Can Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?

by Ahmed Zayed, MD on July 24, 2019
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Probiotics are good bacteria that can provide various health benefits, especially for your digestive system. Some of us might think that these are germs that cause diseases, but our body is actually full of bacteria. But, not all bacteria are bad for you.

There are actually good and bad bacteria. And as the name suggests, good bacteria are considered as helpful bacteria, just like probiotics. Probiotics are known to help in keeping your gut free from health issues (1). That is why it’s best to maintain good bacteria in your body, as too many bad bacteria might cause harm to your body’s system.

Usually, probiotics can be found in some foods like yogurts, cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other dairy products containing probiotics such as Lactobacillus milk or kefir. It may also be found in some supplements containing the most common good bacteria such as Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacteria, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Lactobacillus species. Take note that not all probiotics are the same. Each kind may work in different ways (2).

You may wonder whether or not probiotics can help you lose weight. There are actually many kinds of bacteria which are considered as probiotics. The right amount and type of a probiotic can help you in many ways such as in preventing constipation or diarrhea, promoting a healthy immune system, and supporting a weight management program. We will find out how probiotics can help you lose weight.

How can probiotics help to lose weight?

You may be struggling to lose weight since then. You have probably tried taking supplements, observing diets, performing exercises, and undergoing hypnotherapy, but it seemed like these methods for losing weight are not effective. The good news is that probiotics have a great impact on our body mass index (BMI) and body weight (3).

In a study, around 2,000 adults experienced the reduction of both BMI and body weight after the consumption of probiotics in 25 trials. And the result is even better for participants who took the beneficial bacteria and multi-strain probiotics for more than eight weeks (4).

Another study has shown how Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a probiotic, can aid in losing and maintaining weight in obese men and women. Those who took probiotics for 24 weeks experienced weight and fat mass reduction as compared to the placebo group (5).

Indeed, the composition of microbes in our gut varies, especially in overweight and obese people. Two beneficial bacteria are usually dominant in our gut, namely the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes. A study shows that people who are obese have decreased Bacteroidetes as compared to lean people, but they usually have more Firmicutes (6).

Why do you think it matters? Well, about 90 percent of all bacteria found in our gut is made up of the Bacteroidetes and the Firmicutes families. It means that changes in their proportion can actually affect our well-being. Since Firmicutes can produce a lot of short-chain fatty acids, these can be added up to the calories we take every day, which may result in weight changes.

Here are the ways how probiotics can help you lose weight:

They help in improving the absorption of nutrients

One of the primary functions of the gut bacteria found in our body is to aid us with digestion. Everything we eat is actually broken down into molecules with the help of these bacteria, which can eventually be absorbed in our bloodstream, necessary for our nourishment.

Aside from that, the microbes found in our gut can produce enzymes, vitamins, and short-chain fatty acids, which are all vital in our metabolism and digestion. The reason why we shed excess weight is that we absorb all the nutrients from the food we eat.

If our body is fed with the right amount of nutrients, we will be satiated, which will prevent us from craving more foods. In fact, a study has shown that having unhealthy microbiomes due to a lack of nutrient absorption can lead to malnutrition. So no matter how nutritious the food you take, for as long as these nutrients cannot be properly absorbed, you will most likely suffer from malnutrition (7).

They help in regulating hormones

Microbes can also determine our satiety levels. They are responsible for regulating our hormones, responsible for sending signals to our brain that we should stop eating. For instance, leptins are hormones composed of fat cells which are responsible for controlling our feeling of fullness or satiety. Probiotics affect our leptins.

Leptins are produced by our body fats. If our body is composed of more fats, then the more leptins it can produce, which can also make signals to our brain that we are full. This is how our body works to stabilize our weight. But, if we are not able to perceive the signal that we are full, then our body will accumulate the fats, which also leads to the overproduction of leptin. If our body is used with too many leptins, then it will become leptin resistance.

The good news is that probiotics can help in regulating our hormones. It can help improve leptin sensitivity so that our brain gets the signal that we are full. It means that we can stop eating when we are actually full. In this way, we can be able to control our weight (8).

They help in reducing inflammation

If you are suffering from inflammation, you will most likely be at risk of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health issues that increase your risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. These conditions also include high blood sugar, increased blood pressure, abnormal triglyceride or cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist (9).

Undesirable substances cannot enter our bloodstream if we have a gut barrier. The good thing is that probiotics help in the lining and protecting our gut barrier (10). But, if the gut microbiota gets out of balance and the gut barrier becomes leaky, then pro-inflammatory toxins and molecules can enter our bloodstream, which can trigger immune and allergic responses leading to inflammation and weight gain.

Remember that out of about 40 trillion bacteria in our body, most of these are found in our intestines. And these bacteria are collectively known as gut microbiota, very crucial for our health (11). Beneficial bacteria can help in strengthening our gut barrier as well as in regulating our immune system.

They help in balancing blood sugar

Every time we eat, our body produces insulin. Insulin helps our body to use the energy we get from the food we eat. Insulin can unlock our cells to let sugar in for the latter to be used as our body’s fuel.

If our body becomes insulin resistance, our cells no longer respond as the hormone is produced. You will most likely gain weight, especially if you include visceral fats because it produces a huge amount of inflammatory chemicals which can lead to making our cells insulin resistance (12).

Moreover, if our glucose level is high, the excess amount of which is stored by our body as fats. As a reaction to high blood sugar, the insulin is secreted by our pancreas, which signals our body to stop burning fats. But we tend to crave for foods high in sugar, especially if our blood sugar is too low. The influx of sugar in our bloodstream could trigger weight gain and fat storage.

The good news is that probiotics can help in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. It helps to increase the secretion of insulin and to improve insulin sensitivity. A study has shown how probiotics can serve as beneficial agents to manage diabetes (13).

The best way to take probiotics

According to Medical News Today, there two different ways on how we can add beneficial probiotics to our regular diet (14).

Supplements

There are actually a lot of probiotic supplements available in the market. Usually, probiotic supplements include Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus bacteria. Sometimes, these supplements contain both. You can find probiotic supplements in pharmacies, health food stores, and even online.

Fermented Foods

Probiotics can also be found in many foods. One of the most well-known sources of probiotics is yogurt. Yogurt is obtained by fermentation of specific microorganisms such as Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus strains.

Other fermented foods containing beneficial bacteria include:

  • Fermented, raw cheeses
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Natto, tempeh, or miso
  • Raw apple cider vinegar
  • Sauerkraut

Indeed, there is no question how probiotics can be beneficial for our health. But, there are some points that we should understand, especially on how we should take probiotics. Here are the tips on how we should take our probiotics:

Select a probiotic supplement which can give at least 10 billion live organisms per dosage

Actually, there is no set dosage on how many doses of probiotics we should take. It’s always a good idea to seek advice from our health care provider. According to WebMD, probiotics are dosed depending on the number of live organisms they comprise (15).

Usually, the live organisms of Lactobacillus acidophilus range from 1 to 10 billion and these are split into 3 to 4 doses. On the other hand, it is suggested to take a high-potency, high-quality probiotic supplement with 30 billion colony forming units (CFU). This dosage is recommended to ensure the survival of probiotic bacteria (16).

Don’t take probiotics with chlorinated water

Do you know that the water you drink is also vital for your healthy digestion? Drinking water can help our food to be broken down into molecules. It can be easier for the waste to pass through the intestines as well as for the nutrients to absorb in our body. Water can prevent constipation as it softens stool. We tend to focus on how much water we should drink every day, but the quality of water is also crucial (17).

Usually, our water is already treated with chlorine. The purpose of which is to help us be protected from various diseases. But, do you know that it also kills our good gut bacteria? And water with chlorine is actually like antibiotics, which can kill good gut flora. This will most likely affect the effectiveness of the probiotic supplements we take.

Take probiotics on an empty stomach

Probiotics are considered as healthy supplements which can treat various health conditions including ulcerative colitis and diarrhea. But, some probiotic health supplements tend to lack directions on how and when these supplements are taken.

According to Livestrong, it’s best to drink probiotics on an empty stomach. It is because the presence of food in our stomach can actually trigger digestive fluids and stomach acids, which can break down the foods we eat and kill microorganisms, including those which are found in our supplements.

In order to keep these microorganisms alive, we are advised to take probiotic supplements on an empty stomach, for instance, 30 minutes prior to every meal (18).

Conclusion:

Most of us struggle to lose weight. We might try different kinds of diets and exercises, but they seemed not effective in losing weight. In fact, overweight and obesity are just a few health problems suffered by many people in the US. The good news is that probiotics can help us lose our body weight.

Probiotics can be found in many foods like yogurts, cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other dairy products containing probiotics. There are also probiotic supplements that can be found in pharmacies, health food stores, and even online.

So, if you want to shed off some fats, know how probiotics can help you lose weight!

References:

(1) https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-are-probiotics#1
(2) https://www.mayoclinic.org/what-are-probiotics/art-20232589
(3) https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-26619/how-probiotics-can-help-you-reach-your-healthiest-weight-ever.html
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27149163
(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24299712
(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17183309
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26912898
(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21933985
(9) https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/metabolic-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351916
(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22254077
(11) https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/improve-gut-bacteria
(12) https://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20929224,00.html
(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25963407
(14) https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325291.php
(15) https://www.webmd.com/diet/probiotics#1
(16) https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/best-time-to-take-probiotics
(17) https://www.guthealthproject.com/how-tap-water-affects-gut-health/
(18) https://www.livestrong.com/article/517268-probiotics-on-an-empty-stomach/


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