How Easy It Is To Gain Or Lose Fat Has A lot To Do With Your Gut Bacteria

Are our intestines the key to helping us maintain a healthy weight? The Cusp wellbeing expert and ultimate #HerbNerd, Reece Carter, explains.

It seems that with each passing year, we’re hearing about a new possible use for probiotics: from allergies and eczema, to depression and anxiety. The fact is that research is piling up to indicate that what was once thought to be the human organism might better be considered the human ecosystem.

The word ‘bacteria’ is no longer inherently bad, but rather – and like everything in health and nutrition – there are both good and bad guys. It’s becoming blindingly clear that for overall health, it is essential to maintain a healthy colony of gut bacteria. And in the battle against the bulge, new research is showing something very promising: there are bacteria that make us fatter, and there are bacteria that make us lose weight.

Before I start naming and shaming the microbes in question, it’s important to note that this is only one piece of the weight loss puzzle. Let’s not let the gut bacteria become the new external force on which to blame all of our health woes as if we are powerless to it – we’ve all overheard, at one point or another, someone bemoan their sluggish metabolism while they slam a large pizza and diet coke.

But if we can get the intestinal ecosystem right, it might just be the key to making our workouts and diets do what they are supposed to: keep us at a healthy weight.

What bacteria are we talking about, exactly?

It’s Bacteroidetes that appears to be our friend when it comes to weight loss, and Firmicutes that promote weight gain, especially around the mid-section. These microscopic tenants of our intestines seem to interact with insulin and modulate inflammation, both of which result in us more easily piling on the pounds. There is also evidence that suggests that higher levels of the right bacteria reduce absorption of excess calories.


Bacteria doesn’t look so bad all close up, hey? A little like All Bran.

But before you race to the health food store for a fat-blasting probiotic, I have some bad news: Bacteroidetes is so unstable outside of the human body, that it dies within a few minutes – and it can’t be turned into a supplement.

The secret then, is learning how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet that promotes the growth of good bacteria, and kills off the bad. Here’s how.

How to eat to promote your own production of fat-balancing bacteria

#1 Limit your fat intake

Calling into question the recent trend in high fat, low carbohydrate diets is the evidence that excessive fat intake and a typical Western diet feeds bacteria-induced gut inflammation. But we definitely do not need to return to the fat-free diets of the ‘90s. Instead, let’s talk balance: eat enough fat for satiety without going overboard.

#2 Eliminate foods that bloat you

Ignore the dietary trends and instead tune into your intuition: what is your body not happy digesting? Remove these foods for a while and focus on gut repair.

#3 Eat prebiotic foods

I’m talking asparagus, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, and chicory root. These all contain fibres that feed your existing good bacteria, prompting them to grow in number. Probiotic foods like kefir and sauerkraut may help, too.

#4 Include anti-inflammatory ingredients

Turmeric and slippery elm are traditional anti-inflammatories that are easy to pop into a smoothie or chai tea.

#5 Choose some choice supplements

Golden seal, glutamine, and Saccharomyces boulardii are three easy additions that most people can tolerate, which will help balance the bacterial load and stimulate tissue repair in the digestive tract.

Reece Carter is a qualified Naturopath, herbal medicine expert and Australia’s very own ‘Garden Pharmacist’. From the planter box to the pantry and with a lifelong passion for all things green, this self-professed herb nerd has the answers.