Part 1- When thinking about getting leaner or losing body fat, the first thing most people think of is diet and exercise, and for good reason. Excess calories and inactivity are the two biggest factors that keep people from realizing their weight loss goals and this fact has largely become common knowledge. There is another factor critical to fat loss and staying lean that almost NO ONE understands and that is how GUT HEALTH impacts their fat loss and athletic performance. When your gut is healthy it means you are able to eat a healthy diet without symptoms of abdominal pain, heartburn, severe bloating or blockages. You are able to digest and absorb 95-99% of the nutrients you consume, have regular soft bowel movements and your gut is populated with right amount of beneficial flora and bacteria. Most people underestimate the importance of the gut. The gut is referred to as “the second brain” as it is the second largest holder of receptors of the feel good chemical serotonin only behind the brain. When your serotonin is low you feel it in your brain AND in your gut. This could possibly be why when I see Nicole Voineac it gives me butterflies or why depression and anxiety has an incredible effect on how our stomach feels. Eating processed carbohydrates and sugars give you a bump in these “feel good chemicals” but this bump is short-lived. This is why sugar is so damn addicting. You eat some sugar to satisfy your cravings, your dopamine and serotonin levels increase, but soon afterwards they dip and you begin experiencing another, often progressively worse, craving. This accounts for why eliminating sugar from the diet usually results in a withdrawal period. When you cut out sugar your brain is producing less of those feel good chemicals which leaves you feeling like something is missing. The good news is these feelings will subside as your body normalizes. In fact, people will often remark how they no longer crave sugars or how fruits and foods that naturally contain some sugar all of a sudden taste so much sweeter.
Part 2- Chronic inflammation affects fat loss. Your body produces a master weight control hormone called leptin, which is responsible for regulating the amount of fat stored in your body. When you are healthy, leptin acts to keep your weight at an optimal level by adjusting your energy expenditure and by sending a signal to your brain to stop eating when the level of fat in your cells reaches a certain level. With chronic inflammation, your body produces anti-inflammatory chemicals that interfere with leptin’s function. When the leptin signal is suppressed, your body does not adjust its energy expenditure and your brain does not get the signal that you are full. The result is a sluggish metabolism and overeating which lead to rapid weight gain and makes fat loss feel almost impossible. To make matters worse, the more fat you gain the more inflammation you produce, making your leptin even less effective. It is a vicious cycle.
Part 3- Got Flora- Gut flora refers to the microorganisms and bacteria that naturally live in your gut. It has been found in numerous studies that the gut flora of obese, unhealthy individuals is fundamentally different from those of lean and healthy individuals. The bacteria in your gut are largely responsible for how nutrients are absorbed and when the balance is not optimal you don’t utilize nutrients nearly as well. This lack of nutrient absorption can easily trigger cravings as the body kicks hunger into high gear searching for more nutrients. This is why a high calorie, low nutrient diet can many times trigger more hunger. The body is receiving the calories but is wondering where the nutrients are
Part 4- How to fix and keep a healthy Gut- First off, limit or eliminate sugar from your diet. Sugar FEEDS certain unhealthy bacteria and a diet that is high in sugar will cause an overgrowth of these bacteria resulting in sub-optimal gut health. I always recommend my clients limit sugar to their post workout meal…this is when sugar is beneficial as it can assist in the muscle recovery process. Other than post workout, sugar really isn’t good for you at any other time. Next, make sure to include natural foods containing living beneficial bacteria. Foods that are fermented like plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha tea are full of healthy bacteria. You can also supplement with a probiotic to bolster and maintain healthy levels of good bacteria. Avoid processed and packaged foods and artificial sweeteners…they have also been shown to contribute to unhealthy gut flora. Certain fats have been shown to have soothing effects in the gut and also contribute to healthy flora. Coconut oil, olive oil and fish oils are good choices. Finally make and consume bone broth soups regularly. They are high in collagen proteins. These proteins help heal the gut because they provide the building blocks for the lining of the gut. Make gut health one of your priorities in your diet and reap the benefits of lower levels of inflammation, better production and utilization of the feel good chemicals serotonin and dopamine, better nutrient absorption, MUCH lower cravings and watch how much easier it is to lose body fat. This could possibly be the one factor that is holding you back from your fat loss goals.
To get started here are 10 best foods I recommend you implement in your diet to get your gut healthy and keep it healthy
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Low Fat Yogurts
- Bone Broth
- Sprouted Grains (Ezekiel bread)
- Coconut oil