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The invisible organ shaping our weight & health

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The invisible organ shaping our weight & health

Inside our bodies, we host 39 trillion microorganisms that include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites

1. We are never truly alone

Inside our bodies, we host 39 trillion microorganisms that include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites (heads-up, not all of these tiny critters are “bad”).

We are talking about the human microbiome or the invisible organ shaping our health and lives.

2. Balancing our dynamic guests

When the balance is just right between friendly and unfriendly microbes in our gut, it supports:

  • Brain function and minimising mood disorders.
  • A healthy immune system and reducing inflammation.
  • Chronic diseases prevention i.e. cancer, diabetes, hypertension.
  • Vitamins synthesis i.e. vitamin B12, B2, B3, vitamin K.
  • Protection from potentially harmful microbes & toxic foods.

3. Three key steps to maintaining the balance

Step 1:

Add friendly living microbes, also known as probiotics, into our system.

Probiotics are found in in fermented foods such as:

  • Yogurt
  • Some cheeses
  • Kombucha (fermented black tea drink)
  • Kefir (fermented milk drink)
  • Kimchi (fermented vegetables)
  • Sauerkraut (fermented raw cabbage)
  • Miso soup (fermented soybeans)
  • Fermented pickles
  • Tempeh (fermented soybeans)
  • Sourdough bread (fermented dough)

Step 2:

Once we get the friendly microbes in, feed them well with prebiotics as they create the perfect environment for our guests to grow and thrive (like fertilizers!).

Prebiotics are from plant-based dietary fibre such as:

  • Wholegrains
  • Fruits (particularly not-so-ripe bananas)
  • Vegetables (especially seaweed, asparagus, yam, onions, garlic)
  • Beans & lentils

And as expected, the friendly microbes and their environment suffer when we consume too much sugar, fat, and alcohol.

Step 3:

Postbiotics refers to the soluble bioactive factors produced when probiotics (friendly microbes) break down prebiotics (dietary fibre).  These include short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), enzymes, amino acids and vitamins such as vitamin B and K. These factors contribute to the health benefits observed in individuals with a balanced gut microbes.

Although postbiotics can be added directly into our system – this is unnecessary in most cases, as our probiotic bacteria is able to naturally produce postbiotics when we feed the bacteria with the right foods (prebiotics).

4. What is the optimal probiotic schedule?

There is no recommended frequency yet but eating a good balance of both prebiotics and probiotics regularly is the key to supporting good health.

Probiotic can be added into our meals during the day. i.e., small tub yogurt for breakfast and add 1-2 spoons of sauerkraut, kimchi or cheese to your lunch or dinner. Don’t forget to go easy on sugar, fat, and alcohol too.

As for prebiotics, aim for a wide range of fibre-rich foods to support a stable and diverse range of friendly gut microbes.  Research finds that individuals with less diverse gut microbes tend to carry excess body weight and gain weight easily1,2; which potentially leads to other chronic conditions.

See our article on dietary fibre (here) for an easy way to achieve the recommended 30g of fibre per day.

5. What’s in the supplement?

There are many different and unique combinations of microbes contributing to optimal health. The perfect microbe combination for my friend will not be perfect for me.

Therefore, it helps to select a probiotic supplement based on our unique condition.

In the case for weight loss, certain strains of probiotics in both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus family have shown promise3-6:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis
  • Lactobacillus fermentum
  • Lactobacillus amylovorus
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus sakei
  • Lactobacillus gasseri

These probiotics should be combined with a nutritious diet and do allow time to see the results i.e. 3 months ( patience is powerful!).

As always, it’s good to introduce supplements into our body gradually and as tolerated.

If we have a pre-existing medical conditions (particularly one that weakens our immune system) or if we are recovering from a major surgery or medical treatment, please do consult a doctor or registered dietitianbefore taking prebiotic or probiotic supplements.

Individuals with a weaker immune system may consider a postbiotic supplement instead, as they don’t contain live microbes.  

6. The take-home

  • Nourish our gut with both prebiotics and probiotics – as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
  • The healthier we eat, the healthier our “friendly” microbes and the healthier and happier we are

References

  1. Turnbaugh PJ, Hamady M, Yatsunenko T, et al. A core gut microbiome in obese and lean twins. Nature. 2009 Jan 22;457(7228):480-4.
  2. Le Chatelier E, Nielsen T, Qin J, et al. Richness of human gut microbiome correlates with metabolic markers. Nature. 2013 ;500(7464):541-6.
  3. Ogawa A, Kobayashi T, Sakai F, et al. Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects. Lipids Health Dis. 2015 ;14:20.
  4. Omar M.J, Chan YM, Jones ML, Prakash S, Jones PJH. Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus amylovorus as probiotics alter body adiposity and gut microflora in healthy persons. Journal of Functional Foods. 2013:5:116-123
  5. Kadooka Y, Sato M, Imaizumi K, et al. Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics (Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055) in adults with obese tendencies in a randomized controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jun;64(6):636-43.
  6. Gomes AC, de Sousa RG, Botelho PB, et al. The additional effects of a probiotic mix on abdominal adiposity and antioxidant Status: A double-blind, randomized trial. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2017 Jan;25(1):30-38.

No content on this website should be used as a substitute for direct and individualised medical advice from a doctor or registered dietitian.

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