The Role of Gut Bacteria in Weight

One of the most common complaints I hear in the 30 years of practicing functional medicine is, “ Dr. Beyer I’m eating less and exercising more and fat keeps accumulating on my body!!!” or “I’m doing everything I used to do to maintain my body weight but the pounds keep accumulating !”
It’s frustrating, I know. I struggle with it myself. The truth of the matter is that there is so much more to putting on weight or taking off unwanted weight than calories in/ calories out. Metabolic issues such as: thyroid or adrenal dysfunction, sex hormone imbalances, inflammation, blood sugar dysregulation, food sensitivities, type of exercise and even sleep. all determine our ability to prevent or burn off unwanted weight.
These metabolic disturbances are the reasons why some one can eat a lot and be thin and someone eats less and gains weight. And yes, genetics plays a role but it is a much smaller role than you think.
Today I want to discuss the role of gut flora AKA the gut microbiome and obesity. If you do an internet search on this (I did and I am going to give you the long and short of it here), there are over 180 scientific papers on this topic.
Here’s a recap of what the studies show:
• People with a greater diversity, meaning more different species, of bacteria in their guts are thin
• People with less diversity are obese
• This is especially true with a particular phylum (remember your high school biology?) known as bacteriodetes. When there were a greater number of species of bacteroidetes in mice it became almost impossible for them to gain weight
Here’s one study:
• They raised 2 genetically identical mice in a bacteria free environment
• They found 3 sets of female human twins where one was thin and the other twin was obese
• They populated the one mouse with the gut bacteria of the obese twin and the mouse got obese and they populated the other mouse with the bacteria from the thin twin and this mouse did not gain any weight; Both mice were fed the exact same calories and the same activity and, remember, they were genetically the same
• They transferred the gut bacteria from the thin mouse to the obese mouse and the obese mouse lost all its fat quickly

It has been shown over and over that when humans have a greater diversity of gut bacteria, especially of the bacteroidetes, they don’t get obese.
High amount of species from the bacteroidetes group have been shown to have a profound effect on
• Blood sugar
• Metabolic rate
• Decreased hunger, better satiety (do you ever eat and eat and don’t feel satisfied?)

So what would decrease our diversity of Bacteroidetes?
C-section births; our first mouthful of bacteria comes from the mother’s vaginal canal; C-section babies don’t get this
Breast feed babies get bacteria from mom’s skin and something from the breast milk called colostrum, which helps to the bacteria to take root in the infants gut.
Wonder why childhood obesity is going up? Well, in 1970 5% of births were C-section. In 2010 it was 31%. Another cause is the over use of oral antibiotics and antibiotics in our food supply.
Diversity of the gut microbiome is routinely checked on the stool test we use at Beyer Natural Health Solutions. It can be easily fixed by restoring the pH of the gut and proper use and timing of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.