When you are trying to lose weight, you usually start by evaluating your diet and exercise. It makes sense; you think about the things you're doing to see what you can control. However, you might want to look inward as a first step. Probiotics can help the bacteria in your gut function and may help you lose weight more effectively.
While diet and exercise play a large role in your weight, so do hormones, stress and digestive health. The microorganisms inside you digest food that your body doesn't on its own. Studies have shown that people who are overweight have different amounts of certain bacteria than thinner people. That suggests that changing the balance to match the thinner people's bacteria could help people lose weight.
Probiotics are living bacteria that can help our gut health. They can be taken in the form of supplements and are in some foods. Taking too many in supplement form can cause antibiotic resistance, so you should talk to your doctor before taking them. Eating food that is rich in probiotics is not linked to health problems.
"There are a few different ways that probiotics can help with weight loss, but to be clear, what we're really talking about is gut health and how gut health affects weight and inflammation," said registered dietitian nutritionist Robin Foroutan, Spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Dysbiosis, an imbalance of good and bad microbes, creates inflammation systemically and in the digestive tract."
Imbalances can be caused by poor diet, taking NSAIDS (like Advil), lousy sleep, stress or taking antibiotics. Cutting back on sugar, processed foods and meat can aid your bacteria. You should also increase how many vegetables, fermented foods and the amount of fiber you eat to help maintain a healthy gut. Sleeping well and managing your stress also help your microbiome stay healthy and robust.
In addition to helping you lose weight, probiotics may aid glucose metabolism and energy levels. "There are some studies that link certain strains with improved energy metabolism and glucose metabolism. While there are some studies on specific bacterial strains, it seems that low diversity is a major culprit in obesity and inflammation," said Ms. Foroutan. "So from that perspective, any high-quality probiotic could be helpful in addition to establishing the habits that promote bacterial diversity."
Probiotics also help the immune system and oral health. Unsurprisingly, they help bowel problems like irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation. But, more surprisingly, they also lower the symptoms of lactose intolerance and mild food allergies. And, having a healthy gut microbiome helps blood pressure and cholesterol.
All in all, having a healthy gut is excellent for health and probiotics might be part of achieving that. However, taking probiotic supplements might not be right for everyone. As you can eat probiotics in fermented foods like aged cheeses, yogurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, pickles and other sources, we would suggest starting there. If you want to take supplements, speak to your doctor first.