For years I was being pushed around by microscopic bacteria that lived in my gut, but I didn’t know it!
I used to have a craving for sweets every night after dinner, and sometimes during the day too. After a healthy lunch or dinner, I would get this craving for more food even though I was full. And it was always the wrong kind of food.
If I didn’t follow the commanding thought in my brain to go out and walk over to Whole Foods Market, four blocks away and buy some Haggen Daz swiss vanilla Chocolate Almond ice cream, or some processed bread or cookies, or something unhealthy, the thought would get more insistent.
It was very hard to resist.
Was I just undisciplined or were microscopic creatures in my gut demanding to be fed?
Sometimes I won and didn’t eat the junk food that was being demanded at the same time every night.
Sometimes I was dragged to the store, wallet in hand by my imbalanced gut bacteria that was so used to getting its way.
Change your diet to get rid of cravings and overeating
Once I started to understand how influential my gut microbiota was, it was easier to tame it and get myself back on top again as the director of my eating habits.
All it took was strengthening the “good guys” by staying away from food that fed the “bad guys” so the junk-food-craving bacteria didn’t run the show. I increased whole plant foods and added more fiber to my diet gradually. This created more of the good bacteria in my gut.
By changing my diet to a whole foods plant-based diet and getting rid of animal products, and processed foods like flour, sugar, and refined oils, I was able to alter the composition and activity of my microbiota.
So who is running your life?
Is the 2-pound brain in your gut that is controlling your appetite?
Do you ever have cravings for unhealthy foods and have trouble staying on a healthy diet even though you know what you should be eating?
This could be a sign that your gut bacteria are out of balance and are running the show.
Can you lose weight by changing your gut health?
The foods we eat feed our bacteria as well as our own cells. Diets that are low in fiber and high in processed flour and sugar can cause gut bacteria dysbiosis or imbalance.
Certain molds, fungi, and parasites can influence what we crave and cause us to want refined foods like sugar and flour because these guys thrive on foods that don’t make us feel good and keep us fat.
It doesn’t seem logical that we crave these foods when we know they are bad for us, but it isn’t our fault.
The good news…
Once you correct your microbiota imbalances, you can start to lose weight and keep it off more easily because you are less likely to overeat.
Signs that your gut microbiota may be keeping you fat:
- You have trouble resisting sweets and can eat way more of them than your friends can
- You can’t help eating sweets, and refined flour products, late at night even after your stomach is full of healthy foods
- You feel tired after you eat no matter what you eat
- You have a food addiction and cannot control cravings
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Seven tips for Healing Your Gut Microbiota for Weight Loss, Depression, and Chronic Disease
- Plant-based foods are your number one weapon
- Fermented foods for growing better bacteria
- Probiotics for starting your new inner garden
- Gas bloating and digestion issues
- How to detox
- Get enough sleep
- Reduce Stress
What is the gut microbiota?
Over 1000 species of bacteria live naturally in your intestinal tract, including molds and viruses.
Don’t worry! They are supposed to be there.
All humans share some species of bacteria, but each of us also has unique species depending upon several factors, like what we eat and what bacteria we were exposed to at birth.
If you bundled all those microscopic organisms together, they would be about the size of a poodle brain and weight one to three pounds.
They live mostly in your large intestine with a few living in the small intestine and stomach. Your microbiome is like a second brain residing in your gut, producing dopamine, serotonin, and many other hormones that affect your emotions and many other bodily functions, including appetite and metabolism.
The brain and gut talk back and forth through the pathways of the vagus nerve, called the “gut-brain axis.”
Without the microbiota, we would not be able to digest many of our foods or absorb some of the vitamins we need to live.
The microbiota combats unhealthy bacteria
Your microbiota also plays a significant role in the immune system by creating a physical barrier to keep toxic substances out of the bloodstream.
Gut microbiota dysbiosis or imbalance can affect your metabolism, making it difficult to lose weight.
Compromised gut bacteria can cause depression, inflammation, and even contribute to type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and so much more.
Why are we so imbalanced?
There are a lot of reasons.
Dysbiosis, or microbiota imbalance, starts at birth for many people. Infants have a sterile gut when they are born and are rapidly colonized with whatever bacteria they are exposed to. In hospitals, this often is not the healthiest bacteria.
C-section births are more common these days, so a lot of people are not inoculated with the right bacteria early on.
Much of the healthy bacteria comes from breast milk and fewer babies are breastfed now than in the past.
Infants and kids are given antibiotics at birth often and throughout childhood, and this kills off much of the healthy bacteria, leaving them open to virulent strains.
We are not dirty enough
- We are an overly clean, germ-phobic culture, so we don’t get enough exposure to healthy soil-based organisms anymore.
- We don’t get to spend enough time outdoors in nature or walking barefoot.
- We don’t have enough locally grown foods and gardens.
- Antibiotics in our water and food chain can kill off the healthy bacteria leaving toxic bacteria to overgrow.
- GMOs containing Glyphosate, i.e. round up and other pesticides are on the rise and are incredibly damaging to the microbiota.
Human-made chemicals and technology damage our gut microbes
Chemicals in our buildings, furnishings and cleaning products and personal care products can damage the microbiota. Check out the Environmental Working Group to learn more about how to protect yourself from toxic human-made chemicals.
EMFs are on the rise with 4G and 5G towers, and this can affect your gut
If you keep your laptop and phone close to your stomach all day, it may harm your gut health. Wi-Fi routers and phones near your bed in the bedroom, while you sleep, can deplete your microbiome and damage your health in other ways.
Check out The Non-Tinfoil Guide to EMFs to get all the statistics.
Lack of sleep causes stress to the microbiota
Not sleeping regularly or deeply even if your room is free from EMFs, can cause anxiety that can damage the microbiome. Making sure to get 7 or 8 hours per night is key to a healthy gut.
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is an excellent resource for learning about the importance of sleep for weight loss and a host of other health issues.
Diets low in plant fiber can compromise gut health
Eating a diet low in plants and high in animal products such as keto diets low in fiber can damage the microbiome by making it less balanced and causing the wrong types of bacteria to predominate.
Keto is a fast weight loss solution short term but is not sustainable or healthy long term for most people.
If you are doing well on a keto diet, then more power to you. But please, if you haven’t already, add a ton of organic whole foods plants high in fiber to your diet to make sure you continue to do well.
A month on a plant-based diet can reduce pathogenic bacteria in the gut significantly and reduced intestinal inflammation. While a diet high in animal foods and low in fiber caused the good bacteria to die off.
How can you fix your microbiota?
A Plant-Strong Diet
Make sure your food is feeding your friendly gut bacteria and not the toxic ones.
- The easiest most direct method for healing your gut microbes is a plant-based or plant-strong diet with lots of fiber and lots of variety.
- Remove or cut down on foods that cause problems with gut flora like factory-farmed animal products, dairy, pesticides, chemicals, and refined sugar.
- Learn to read food labels carefully, and don’t buy anything with words you can’t pronounce. Even extracts like “rosemary extract” or “celery seed extract” can be hidden new names for chemicals.
Add fermented foods
Kimchee is a fermented food that has the highest number of good bacteria strains of any fermented food. Susanne Bennett has an excellent e-book on kimchee.
Or you can make your own sauerkraut and other fermented veggies. It only takes about 20 minutes to mix and jar up. Or you can buy raw organic brands.
Ideally, we can get all the probiotics and prebiotics we need from our diet, but when you first start to change your diet, you might need to add probiotics, finding the right ones, switch often, many strains try a high-quality soil-based probiotic brand. But once you establish a healthy microbiome, you may not need them after a while.
Prebiotics are also important because they feed your gut bacteria. Prebiotics come from undigestable fiber from plant foods like beans, whole grains, and greens veggies.
Resources for probiotics
Ora Organics plant-based probiotics: This company is ethical, vegan, and has reusable packaging.
Activatedyou: I have been using this formula and like it. The herbal combination seems to work well.
Hyperbiotics: I used hyperbiotics for a while, but I like to switch around every so often to get a variety of strains of bacteria. They stay intact until they reach the large intestine and are not as expensive as some others.
The Gut Institute has detailed information on your gut.
Thrive Probiotics: Soil based individualized probiotics.
Dealing with digestion issues
If your gut has been chronically compromised with a low variety of organisms due to antibiotic use or dietary issues, you may be dealing with leaky/permeable gut issues such as Irritable bowel disease (IBS), or SIBO which is small intestine bacterial overgrowth.
Get professional help from a Naturopathic doctor, functional medicine doctor, or holistic nutritionist with a good track record for treating gut and digestion issues.
Dr. Vincent Pedre MD wrote Happy Gut
Gas and bloating when you first add more fiber?
For gas and bloating start with softer, well-cooked foods like stews, blended smoothies, mashed sweet potato, and squash. After a few weeks, you can begin to add the essential raw salads and fruits, beans, and veggies back in slowly for the prebiotics your microbiome needs to survive. You must feed your microbes the right foods.
Some nutrition experts recommend the FODMAPS diet. FODMAPS cuts out a lot of the high fiber plant foods that cause fermentation and gas in your large intestine.
But FODMAPS can make your situation worse if you stay on it too long. It may be more of stopgap treating symptoms instead of treating the root problem which is often related to not having the right number or kind of bacteria to break down high fiber foods which cause healthy fermentation in the large intestine.
If you do decide to do FODMAPS, you will want to start to slowly bring a more extensive variety of foods back into the diet because your gut bacteria love fiber. For instance, with beans, you could try to gradually add more of them back into your diet because this will build up the probiotic strains needed to digest the beans and whole grains.
Adding bitters to your diet right before a meal can help you have enough digestive acid to breakdown your food, so you don’t get as much gas and bloating. Or eating greens first thing for each meal, including breakfast can have the same effect and help curb cravings for junk food.
Cleansing and detoxifying
If you have been having trouble losing weight, have uncontrollable cravings for sweets, or have had a chronic illness you can’t seem to resolve, deep detoxification may be the best thing to resolve the issues.
Candida, toxins, mold, viruses, and even parasites are pretty standard even in industrialized countries with all the sushi meat, and dairy and international travel people do these days. So even if you don’t eat meat or travel much you are probably in contact with people who do.
Detoxing is a long-term project, not a quick fix
You have to use the right herbs, binders, and chelators in the correct order for it to get to the deepest level of toxins. Proper detoxification isn’t something you can do in a weekend.
There are different levels to detoxification, starting with opening up the channels of elimination, bowel, liver, pancreas, lymphatic system and finally going deeply into the tissues and organs to get out the deeper more toxic substances.
Once you have loosened up the toxins from your tissues and organs, they have to be appropriately “bound” and brought all the way out of your body, rather than only moving them around to different areas where they can wreak havoc.
It takes patience and perseverance to make sure you have gotten everything out that was messing you up, but once it is over, you just have to do light maintenance.
The best part…
People tend to feel so much better it is worth the effort.
Resources for Detoxing:
Dr. Nuzum has some shorter detoxes and a book about detoxing.
Microbe Formulas was created by two chiropractors. They have a 3-month protocol. It’s pricy at around $400 per month, but if you have been struggling with your health for a long time or plateaued on weight loss, it may be worth it to go through the whole thing or just buy a few of their formulas to get started. They have an organic version of an herb called Mimosa Pudica that is very useful in detoxing because it breaks down the sticky film that microbes and parasites use to cling to intestinal walls.
Dr, Pompa’s heavy metal cleanse, wrote The Cellular Healing Diet.
Get good quality sleep
Get enough sleep. Start giving yourself a 7-hour minimum sleep opportunity every night, try Ease magnesium spray to help your muscles relax. Chronic sleep deprivation causes increased appetite and damages the immune system, according to Dr. Matthew Walker director for the Center for Human Sleep Research.
Read Why We Sleep
Learn how to meditate or do some form of relaxation technique, learn yoga. Go for a 20-minute walk every day. You don’t need to stress out over doing heavy workouts right away, but gentle regular exercise is excellent for the digestion and overall health.
Binaural brainwave entrainment
Holosync is a binaural brain wave meditation program that helps integrate brain waves across different parts of the brain and helps with brain health. I have had good experiences with this over the past ten years though it is an hour-long program daily, but this can be done at bedtime or lying in bed upon waking up. Check out their free sample. They give a ton of support and guidance.
Brainwave Love has several great meditation programs with support materials and a free sample. Be sure to sign up for Ashton’s newsletter to get inspiring ideas.
Om harmonics by Mind Valley is a program with 15 minute and half hour versions of meditation. I love the music, both relaxing and upbeat tracks. You can check it out for free.
Yoga download has online classes in a variety of styles