Back to Articles

To Lose Weight, Boost Your Gut Flora

Want to lose weight? Start by making friends with the “good” bacteria in your gut!

Research shows “good” gut bacteria can help with weight loss in several ways: by minimizing food cravings, regulating appetite, and even helping you to lose belly fat.  What’s more, new research on gastric bypass surgery shows how gut flora can be a secret weapon in the battle of the bulge.

Gut Flora and Weight Loss Surgery

Bariatric surgery (also known as gastric bypass surgery, banding, and stapling) is enjoying a heyday: touted as one of the most effective ways to treat obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Gastric bypass surgery makes the stomach pouch smaller (so it can hold less). Plus, food is rerouted to a section of the small intestine, which causes the body to absorb fewer calories.

Gut Flora and Weight Loss Surgery

It’s extreme, but it works.  Following surgery, patients typically feel less hungry, fill up more quickly, and even burn more calories at rest. This can result in losing as much as 75 percent of their excess fat.

While eating less food leads to weight loss, these patients also have an unexplained increase in metabolism. Anyone who has tried to lose weight knows that increasing metabolism is a good thing because it speeds up the rate at which the body burns calories.

Interestingly, the latest research suggests that having bariatric surgery changes the types of flora in the gut that affect fat metabolism.

How Gut Flora Affect Weight Loss

We’ve long known that different types of gut flora live in the digestive tracts of obese individuals and thin individual, and that bariatric surgery changes the types of gut flora present in patients. But scientists didn’t know if the gut flora in gastric bypass patients changed because people lost weight, or if the patients lost weight because the flora changed.

Now they know: After performing gastric bypass surgery on about a dozen obese test animals, researchers observed a loss of body fat. Even better, it stayed off even when the animals were fed a diet that should have made them gain the weight back.

Researchers took fecal samples from these animals and performed fecal transplants on another group of non-obese animals that were specially bred to not have any gut flora. This second group of animals lost five percent of their weight in just two weeks, without surgery or any changes in their diet.

When researchers took a more in-depth look at the first group of animals, they found that following gastric bypass surgery, there was a decrease in intestinal pH (perfect for acid-loving probiotic bacteria) and an increase in bile acid concentration. Those bile acids regulate sugar and fat metabolism, improve blood flow to the hands and feet, and lower inflammatory markers in patients with chronic heart failure.

Can Taking Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?

The answer appears to be yes. But don’t expect to take a single probiotic supplement and get the same effects as a gastric bypass. The human body is far too complex for that to occur!

Every year we learn more about the role of specific bacteria in the colon and exactly what they do. Specific probiotics, in combination with fecal transplants, could turn out to be a natural, noninvasive way to lose weight and reverse disease.

I’ve detailed exactly how to perform fecal implants, and I think they are one of the most effective and underutilized techniques we have for dealing with many serious gastrointestinal issues such as inflammatory bowel disease.

But to be a long-lasting and true cure, it can only be part of a larger change to your diet and lifestyle.

5 Natural Ways to Increase Weight Loss

Short of gastric bypass (and fecal transplants), these lifestyle changes can help you lose weight and keep it off.

  • Take a daily probiotic. Eat natural, traditionally fermented foods every day or choose a high-quality probiotic supplement to optimize your gut bacteria.
  • Eat nutrient-dense whole foods. Nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, dairy products, eggs, and lean meat all provide high nutritional value and energy, as well as satiety. Avoid fried, fatty, processed, and packaged foods that aren’t energy efficient and leave your body craving more food.
  • Exercise. Losing weight is impossible unless you burn more energy than you consume. If you are only doing cardio, add strength training. Building strong muscles is one of the fastest and easiest ways to burn more energy because muscle tissue burns calories 24/7, even while you’re at rest.
  • Balance your thyroid. Hypothyroidism is very common, and directly responsible for a slow metabolism. I recommend considering a natural iodine supplement and a natural thyroid glandular.
  • Minimize or avoid using prescription and over-the-counter drugs. They change the body’s internal environment and disrupt normal gut bacteria. In fact, as a precaution, check that your lifestyle habits are not toxic to growing a healthy gut.

With these tips, you will help your body become more efficient at extracting nutrients from the food you eat, which in turn will help you eat less food. By supporting healthy gut flora and making your digestive system more efficient, you can obtain the weight-loss effects of gastric bypass—no surgery required.



Sci Transl Med 13;5(178):178ra41
J Am Coll Cardiol 12;59(6):585–592
Appl Environ Microbiol 06;72(3):1729–1738
Appl Environ Microbiol 89;55(7):1848–1851
Microbial Ecol Health Dis 94;7:315–329

Related Articles