.Probiotics and losing weight are not words that many put together, but have you ever wondered if there was a relationship between gut health and weight loss? Millions of people feel as if they are constantly fighting a war between losing and gaining weight. It seems the daily question is, “which one is winning now?” But don’t despair, if you feel you are not able to lose that last bit of fat around your midsection, there may be a specific reason why you can't shed the weight. The reason for it may be addressed by looking at the health of your gut. It could be either it isn't working the way it should or you just don’t have enough helpful gut flora or probiotics in your body.
I've discussed it many times before on this blog (Why You Have The Hardest Time Losing The Last 10 Pounds or How To Get More Energy From Foods) of the importance of having a proper (and a significant) amount of good, healthy gut bacteria thriving in your microbiome to help maintain an ideal weight. We could actually say having good gut flora is crucial for most hormonal issues, including insulin (blood sugar) and melatonin (sleep patterns), but for the purpose of this article, we are only going to address the hormones required to digest, process, and eliminate foods and ultimately the waste in your body.
What is a probiotic?
So what is a probiotic and what do probiotics do? A quick and condensed version is that from a physiological function, the job of a probiotic is to simply help your body process and eliminate excess sugars and starches from your body. That's it. If you were to ask people, however, "What is a probiotic?" most would probably say something to the effect that "it's the stuff that lives in your gut" or "it's the bacteria in kombucha". But in a nutshell, think about a probiotic as a living organism that loves to go around and grind up excess waste in your body, a regular bodily trash compactor.
So now you know it's main function, let's take this a step further and think about this metaphorically. Say you have a maid service specializing in cleaning empty or vacant houses for construction companies and home investors. What is the job you are paid to do? You are hired to clean the house top-to-bottom and remove any unneeded clutter that was left behind by the previous tenant. You arrive at a house and decide what is trash and assess how much effort it will take you and your crew to make the house look good enough to start remodeling. But take it one step further. After you have cleaned out the inside of the house and the trash, debris, and excess waste has been removed (I know this doesn't happen, but) couldn't you imagine that the house might “weigh” less than it did before you started cleaning it?
Probiotics do the same thing in our bodies, they are like your maid service, only microscopic and living in our bodies, and the undigested sugars and starches in our bodies are like the debris left over in the houses your maids are scheduled to clean. So probiotics come in and "clean out" our insides, and just like the example of the maid service, once the probiotics do their job and eliminate the excess sugars and starches (i.e. "trash") from your body, can't you see that you may actually weigh less because of that process? Good, quality probiotics could help shed those extra pounds in your weight loss efforts, but how specifically does it do that?
Probiotics are like microscopic versions of a maid service.
So probiotics travel through your body looking for excess weight in the form of undigested sugars and starches with the only goal of helping them to decompose and pass through the body. Much of the extra weight in our bodies can't be eliminated because of it's size or undigested nature of it (think constipation), but once the probiotics begin doing their job, that waste can be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces (think of a clogged pipe). Those smaller pieces have to go somewhere, right? That's done via elimination.
I've heard some people say that after consuming a probiotic drink or eating fermented foods, they experienced a bit of gas, more frequent trips to the restroom, or a slight bought of indigestion. Many times, they use that reason as THE reason not to consume probiotics at all. But it's important to note, that as long as there isn't something medically wrong, the probiotics are simply doing its job, and the unpleasant side-effects are telling that they are doing their job. In the bigger picture, if you do experience being uncomfortable after taking probiotics or foods that are fermented, then that may be the body's way of telling you that you might have some larger digestion issues that should be attended to, constipation, lack of energy, or weight gain.
I heard on the radio recently a commercial marketing a supplement that “targeted belly fat”. After a bit of research, try to guess what the main ingredient was in this miracle pill that helped you “lose weight without exercise”? The main ingredients were probiotics. Surprised? The pharmaceutical industry are not idiots. They know that by simply taking probiotics, some people will experience frequent bathroom trips because that is a natural by-product of it's job. Therefore, they are completely comfortable promoting it as a weight-loss pill, encouraging people to take it daily without telling you in actuality it's a probiotic supplement.
So, do probiotic foods help with weight loss?
Most people believe taking a probiotic supplement every day like advertised means you will have a gut full of life and teeming with good gut flora. But in many (if not most) instances, the probiotics never get that far simply because it has a bigger and more prominent issue of breaking down sugars and starches in our bodies. Once there are no more foods (waste) to eliminate, then, and only then, can they focus on packing up to find and a new home in your gut. But, as mentioned earlier, if your digestive system is a bit out-of-whack, then the main reason people take probiotic pills or eat probiotic foods (to populate your digestive system with good bacteria) is never addressed; that being to populate your gut with good bacteria. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but believing you need to take probiotics daily to populate your gut is a misnomer (and addressed in future posts).
Realistically, if you have a properly running digestive system and your gut health is good, then you shouldn't have a whole lot of weight issues. Extra weight is simply extra waste your body hasn't figured out how to get rid of and probiotics can help eliminate that waste. If you are looking to lose weight or begin your weight loss journey, I always recommend starting by eating a few tablespoons of fermented foods or drinking a few ounces of a probiotic drink like kombucha or kefir to see how your body responds to that first. How do you know whether those probiotic foods might help you lose a few pounds is determining whether or not your bathroom habits have changed. Are you going more frequently? Once you have the understanding that taking probiotics or consume fermented foods can help you better digest your foods, your digestion becomes healthier by default.
But if someone has told you to buy a probiotic pill or probiotic supplement with the expectation that it will populate your gut with good, living bacteria to support your immune system, you may want to first ask yourself how healthy is your digestion. Are you constipated? Acid reflux? Frequent indigestion after eating certain foods? Lactose intolerant? If you do have any of these symptoms, it's important to note that probiotics would probably focus all of its efforts on trying to correct those issues first, rather than do all those amazing things you read about on the web about what probiotic supplements and probiotic foods can do to improve your overall health.
Jared Toay is a master fermenter who has a passion for making fermented foods, probiotic drinks, probiotic-filled foods, and gut-healthy snacks. If you want a list of his 73 fermented foods recipe to include in your own family's diet, you can download it free by clicking here: http://bit.ly/73Ferments
“Because probiotics sound so much better than bacteria infested"
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Who Is Jared?
I am just someone who likes to talk about probiotics, kombucha, and is obsessively passionate about gut health and digestion, My personal mission is to try to ferment just about anything food related. This blog is a continuous flow of those thoughts on that journey.