In the new year, everyone tends to look for new ways to increase energy, lose weight, and feel great overall. You already know that you need to start exercising and eating healthy foods with the right portions for weight loss and good health, but is that enough? You should also start listening to your gut to feel better and lose weight. So this year let’s start with a Gut Reboot.
In our gastrointestinal tract, there are over 1,000 separate bacterial species that can reach a total number in the tens of billions. Not all of these bacteria are bad. Most of them are the 'good' or 'helpful' type of bacteria, also known as probiotics. So, what are probiotics? They are live acting organisms that help keep the digestive system in a happy, healthy place. Having a healthy gut with the right balance of good bacteria can change the entire health of our bodies.
There have been talks and debates recently about the different types of bacteria living within our bodies. Researchers have only begun to scratch the surface of this field, yet many studies are already linking migraines, low immunity, depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders and even low energy to the type bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
The connection between our gut bacteria and body weight is the top focus of this research. Studies have shown that the right combination of our gut bacteria can cause changes in a person's weight. So there is growing evidence of a connection between gut microbiome and the role that may play in weight loss. Researches have even identified the probiotics, species and strains of bacteria, that can help decrease the amount of body fat.
Here are 5 ways to reboot your gut:
1. Eat Probiotics
Yes, you can eat these good bacteria, especially Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which have been linked to various health benefits. These types of living bacteria are found naturally in food, especially in fermented dairy products such as yogurts, aged cheeses and kefir. They are also found in non-dairy foods such as tofu, natto and tempeh. A great way to start adding probiotics to your diet is to begin your day with a breakfast smoothie made with yogurt or kefir, snack on a chunk of parmesan cheese paired with and apple, and switch your chicken stir fry night to tempeh stir fry.
2. Eat Fermented Foods
The fermentation process of vegetables enables the growth of the probiotics Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Therefore, adding fermented vegetables to your diet will not only increase your probiotics, but also your vegetable intake. This is also* a great way for vegans or people with lactose intolerance to get probiotics*. Pickled vegetable products such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are great sources of probiotics. So I recommend that part of your vegetable count be pickled. If you want to be more adventurous, you can even take a pickling class!
3. Eat Prebiotics
Now, you shouldn't limit your intake to just probiotics. As humans, we need food to function. And just like us, probiotics need fuel to function and most importantly, multiply. This is where prebiotics come to play. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrate fibers found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. However, not all fibers are created equal as prebiotics must meet certain criteria. These fibers must be resistant to digestion and be able to be fermented by the bacteria in the intestine. There are many types of prebiotic fibers including fructo-oligosaccarides (FOS), inulin, oligofructose and galacto-oligosaccardes (GOS) which are found specifically in asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, jicama, onions, garlic, chicory root, yams, bananas, apples, oats and barley, among others. So make a delicious oatmeal with apple sauce topped with sliced bananas or snack on jicama with lime juice and chili powder.
4. Fiber Up
Fiber has always been good for your gut and health regardless of probiotics or prebiotics. So making sure we consume our soluble and insoluble fibers is key for good health and weight control. Soluble fiber is one of the foods that can help control your hunger by making you satisfied for longer periods time and therefore eating less. Soluble fiber is found in apples, oatmeal, beans, barley and brussel sprouts, among others. Insoluble fiber 'cleans you up' and makes you regular, resulting in a healthy gut. These fibers are found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. So go at it!
5. Clean Up
It's understood that smoking, stress, alcohol and antibiotic intake can affect your gut balance. For this article I will be focusing on the diet alone. It is not difficult to change the balance of your gut bacteria and create conditions that are conducive to bad bacteria. A poor diet that is paired with low intake of pre-and probiotics, allows the bad bacteria in our guts to grow and multiply. So limit the intake of high sugar, high fat, fried foods, processed and high refined carbohydrates because the bad bacteria always love having a party in your gut with these foods.
Manuel Villacorta is an internationally recognized, award-winning registered dietitian/nutritionist with more than 18 years of experience. He is a trusted voice in the health and wellness industry. He is the author of three books, Eating Free (HCI, 2012), Peruvian Power Foods (HCI, 2013) and Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet (HCI, 2015). Manuel is the founder of the Whole Body Reboot App, a weight loss program with emphasis on superfoods. He is one of the leading weight loss and nutrition experts in the country.