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A Healthy Gut is Crucial for Fat Loss

Want to lose weight and increase your effectiveness at burning fat? Start with these super effective strategies that support gut health from Nutrition and Fitness Expert JJ Virgin. We love how practical they are and that you can easily integrate them into your lifestyle…

When it comes to the causes of weight gain, you know the usual suspects. Poor diet, not exercising, and being stressed out — these are all common reasons for watching the scale go up. But did you know poor digestion could be a major contributor to weight gain too? A healthy gut is critical for fat loss.

Underlying weight loss and gut health are the trillions of bacteria that find a home in your gut. You have over 500 species of different bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. In fact, you have more bacteria than you have cells! Most of that bacteria is good for you; it helps you break down food, absorb nutrients, and keep your immune system primed.

Some of that bacteria are the kind that attacks cells or produces toxins. It’s impossible to get rid of all bad bacteria, so the key is to have more of the good kind living in your microbiome. This supports your digestion and keeps the bad guys at bay.

How Poor Gut Health Causes Weight Gain

There are a couple of critical factors that play into the connection between gut health and weight management.

• Hunger and Fullness Signals
The hunger and fullness signals that you get are controlled by hormones called ghrelin and leptin.

Ghrelin, the hormone that increases your appetite, is produced in the stomach. Some studies show that the bacteria in your gut can influence the secretion of these hormones, and so the wires may get crossed when the balance is off.¹

Ghrelin slows down metabolism and decreases your ability to burn fat. This helps preserve energy when your stomach is empty. But if these hormones are dysregulated because of poor balance in gut bacteria, your appetite may be stimulated a lot more than necessary.

Leptin, the hormone that signals satiety or fullness, can be impacted too, making you feel like a bottomless pit at mealtime.

• Food Intolerance and Inflammation
When you eat foods that don’t agree with your body (gluten, dairy, soy, and more that cause food intolerance symptoms, it causes inflammation. Continuously provoking your body in this way (whether you intend to or not) can contribute to a condition known as leaky gut syndrome. 

Leaky gut is pretty much what it sounds like. The cells of your intestinal lining are supposed to be pressed up tightly against one another, creating tight junctions. These junctions keep partially digested food securely inside your intestines where it all belongs.

Sometimes, though, your intestinal lining is compromised, allowing particles of partly digested food to leak out into your bloodstream. Other problematic stuff can get out, too, including microbes, waste, and toxins.

When these substances enter your bloodstream, your body treats them as foreign invaders and responds accordingly. Your immune system releases a cascade of inflammatory chemicals designed to neutralize the threat, which can also wreak havoc on your intestinal lining. As a result, you have a much harder time absorbing nutrients, which might even cause you to eat more and gain weight.

Eventually, the poorly digested food combines with IgG antibodies to form large bodies known as immune complexes. These circulate through the bloodstream until they are deposited in various tissues where they create localized inflammation and thus, weight gain.

How to Improve Gut Health for Fat Loss

Your digestive difficulties may just be the missing piece to your fat loss puzzle. Luckily, there are easy changes you can make to your diet to help improve the health of your gut.

1. Add probiotics
Adding more positive bacteria to your system is going to be beneficial for overcoming your weight and fat loss plateau. Research shows that people who supplement with probiotics lose more body fat and body weight than those who don’t. You can incorporate probiotic-rich fermented foods into your diet to take advantage of naturally occurring, beneficial bacteria, or you can try a high-quality probiotic supplement.

2. Increase fiber
Probiotics become even more effective when paired with a fiber-rich diet. When the bacteria break down this fiber, it produces short-chain fatty acids that feed and provide energy to gut cells and keep your colon healthy. It also promotes regularity, so you can have those poops you can be proud of, eliminating waste and toxins instead of reabsorbing them back into the body. 

3. Remove inflammatory foods
Go through an elimination protocol to let go of foods that are most likely to cause an adverse reaction. Gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, peanuts, corn, and sugar can trigger inflammation and blood sugar dysregulation, so finding out which ones you need to avoid will be helpful for losing fat and maintaining weight loss down the line. 

4. Get rid of GMOs
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are wrong in so many ways. They can disrupt your healthy gut flora and trigger inflammation. Almost all of the corn and soy produced in the US is genetically modified, so even if you tolerate them, you’ll want to steer clear. Do yourself, and your digestion, a favor and look for GMO-free foods.

5. Relax and chew
Speed eating, eating while stressed, and not chewing your food are all great ways to muck up the digestive process. Allow yourself time to sit and enjoy a meal in a relaxed state (this is what folks in Blue Zones do to live longer, healthier lives). And don’t inhale your food! Digestion begins in the mouth. When you break down your food into smaller particles by chewing, your body doesn’t have to work as hard once it goes down your throat. Not chewing properly can cause uncomfortable gas and bloating, inhibit the amount of nutrients you can absorb, and alter your bacterial balance.

Bottom Line

We hope these insights on gut health have been helpful. Making sure your digestive system is running smoothly is critical for your overall health, especially if you’re having difficulty losing weight. 

Gut health is often an undervalued but a significant and important component of weight loss. We have seen the transformative power of these strategies in our personal lives as well as with those in our RISE Coaching programs, and encourage you to try them!

Dee, Sean and the team at RISE


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