You’ve tried dieting and jumped through hula loops to slim down and hit your target weight. Ring a bell? Then you might be encouraged to know that probiotics may help with your efforts.
We’ve written extensively about probiotics here at Natural Health Source. If you’ve been taking notes you know probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria – microbes – that occur naturally in your gut and serve a variety of health functions. Among other things, probiotics may reduce harmful bacteria, help immune function and even lower blood pressure.
Now it appears we can add weight loss to that resume. And fewer allergies, and even moderate protection from hospital infections.
New Research Links Probiotics to Weight Loss
You’ve got close to a trillion microbes in your gut, and up to five percent of them may want to help you slim down. According to new research published June 22 in the online journal Gut, a microbe called Akkermansia Muciniphila may influence metabolism and weight gain. And just as important, your efforts to slim down.
The strain, which you can probably get through a fiber-rich diet, is linked to other health benefits too, like lower blood sugar, insulin management and healthy distribution of body fat – all of which may help fight obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
People with higher A. Municiphila in their gut had lower blood sugar and insulin, smaller waists and fewer fat cells under their skin than folks with lower levels of the bacteria.
The study was a small one, in which researchers looked at the amount of this microbe in 49 people who were obese or overweight. They also looked at blood sugar, blood fats and other factors that affect belly fat, and measured this data before and after the participants started a six week, low calorie diet that was rich in protein and fiber.
When the study began, the people with higher A. Municiphila in their gut had lower blood sugar and insulin, smaller waists and fewer fat cells under their skin than folks with lower levels of the bacteria. As well, people with more of the strain along with other types of gut bacteria had the lowest blood sugar and the best distribution of body fat, according to the study authors.
After six weeks of calorie restrictions, those who began the study with the most A. Municiphila had the biggest improvements in these categories compared to people with lower levels of the gut bacteria.
Probiotics May Have Many Health Applications
Admittedly, the findings may be limited by the researchers’ methodology. They reached this conclusion by measuring bacteria from stool samples, so they don’t know if gut levels of the bacteria are similar to those found in human excrement.
As well, it’s unclear whether the bacteria changes would last after the calorie restrictions had ended.
But it’s food for thought. The discovery may lead to new therapies for metabolic disease, say the researchers, although they need to first identify the molecules produced by the bacteria responsible for the changes.
We’re on the cusp of something great with probiotics – evidence continues to mount that the gut is a ‘surrogate brain’, in which microbes play an immeasurable role. And if you’re feeling sick, yet another recent study suggests that probiotics may help with that too.
Probiotics and Hay Fever
We already know that probiotics appear to help immune function, so it’s really no surprise that they might also make life more bearable during the traditional hay fever months of March to August. That’s according to a new review of evidence by researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which examined 23 studies of 1,919 people.
The quality of these studies varied, but two were randomized and controlled studies – considered the gold standard for scientists. Seventeen of the studies showed that people with seasonal allergies who took probiotics had improvements for at least one factor, like milder symptoms and better quality of life compared to allergic patients who took a placebo.
The findings are published in The International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology journal.
Some researchers believe the rise in allergies over the past 50 years might be caused by lack of bacteria in the gut because of cleaner living conditions.
Like the weight loss study, researchers caution these findings are preliminary. The study used different probiotic strains and the authors have yet to identify which ones might reduce seasonal allergies. Not all of the studies analyzed were reliable – and researchers found that six of them produced no benefit.
More research is needed before doctors can safely prescribe probiotics to treat hay fever and seasonal allergies, and to conclusively say they can keep folks safer, and healthier, and whether it’s one strain in particular or the sum of all parts.
The Hygiene Hypothesis
Some researchers believe the rise in allergies over the past 50 years might be caused by lack of bacteria in the gut because of cleaner living conditions. Called the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, it suggests a clean environment may reduce your exposure to microbes, so your immune system goes sideways when confronted with harmless allergens.
That’s the theory, but it makes sense. A 2012 study found that newborns with pets are less likely to have coughs or the sniffles in their first year of life. They may have lower risk of asthma or allergies too, according to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, though that benefit appears to wear off after the tot celebrates his first birthday.
The findings coincide with yet another study – this one published May 5th in the Journal of the American Medical Association – which found that a safe strain of C difficile helped patients fight its notorious cousin. That would be of immense help to hospital patients because C Diff diarrhea is a major problem in hospitals and health centers.
Where to Get Probiotics
We offer a probiotic supplement here at Natural Health Source called ‘Maximum Digestion Probiotic’. You can buy it as part of Digestive Science Intensive Colon Cleanse for fewer digestion problems, good skin and more energy – it works synergistically with Digestive Enzyme Renewal to soothe the GI tract and give the body a fresh start.
Maximum Digestion Probiotics does not have the weight loss microbe described in this article, Akkermansia Municiphila, but has L.Acidophilus and other strains of probiotics that encourage good balance of microflora in the gut. That’s good for both cosmetic and digestive benefits – and it’s not impossible it should help with weight loss as well.
You’re probably already getting probiotics, including Akkermansia Municiphila, through a fiber-rich diet. It’s hard to go wrong with the basics of healthy living; be generous with fruits and vegetables (barring specific food allergies, of course) and low in red meat. That’s a running start for a good balance of microbes, though you can add these probiotic-rich foods to your plate if you feel so inclined.