Updated: Sep 27, 2020
Your intestinal tract houses trillions of microbes, including bacteria, viruses archaea, protists and fungi. Known as the gut microbiota, these microbes living in your gut outnumber your body cells by 10 to 1 and weigh more than a kilogram. Your gut microbiota perform numerous beneficial functions for you, including:
Digestion and fermentation of plant materials
Extraction of nutrients from the foods your gastrointestinal system couldn’t digest
Producing short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, propionate and acetate, that fuel your gut cells and enhance the growth of other beneficial bacteria
Synthesising B vitamins and vitamin K
Immune functions, including the formation of your gut barrier
Forming the bulk of your stools
Bacteria are the predominate microbe living in your gut, with most of us contain hundreds of different bacterial species types. Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes are your two major bacterial divisions, making up more than 90% of your gut microbe community.
Interestingly, evidence has shown that a dysbiosis ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes influences numerous pathological conditions, including obesity and inflammatory conditions. This ratio is strongly influenced by your diet, exercise, food additives, living environment, antibiotic use, sleep and stress.
Dysbiosis refers to an imbalance of good and bad microbes within your intestinal tract. Dysbiosis results in an inflammatory state that has been shown to impair insulin sensitivity as well as affect pancreatic islet cells; which are the cells that make and release insulin. Impaired insulin sensitivity and insulin release contributes to weight gain, plus makes it a lot harder for you to lose weight.
As mentioned above, your gut microbe composition and metabolic activity is strongly influenced by a number of factors, including your diet. Diets that are high in fibre and carbohydrates, and low in animal fats and animal proteins, favour gut microbiota health. These types of diets increase SCFA production.
SCFAs have been shown to improve appetite regulation, improve insulin sensitivity and reduce gut inflammation. Factors that improve weight management.
In contrast, diets high in animal fats, animal proteins and processed foods, promote dysbiosis. They also cause your but bacteria to produce unfavourable compounds that promote inflammation and negatively impair your appetite control, energy levels and mood. All in turn, influencing weight gain.
To date, there is insufficient evidence to prove that probiotics will manage or cure your dysbiosis, however...
Modifying your diet in favour of plant-based wholefoods has shown to be your best tool in managing dysbiosis, improving your gut microbial diversity and in turn promoting better weight management.