Tired of trying to beat those stubborn pounds? A diet rich in probiotics may be the way to kick-start results, says Louise Pyne.

THERE are some fundamental rules to achieving successful weight-loss. Eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff, snack on healthy foods and be mindful of how you eat.

You know the drill. But there’s interesting new research that sheds new light on weight-loss, and if you’re looking to kickstart results, probiotics could be the missing piece in the slimming puzzle.

Researchers from the Department of Cardiology at Taizhou People’s Hospital in China found that taking probiotics may help to reduce BMI: more specifically, the findings showed that taking more than one strain for eight weeks or more increased weight-loss results.

Want to know more? Well, their theory is that probiotics make your intestinal walls in the digestive tract less permeable, meaning that fewer of the molecules linked to conditions like type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity can enter your bloodstream.

“Differences have been observed in the gut microbiota of overweight and normal weight adults, leading researchers to investigate whether manipulation of the microbiota could have anti-obesity effects. Along with the role that intestinal microbiota is known to play in energy balance and the storage of fats, probiotic treatment may also be the key to boosting satiety and reducing appetite,” says nutritionist Paul Chamberlain.

Your gut bacteria is specific to you — no two people’s microflora are 100% the same. The largest collection of microbes lives in the gastrointestinal tract. Here, trillions of different strains of bacteria reside. This is a combination of bacteria we’ve inherited from our parents, along with bacteria influenced by our diet, lifestyle and environment, and the biodiversity of these species are essential for physical, emotional and mental health.

“It is now recognised that there is a gut-brain axis. So imbalances in the gastrointestinal tract can have an impact on your mental and emotional health and vice versa,” says Chamberlain.

The connection between gut bacteria and the brain is so strong that scientists refer to our gut as our ‘second brain’.

The latest pro of probiotics - help beat those stubborn pounds

Ever wondered why you get butterflies when you’re nervous, or diarrhoea when you’re stressed?

The gut communicates with the brain via a nerve that travels from the brain to the gut by way of the heart, oesophagus and lungs. It’s called the vagus nerve, and it carries information that’s central to how we’re feeling.

A well-functioning gastrointestinal tract also acts as a barrier between you and the environment. Good intestinal integrity makes sure you absorb the things you need (like nutrients from food) but keep out bad bacteria, but low levels of microbiota mean that pathogens are more likely to enter your system and wreak havoc on your health. The good news is that you can change the environment of friendly bacteria in your gut for the better in a matter of days with the diet and lifestyle choices you make, but first you need to understand how microflora affects health.

Bacteria affects so many different areas of your health — including the following...

1. SLEEP Scientists have recently discovered a link between our bacterial ecosystem and sleep patterns. Our microflora alters our sleep-awake cycle by affecting the hormones that regulate slumber time.

2. MOOD Low levels of gut bacteria have been linked to anxiety and depression, as it’s thought that this dysbiosis can be a cause or byproduct of stress.

3. PAIN It’s hard to believe, but your perception of pain could be affected by the health of your intestinal tract. Scientists believe that low levels of gut bacteria could trigger painful autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

4. STRESS Feeling like life’s getting the better of you? Stress can actually change the environment of gut bacteria, changing composition of microflora as a result of increased inflammation. These changes can also cause an increase in the risk of gastrointestinal conditions such as food allergies and IBS.

It’s clear the important role that bacteria plays in wellbeing, and if you’re stressed, suffer low moods or poor sleep, or find yourself battling the excess pounds, it’s time to kick your health back into gear.

This is where prebiotics and probiotics come in. Increasing levels of these is the first step.

“Prebiotics are a special type of fibre that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut by acting as food for them. Common prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin, substances that are found in a range of foods,” explains Chamberlin. These foods include leeks, garlic, bananas, oats, onions and asparagus, and it’s worth incorporating them into your daily diet.

“Next up is probiotics. As we know, probiotics are live microorganisms that live inside our gut. They help with digestion by cleaning out the gut and making sure pathogens can’t enter. “There are a range of dietary sources of probiotics, these include fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and tempeh, as well as more familiar sources such as live yoghurt,” says Chamberlain.

Prebiotic and probiotic foods

The latest pro of probiotics - help beat those stubborn pounds

Breakfast

Oats with berries

Morning snack

1 banana topped with nut butter

Lunch

Steamed salmon fillet with sauerkraut salad

Afternoon snack

1 pot of Greek yoghurt with mixed seeds

Dinner

Grilled tempeh with steamed asparagus


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