Is Your Inner Garden Making You Fat?

Carol CasalinoCarol CasalinoGuest Blogger

I’m willing to bet that you’ve been on a weight loss diet or two (or three!) since you first made your New Year’s resolutions this year. But here it is, almost summer, and you’re feeling bad because, once again, you didn’t get in shape for swimsuit season.

But don’t feel bad – it may not be your fault!

Recent scientific studies have shown that muffin tops and belly fat are not simply the result of eating too many calories and not exercising enough. This cutting edge research shows that the composition of your gut flora (aka your microbiome or gut bacteria) greatly influences whether a person is slim or overweight.

There are 100 trillion bacteria in your body (10 times more bacteria than human cells!) and over 1,000 different bacterial species in your gut and they play an enormous role in your health and metabolism. The right balance of gut flora promotes normal digestive function, makes essential vitamins, controls more than 75 percent of your immune system, and regulates metabolism. When just two bacterial strains, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes (both “good” gut flora), become imbalanced you may find that you more easily gain weight or have a harder time losing weight.

  • Firmicutes, found in much greater abundance in overweight individuals, excel at extracting calories from the foods you eat and activating enzymes that deposit those calories in fat around your waistline.
  • Leaner individuals have more of the Bacteroidetes
  • Overweight individuals have about 20 percent more Firmicutes and almost 90 percent less Bacteroidetes than lean people.

And what causes Firmicutes to overpopulate your inner garden?

The very same foods, substances, and behaviors that we know contribute to weight gain and disease:

  • Sugars (in any form).
  • Artificial Sweeteners.
  • Processed foods, refined foods, fried foods, and foods high in carbohydrates.
  • A low fiber diet
  • Overeating
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Antibiotics – they kill the bad and good flora. Antibiotic use and obesity are intricately linked. Did you know that antibiotics are used in livestock to promote rapid weight gain? It does the same thing in people.
  • Acid blockers, birth control pills, and NSAIDS all negatively alter the makeup of your microbiome.

So how do you cultivate Bacteroidetes to help you lose weight?

You still have to address the usual suspects: sugar, refined carbohydrates, processed/refined foods, and being a couch potato.

But, here’s the easy part – just add some microbiome-friendly ‘superfoods’ to your diet, every day, to nurture your slimming gut flora.

  1. Add fermented, probiotic-rich foods to your diet including Kefir, Kimchi, pickles, sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, yogurt with live and active cultures, natto, beet kvass, lacto-fermented vegetables, and foods processed with lactobacilli such as cured salami. Fermented foods are unpasteurized with live and active cultures. Have one serving (about ¼ cup) of a fermented food everyday to repopulate your gut with good flora. You will need to eat these foods regularly to maintain the proper balance in your gut.
  1. Add prebiotic-rich foods to your diet. Prebiotic foods such as garlic (raw), yams, sweet potato, yucca, asparagus, dandelion greens, and onions (raw or cooked), provide food for the good bacteria and help them thrive.
  1. Take a probiotic supplement. The more strains, the merrier – with at least 5 billion organisms per dose – and make sure it includes the Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain which has been shown to specifically increase Bacteroidetes. Take probiotics with food or 30 minutes before meals.

Studies show that it is possible to shift the balance of your gut flora to the slimming Bacteroidetes in as little as one week of eating probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods. So, enjoy these superfoods and watch your waistline shrink as you grow your weight loss garden.

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Carol Casalino MS, CNS is a board-certified Nutritionist and founder of Carol Casalino Nutrition & Wellness, a boutique nutrition practice based in NYC. Carol specializes in helping midlife women take control of their own health and well-being by taking the mystery and confusion out of what they need to do to lose weight, look great, and feel great… like they used to. Customized nutrition and lifestyle programs, one-on-one counseling, and accountability help transform her clients from feeling fat, frumpy, and foggy-brained into feeling fit, fabulous, and in full control of their weight, their health, and their future.

Carol Casalino Nutrition & Wellness


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