The Connection Between The Gut And Weight

In this podcast, Dr Sandra Cabot and naturopath Victoria Taylor discuss the very interesting and not well-known connection between your gut bacteria and weight gain. They outline the types of foods you should be eating to create good diversity in your gut bacteria and how gut inflammation is connected to insulin resistance, hunger hormone dysregulation and therefore weight gain. They also discuss nutrient malabsorption, overgrowth of the wrong bacteria and the affect these may have on you, whilst also sharing some handy tips in overcoming these issues. 

Listen to this podcast and leave a comment below if you have any questions.

DR CABOT: Hello. My name is Dr Sandra Cabot and I’m joined by Victoria Taylor, our wonderful naturopath. And today we’re talking about: does the type of bacteria in your gut affect your weight? Interesting question! And indeed, a very important one, because when you’re trying to lose weight, you need to look at all the factors that can make it easier for you.

So, Victoria, you have been studying the type of bacteria in the gut, which we call the gut microbiome for many years.

VICTORIA: Many, many years! I’ve been in before I came to work with you. I’d spent 25 years in a laboratory. So, microbiology is my middle name.

DR CABOT: Yes. So, we’re lucky to have Victoria today to shed light on this subject. And there’s a lot of research that shows that long-term weight gain is associated with a gut microbiome that lacks diversity. In other words, there’s not enough different types of good bacteria in your gut. So, what we need to do is change our gut flora so that we have more of the beneficial types of bacteria.

VICTORIA: Exactly right!

DR CABOT: And what are your favorite ones for helping people lose weight and be healthy?

VICTORIA: To be able to widen the microbiome, which is the fancy word for gut bacteria, it’s a diversity of food. People who tend to limit their range of foods, maybe not so cut many colorful vegetables, energy-rich foods, so processed foods, lot of carbohydrates. They are foods that feed a particular type of bacteria. And if your diet is low in fiber and good soluble fibers, especially, there isn’t the food that the wide variety of beneficial bacteria require, so that you can have that increased diversity.

DR CABOT: That’s right! Because we’re often told you should eat the rainbow. So, eat lots of different colors in your vegetables, the orange, red, green, purple. Because those colors are not just there to look pretty. They actually are phytonutrients for the bacteria. And some bacteria will not breed without those particular phytonutrients, such as polyphenols. And a lot of these pigments that give the produce their color are antioxidants. As well as providing nutrients for the beneficial bacteria. So that’s why we say, you really need to eat colorful foods.

VICTORIA: And the other benefit of antioxidants is that they are also anti-inflammatory. And when there is inflammation in the body, the body has to keep its temperature in a normal range. So, it will hold additional fluid to help maintain that temperature. So, you reduce the inflammation and you lose weight. That fluid, a liter of water, weighs a kilo. And it’s better down the toilet than on your body.

DR CABOT: That’s right! It’s uncomfortable! And inflammation also leads to insulin resistance, leading to higher amounts of insulin and other hunger hormones. So, inflammation can make you more hungry, when you really don’t need to eat. So, having good bacteria in your gut reduces inflammation, therefore reducing the levels of hunger-producing insulin and leptin. So, very, very important! And this is why we try and get people to eat a lot of salads and raw juices, raw vegetable juices. And cooked vegetables as well, because the colors are still present in the cooked vegetables, as long as you don’t overcook them.

VICTORIA: Well, a lot of vegetables, their fiber content is far greater when they’re raw than when they’re cooked. So, chumbling away on raw carrots and celery is far preferable for your 30 grams a day than cooked vegetables.

DR CABOT: Yeah, that’s right! Well, they have done research and it shows that if you get 30 grams of fiber every day from plants of different colors, like red peppers, orange pumpkin, purple carrots, orange carrots, that helps to diversify your gut microbiota and that’s good for your metabolism. So, we want a faster metabolism to stimulate weight loss. That’s very, very important.

VICTORIA: But also gut inflammation slows down gut transport time. So, instead of the food that going in the mouth comes out the other end in 24 hours, it can be 36, 48. For some people, it’s up to 72 hours. And that tends to encourage things to start to ferment. And that sort of reduces the diversity of your bacteria again, because the pH in the gut is just wrong. And it’s quite a toxic environment.

DR CABOT: Yes. And so, the gut bacteria are very important also for your digestion. Are you breaking down your food into healthy nutrients? And then you’re able to absorb them and you won’t have deficiencies. So that’s going to help to reduce hunger. If you’re not absorbing iron, you’re not absorbing magnesium, not absorbing zinc because you have a leaky gut, because you have the wrong gut bacteria, those nutritional deficiencies will make you feel more hungry.

So, there’s a lot of indirect effects that come from the type of bacteria you have in your gut, which then influences your weight. Your gut bacteria also influence where you will store fat and they also influence your hunger. And that’s very interesting. It’s a wide range of effects on metabolism and behavior from your gut bacteria.

Now, a lot of people who are trying to lose weight suffer with abdominal bloating. So, they look at the mirror and think “Oh, I look six months pregnant!” But actually when they feel their abdomen, they can’t pinch a lot of fat. But, boy, their abdomen’s hard because their intestines are full of gas. So, if you’ve got the wrong gut bacteria, as Victoria said, they will ferment the carbohydrates and that produces gas. And it can also raise your blood alcohol levels, which can make you tired. So, often you look fat when you’re not. It’s just that bloating…

VICTORIA: Exactly right!

DR CABOT: …which is coming from the wrong gut bacteria.

VICTORIA: Wrong bacteria and gut bacteria in the wrong place. Because a lot of people, becoming far more common now for people to be diagnosed with SIBO, which is Small Intestinal [sic] Bacterial Overgrowth. And that really, really causes lots of bloating and very poor nutrient absorption.

DR CABOT: Yes, SIBO. Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth. In this case, we’ve got the bacteria growing excessively in the small intestine, which is just after the stomach, so high up. And when you eat a meal, and sometimes even if you have a drink, people will get a lot of bloating. And that is classic symptomatology of SIBO. And those bacteria are fermenting carbohydrates excessively. And the type of bacteria that do that tend to make you crave carbohydrates, because that’s what they need to multiply. So, if you have these types of parasites, they can release substances which tell your brain that you need carbohydrate. And so you get a lot of cravings that are actually coming from the bacteria, rather than yourself. So, by improving the gut bacteria, you can reduce your cravings.

And a really nasty bacteria that grows in the stomach and the upper small intestine is Helicobacter pylori – very common gut infection – and can lead to stomach cancer. And it’s typical for people with repeated infections with Helicobacter in the stomach to crave sugar.

VICTORIA: Definitely!

DR CABOT: The Helicobacter love sugar. And you’ve got to starve it. So, you’ll be losing weight at the same time because you cut out carbs. But indirectly, you will be getting rid of the bad bacteria and that is going to help you lose weight, because there’s less inflammation and there’s less cravings. That makes it easier for you to lose weight, if you have a healthy gut flora.

Also, you might have the wrong bacteria in your colon. And that can lead to a lot of problems, like repeated urinary tract infections and vaginal infections. And if you have the wrong gut bacteria, you can have the wrong bacteria in many parts of your body, including your sinuses. So, often people get repeated infections or requiring antibiotic drugs. And we know historically that people who take a lot of antibiotics tend to be overweight. Even children who take a lot of antibiotics. So, it’s a bit of a vicious circle, really. So, we encourage people to use natural antibiotics in their diet, like garlic, onion, radishes. You can also use culinary herbs, some culinary herbs.

VICTORIA: Definitely!

DR CABOT: Like oregano, thyme, basil. And you can also use BactoClear, which is a natural antibiotic product. Comes in enteric-coated capsules and that helps to reduce the amount of bad bacteria and yeast in your gut.

Now, if you have Candida in your gut, that can be a big problem!

VICTORIA: What a nightmare! Because antibiotics do not kill yeasts and fungi, many many people experience either thrush or a white-coated tongue when they’re on antibiotics. And that’s a strong indication that you actually have a systemic Candida problem. And that one is a bit of a nightmare to get rid of.

DR CABOT: And that’s why some people, after they finish a course of antibiotics, put on weight. Because their gut microbiota is completely changed. It’s full of yeast. And the yeasts release chemicals in your gut, which make you crave sugar. Because the yeast needs the sugar to multiply.

VICTORIA: And you produce alcohol that then gives you the foggy brain and fatigue.

DR CABOT: That’s right! And then you’re more likely to crave carbohydrate-rich foods for energy. So, your gut microbiota has a profound influence on your behavior, your fluid retention, your hunger and your weight.

So, the take-home message is: Try and get plenty of color in your diet with raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, some fruits. People who are very sugar sensitive have to limit their fruit to two pieces a day, until they are losing weight. And avoid the high-sugar fruits like grapes or apples. Or go for the lower-sugar fruits.

VICTORIA: Berries, passion fruit, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits.

DR CABOT: Yes! So, that makes a big difference. Also, Greek yogurt! That’s got some healthy bacteria, which could help to repopulate your gut. And also fermented vegetables, which you can now buy at the health food store. They’re in the refrigerated section, in glass jars.

VICTORIA: They’re amazing because the bacteria that’s in the fermented vegetables have already digested the sugar that’s in them. So, they’re very low in sugar. The other nutrients in those fermented vegetables are more bioavailable and they come with their own probiotic. I think it’s just a win-win situation!

DR CABOT: Yes, it is! And you don’t need huge amounts, do you? One tablespoon a day.


DR CABOT: Sauerkraut, kimchi… You can also ferment beetroot.

VICTORIA: Well, you can get non-pasteurized miso, which is also a good one.

DR CABOT: Because fermented foods have a lot of diversity of bacteria that are a good bacteria. Whereas, a probiotic supplement’s only got two or three strains.

VICTORIA: That’s right!

DR CABOT: Fermented foods have got a wide range of good bacteria. If you do want something sweet, you can use a natural sweetener like Nature Sweet, which has got sugar alcohols that are not absorbed and don’t promote overgrowth of bad bacteria. So, Nature Sweet contains maltitol, erythritol, inulin and stevia. And these are not able to be used by bacteria to multiply. Also, very good for tooth decay.

So, we know for sure there is a link between antibiotics and weight gain. We’ve seen this for many years in agriculture, in large-scale production of animals for meat. And we know for sure, that the gut flora of individuals who are overweight show patterns of dysbiosis compared to healthy individuals. So, dysbiosis is where your balance of bacteria is wrong. You’ve got too many of the unhealthy bacteria, not enough of the good bacteria. That’s dysbiosis. So, overweight people have more dysbiosis than people who are normal body weight.

So, it’s just another tool that we can use to help keep our weight down, to help reduce our cravings and to get rid of that awful bloating that can even happen in lean-looking people, but it can make them look like they’ve got a fat abdomen.

VICTORIA: Definitely!

DR CABOT: So, it’s very, very interesting all this research. So, we hope you enjoy eating the rainbow. Of course, don’t forget to eat plenty of healthy protein, like seafood, eggs, nuts, also red meat. These things are not highly fermented by bacteria, because they’re very low in carbohydrate and definitely assist weight loss.

So, thank you Victoria!

VICTORIA: Thank you for giving me the opportunity!

DR CABOT: Lovely having you here today! And thank you for listening everyone!

Bye from the Weight Loss Detectives!