The intestinal flora that helps us lose or gain weight


fat_slim_ladiesGut inflammation, dependent on the type of food usually eaten and on the dietary habits chosen, can definitely make the difference between who gains weight without knowing why and, instead, who can eat (sometimes a-plenty) without getting fat.

For a few years now, it has become clearer that a low-grade inflammatory state may lead to insulin resistance (and weight-gain). Through the same means, we can control inflammation and make weight-loss easier, with a personalized diet and by using specific natural substances, like Perilla, Curcuma, Inositol, Resveratrol, Cinnamon and many more.

In other words, the intestine seems to be key in regulating inflammatory signals and in modulating those metabolic stimuli that may orient towards weight-loss or towards weight-gain.

Therefore, there are at least three important factors that participate in driving the organism towards the accumulation of fat body mass or towards the retention of a proper fitness:

  1. Inflammatory signals (food-related inflammation and intolerances).
  2. Metabolic stimuli (mainly adipokines, necessary for the carbohydrates/proteins balance).
  3. Intestinal balance (i.e. the correct microbial flora).

More in detail, a few studies recently published in Science have shown both in research animals and humans that lean subjects present a much richer and varied intestinal microflora than the one found in obese subjects.

Another interesting study analysed the differences in gut microflora sometimes found in identical twins, one of which is lean while the other one fat despite following the same diet (Ridaura VK et al, Science. 2013 Sep 6;341(6150):1241214. doi: 10.1126/science.1241214).

Moreover, scientists have shown that by transferring gut bacteria from a fat mouse into a germ-free mouse, the latter started to put on weight; instead, if gut bacteria from a lean mouse were also transferred together with those from the fat one, the balancing effect given by the lean mouse microbes was sufficient to stop weight-gain.

Now, one should think about how easy and frequent is the chance to alter your intestinal balance and to find yourself within inexplicable conditions favouring weight-gain.

To reduce the presence of some rare beneficial bacteria, it may be sufficient assuming antibiotics for a few days, along with an excessive consumption of nutritional yeast or a diet repetitively rich in “inflaming” substances (i.e. food that alters the conditions of the intestine, increasing the B-cell activating factor, BAFF); people that suffer from colitis, candidiasis, frequent cystitis find themselves often in this situation.

It is important to stress that by keeping food-related inflammation under control it is possible to reduce the tendency to develop certain cancer forms and/or to limit their progression.

In a similar way, a study published in the British Journal of Cancer, centred on the intestinal microbiome, has highlighted that a particular deficiency in intestinal probiotics in the affected subject may explain the differences seen in identical twins, one only of which is affected by a form of cancer.

This study confirms the hypothesis that low-grade gut inflammation may play a central action of control for the whole organism (Cozen W et al, Br J Cancer. 2013 Mar 19;108(5):1163-7. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2013.60. Epub 2013 Feb 26).

Three are the ways to keep the correct balance of the intestinal microbial system:

  1. A correct diet, aware of the impact given by the food-related inflammation (as we have been supporting in our SMA centre in Milan for many years, by suggesting our patients to follow specific therapeutic routes).
  2. The correct integration of useful probiotics, suitable to reinstate the correct balance of the whole intestinal microbiome (for example Biodophilus, Acidophilus, VLS#3, Probactiol and many more). This is an area of research, which will develop deeply not only by identifying new strains of probiotics, but especially by understanding which “mixtures” of bacteria are correlated with the correct metabolic function linked to the improvement of insulin sensitivity and not to its opposite (i.e. insulin resistance).
  3. The elimination of potentially noxious bacteria and protozoa (sometimes, an anti-protozoa or vermifuge treatment leads to a sort of “reset” phase of the microbial intestinal system, which reinstates itself following a new metabolic orientation).

Basically, research will be asked to investigate the relationship between healthy (and lean) people and their “intestinal heritage” and to study how to help those needing to rebuild their microbiome.

We will require targeted probiotics, suitable substrates, a correct diet and perhaps anti-inflammatory substances, which are all conditions that probably the man of the Paleolithic age was able to put together without even knowing their importance.