in particular have been found to benefit populations of Akkermansia muciniphila.
I suggest eating a diverse range of prebiotics* too such as:
*If you have IBS, SIBO or reflux some of these could exacerbate your symptoms. A Wellness Check to assess your gut health and support gut healing is ideal for you.
Load up on antioxidants
Polyphenol-rich foods are beneficial to prevent inflammation. Think green tea, dark berries, flaxseed (and even the occasional glass of red wine! Organic if you can.).
Akkermansia is supported by dark fruits and veggies.
Get fancy with fermented foods:
- Bio-live yoghurts
- Picked vegetables
These probiotic foods already contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria and so promote their growth. This may give more benefits to those already suffering from gut issues rather than those with healthy guts. However, consumption of natural yogurt has been shown to increase Akkermansia abundance.
Eating for a healthy, diverse gut shouldn’t be difficult or complicated. So long as you eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in colour and fibre, they’ll be pretty happy. However, if you believe you are suffering from any of the symptoms described in this blog, there are definitely possible steps you can take to assess and improve your gut bacteria so they can help you to feel amazing again!
Ready to feel make your gut bacteria work for you?
If you would like to discuss your own gut health in more detail and hear my personalised recommendations, then Wellness Checks is ideal for you.
It’s the perfect way to assess your gut health and gain some personalised actionable steps to start feeling less bloated and more yourself.