Is your gut bacteria making you gain weight?

Gut bacteria (Image: Creazilla)

Recent research says that gut bacteria play a role in causing weight gain in breast cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy. Researchers from Israel say that 30% of the patients gain weight after the treatment. The study was published in the journal BMC Medicine.

Weight gain is one of the side effects seen in chemotherapy patients apart from increased risk of blood pressure, glucose intolerance, prediabetes, etc.

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As part of the study, stool samples of 33 women were studied for gut flora. It showed that women whose gut bacteria were less diverse have a bigger chance of growing bigger post-treatment.

Chemotherapy is known to adversely affect the gut flora, killing off the good bacteria and having a cascade effect on health in general. One of its side effects is weight gain.

Let’s get to know our gut bacteria.

What is gut bacteria?

Gut bacteria are our friends. These are tiny little creatures, trillions of them, living inside the stomach.

Over the course of centuries, these gentle microorganisms — bacteria, archaea and eukarya — have co-evolved with us humans to form a mutually beneficial relationship.

Gut microbes offer us many benefits:

  • strengthening the gut
  • regulating our immunity
  • destroying toxins
  • producing vitamins
  • absorbing minerals
  • producing short-chain fatty acids
  • protecting against bad microorganisms
  • harvesting energy among a few.

We, in turn, give them a nice, warm and squishy place to stay.

Healthy people have a good diet and lifestyle practices often have a healthy gut microbiome. Through faecal transplant, they can “donate” their poo to those who have compromised stomach health. Remember the Tom Brady episode from South Park?

Sheela’s faecal transplant (Image: South Park Studios)

But this delicate system can get compromised by external factors.

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The human gut

The human gastrointestinal tract is one of the largest interfaces in the human body, seeing around 60 tonnes of food go through it in a lifetime.

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Along with food, many microorganisms from the environment also pass through it, threatening the gentle balance of our gut bacteria.

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The gut ecosystem gets compromised when you make abnormal changes to your diet and lifestyle. This includes antibiotic use, stress and bad dietary habits.

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When these gentle guardians of the stomach are threatened, our overall health starts failing. Here are some symptoms of an unhealthy gut:

  • Stomach discomfort like bloating, gas and diarrhoea.
  • A feeling of low energy or fatigue
  • Craving unhealthy carbs and sugar
  • Weight gain
  • Skin problems
  • Worsening of allergies
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Migraine
  • Mood disorders

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How to repair your stomach

The big daddy of medicine, ancient Greek doctor Hippocrates once said: “All disease begins in the gut.” One can’t f&*% with ancient wisdom.

Here’s how we go about with it.

Eating probiotics may help. If you want to repopulate your gut, start with some great fermented foods. Kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso, kimchi, sourdough bread, yoghurt, idli and even pickles are foods that your tummy loves.

Eat prebiotics or food that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. These include bananas, garlic, onions, oats, etc.

Eat a wider range of foods. Different types of food can supply a diverse range of bacteria to your stomach.

Stay away from sugar and artificial sweeteners. The latter has been known to have a negative impact on the gut microbiota. Eat a plant-based diet. This doesn’t necessarily mean going vegan, but increasing the ratio of plant-based food over animal proteins.

And whatever you do, cut down on alcohol. Instead, have beverages like green tea and green juices that are rich in polyphenols. Speaking of which, green tea and coffee drinking can increase your lifespan. 

The health of the stomach is the cornerstone to good health. Take care of your 40 trillion friends inside your stomach, and they, in turn, will look after you.