A recent study showed that bacteria identified in peoples' stool samples can be linked to body fat. The study, recently published in the journal Genome Biology, found that when fewer types of bacteria were found in the gut, individuals were more likely to develop more visceral fat. Visceral fat is generally considered less healthy because it correlates with greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is the fat generally stored in the the abdomen around the digestive organs.
As to why less variety in fecal bacteria would lead to more abdominal fat, researchers theorize that when there is a lack of diversity, the microbes that turn carbohydrates into fat dominate. As a clinician, I've learned that an imbalance in gut microbes can interfere with an individual's best efforts to be healthy (and in many cases, make it difficult to lose weight).
Simple tips to help balance your gut flora and keep diversity high:
1. Eat 1-3 cups of vegetables at every meal, even at breakfast (try a simple handful of spring mix, chopped cucumbers or radishes with those eggs or add a handful of spinach to the smoothie). These are the food for beneficial bacteria.
2. Add a high quality probiotic to your daily routine. Not all probiotics are equal. If you're picking up something from the grocery or general store, chances are it is not viable or diverse and you can't expect great results. A couple things to look for are:
a. multiple strains and different types of strain
b. high volume (at least 50 billion).
c. from a manufacturer that has been externally audited for standardization, quality control, free of heavy metals, toxins and common allergens.
The probiotic we carry called Ortho Biotic 100 is an example of a probiotic that meets all of the above criteria.
3. Balance your body chemistry to address the root cause of microbial imbalance. It is very affordable these days to have bloodwork done and I can help you interpret it using functional ranges based on healthy people (rather than the regional averaged frequently used in medical ranges). I learned this summer that something as seemingly simple as a low normal sodium level in the blood can be the reason that a chronic gut infection is insurmountable.
Michelle Beaumont, Julia K. Goodrich, Matthew A. Jackson, Idil Yet, Emily R. Davenport, Sara Vieira-Silva, Justine Debelius, Tess Pallister, Massimo Mangino, Jeroen Raes, Rob Knight, Andrew G. Clark, Ruth E. Ley, Tim D. Spector, Jordana T. Bell. Heritable components of the human fecal microbiome are associated with visceral fat. Genome Biology, 2016; 17 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s13059-016-1052-7