Monday, January 28, 2013

Feed Your Guts for Weight Loss and Health

When I was in 9th grade I had a teacher who scared me.  She wasn't scary because she was mean, no she was scary because she loved watching all of us squirm in wide eyed horror as she would share her love of the human anatomy with us.

Class roomMy strongest memory of her, besides the over powering purple and blue eye shadow, is what she told me about bacteria.  She told us that there are critters crawling in our eye lashes and that our bodies are like planets that lots of other critters live on.  I don't think I was able to sleep that night think about all the "critters".

Fast forward a decade (okay or two :) and I can't get enough of learning about bacteria.  Not that bacteria searching is a hobby, just a really fun research topic.

So what makes bacteria so interesting?  For starters without it we would die very quickly.  It makes up about 80 percent of our total immune system.

If you would like to hear a fact, that may creep you out a little bit... we have approximately 1 trillion human cells in our body that make up who we are.  (Skip this if you can't handle the creepy, I mean interesting part :)  There are about 10 trillion cells living on and in our bodies.  Any body pass out?  No?  Good.

How does this apply to our weight loss series that we are doing, you may ask?  We have both good and bad bacteria living inside us at any given time.  That's fine as long as the ratio of bad bacteria stays at or below 15%.  If it goes over that we are probably going to get sick.

Fat Shadow manAccording to Dr. Mercola our gut bacteria affects our:

  • Genetic expression
  • Immune system
  • Brain development, mental health, and memory
  • Weight, and
  • Risk of numerous chronic and acute diseases, from diabetes to cancer (source)

The health of both the good and bad bacteria is determined by what we eat, drink, and put on and in our bodies.

Studies have shown that the guts of obese people have a lot more of a microbe called Firmicutes.  This nasty little critter can cause the body to absorb more fat.
"gut bacteria can increase your body's ability to absorb fat, and therefore extract more calories from your food compared to others who have a different composition of bacteria in their intestines – even when consuming the same amount of food." (source- emphasis mine) 
The amount of the Firmicutes are determined by what kinds of food we're eating.  To me that says healthier eating equals fewer of these fat injecting microbes.

For healthier bodies we should avoid the following items whenever possible, because our gut bacteria are very sensitive to them:

  • Antibiotics
  • Chlorinated water
  • Antibacterial soap
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Pollution  (source)

In the US, about 80% of antibiotics given to farm animals aren't to protect their health, but rather to fatten them up.  If you are buying meat that isn't raised without antibiotics then you are likely also getting a dose of the antibiotics through the meat.

Apparently one of the most popular antibiotics in the world is responsible for 2500 deaths.  John Fratti, the FDA patient representative for drug safety, is trying to raise awareness of the toxicity of these drugs.  The two most common names for it are Levaquin and Cipro.  (source)  That obviously has nothing to do with weight loss, but I found it very concerning and wanted to share the info.

Here are probably the best ways that you can add good bacteria back to your guts...

"Consuming traditionally fermented foods will also provide you with the following added benefits:  (an example being sauerkraut)

Radishes I fermented.  :)
  • Important nutrients: Some fermented foods are excellent sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin K2, which is important for preventing arterial plaque buildup and heart disease. Cheese curd, for example, is an excellent source of both probiotics and vitamin K2. You can also obtain all the K2 you'll need (about 200 micrograms) by eating 15 grams, or half an ounce, of natto daily. They are also a potent producer of many B vitamins
  • Optimizing your immune system: Probiotics have been shown to modulate immune responses via your gut's mucosal immune system, and have anti-inflammatory potential. Eighty percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system, making a healthy gut a major focal point if you want to maintain optimal health, as a robust immune system is your number one defense system against ALL disease
  • Detoxification: Fermented foods are some of the best chelators available. The beneficial bacteria in these foods are very potent detoxifiers, capable of drawing out a wide range of toxins and heavy metals
  • Cost effective: Fermented foods can contain 100 times more probiotics than a supplement, so just adding a small amount of fermented foods to each meal will give you the biggest bang for your buck
  • Natural variety of microflora: As long as you vary the fermented and cultured foods you eat, you'll get a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria than you could ever get from a supplement
Korean steamboat served with riceWhen you first start out, you'll want to start small, adding as little as half a tablespoon of fermented vegetables to each meal, and gradually work your way up to about a quarter to half a cup (2 to 4 oz) of fermented vegetables or other cultured food with one to three meals per day. Since cultured foods are efficient detoxifiers, you may experience detox symptoms, or a "healing crisis," if you introduce too many at once."  (source)

Kefir made from raw milk, or kefir water are also very good sources of good bacteria.

Supplements, called probiotics, are readily available, and I have seen them pretty immediately help several people that I know.  These are patented strands of bacteria, which sounds funny that a bacteria can be patented.  These probiotics in a pill are limited because they tend to only have a few types of good bacteria in them, where as the fermented vegetables and kefir have a much larger variety of beneficial bacteria.

This post was hard for me to write without going off on so many bunny trails from all the different topics brought together in here.  If you have any questions (like about water filters, or water kefir, how to ferment food, etc.) I'd love to try and answer them for you!

Here's to great health through this journey of healing!  :)

*None of this should be taken as medical advice.  Consult a doctor for a diagnosis.  The above is shared for educational purposes only.



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