Our intestines are full of beneficial bacteria that we know together as the microbiota. These bacteria are so numerous that they constitute 90% of the total cells associated with our body. That is, we are 90% microbiota, 10% human.
During the last years, the study of these bacteria has gained special interest due to their involvement in the development and prevention of multiple pathologies. The microbiota has even been related to changes in body composition. That is, the bacteria that live in your intestine could be influencing your predisposition to gain or lose weight.
The importance of microbiota in health
We maintain a symbiosis relationship with the bacteria in our intestines in which both parties benefit: they feed on the fiber that we cannot digest and, in turn, produce short-chain fatty acids that we can use as energy. One of these fatty acids is butyrate which, in addition to being a source of energy, protects us against diseases such as colon cancer. Also, a healthy microbiota acts as a direct barrier against the attack of other pathogenic bacteria.
We could say that the intestinal microbiota works as another organ of our body. However, there are also other functions that are perhaps less known and studied. For example, the alteration of the intestinal microbiota is closely related to tissue inflammation and a wide range of metabolic abnormalities, such as obesity or insulin resistance.
What is the role of the microbiota in obesity and weight control
It is quite well documented that obesity modifies your microbiota. However, the most interesting thing is that there is a bi-directional relationship between microbiota and obesity. Different studies in mice have shown that when a “thin” subject receives the microbiota of a subject with obesity, he gets fat. Instead, when you receive a “healthy” microbiota, you lose weight.
Although these studies have been conducted in mice, they open a more promising line of research. In fact, in humans, there are studies in which it has been observed that children born by cesarean section (lower exposure to microorganisms and poorer microbiota) appear to be at greater risk of obesity.
We still don’t have the “recipe” for the perfect intestinal microbiota that helps us lose weight, but it seems that there are some especially interesting bacteria:
– Lactobacillus gasseri: a study in humans demonstrated its positive effect on weight loss.
– Lactobacillus Rhamnosus: a study showed a beneficial effect of this bacterium, but, interestingly, only in women.
– Others such as Lactobacillus Paracasei and Lactobacillus Plantarum (only tested on animals).
How to keep your microbiota healthy?
The microbiota is different in each person and varies throughout life. This is one of the reasons why there is surely no single “perfect microbiota”, but different combinations may be compatible with health.
However, there are certain actions we can take to keep our microbiota healthy:
1. Make responsible use of medications, especially antibiotics.
2. Manage stress: Excess stress will negatively impact your digestive system and your microbiota. Besides, poorly managed stress can contribute to weight gain, so it is worth paying attention to.
3. Do sports: sport is good for everything, even for your intestinal health.
4. Get away from ultra-processed foods: these foods, in addition to damaging your microbiota, are not a good choice when trying to control our weight.
5. Eat probiotic foods (eg yogurts, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, etc.).
6. Eat prebiotic foods that support our bacteria.
Whether or not there is a real relationship between microbiota and weight control, these actions will help you take care of your bugs and, most likely, maintain a healthy fat percentage.