probiotics and weight loss

Probiotics and Weight Loss

Probiotics and weight loss has become a hot topic in the health and wellness world. As scientific advances unfold, the known positive effects of a healthy gut seem more and more promising. We know that probiotics play a crucial role in gut health, brain health, heart health, and immunity. However recent studies indicate that probiotics may also be beneficial in the pursuit of a healthy weight.

What are probiotics?

Before we discuss the link between probiotics and weight loss, it is helpful to know more about probiotics and their role in the body. Probiotics are a combination of live beneficial bacteria and/or yeasts that naturally live in your intestines (gut flora). When we think of bacteria, we usually view it in a negative way, or as something that makes us sick. However you have two kinds of bacteria that live in and on your body: good bacteria and bad bacteria. Probiotics are made up of good bacteria that helps keep your body healthy.

In addition, your intestines house around 100 trillion microorganisms. Yes, we said trillions! Research has found that a diverse gut flora plays an influential role in the progression of a number of diseases including high cholesterol, heart disease, dementia, and obesity. Probiotics also help to reduce low-grade inflammation in the gut cells, which in turn, strongly impacts energy balance and weight loss.

Probiotic-Rich Foods for weight loss and overall health

Foods rich in probiotics will aid in gut health and promote weight loss, along with several other health advantages. Here is a list of healthy foods high in probiotics that you should consider including in your diet:

  • Yogurt – Contains many probiotics that are gut-friendly and improve overall health. It is made from cow’s milk or plant based milks and carefully fermented with probiotics. Just beware of added sugars when buying yogurt. We like a plain greek yogurt or this coconut plant based yogurt.
  • Kimchi – Is spicy and pungent and rich in probiotics, thus ideal as part of a weight loss plan. This side dish with a bowl of brown rice is a great choice. Check out this recipe for Kimchi Fried Rice!
  • Miso Soup – A Japanese soup made of kelp (aka seaweed) that helps improve gut health, is rich in probiotics and aids in weight loss. Miso is fermented soybean paste filled with rice, barley, and salt making it a rich protein source as well. 
  • Tempeh – is another probiotic-filled food that comes from soybeans. It is popular with vegetarians and vegans due to its high protein content. Our favorite way to use it is by making vegan BLTs!
  • Sauerkraut – Is a popular probiotic rich food. It is finely cut cabbage that is fermented by various probiotic bacteria. This food is a good source of antioxidants like vitamin C. We love to top salads and sandwiches with it for a nice crunch!
  • Kefir – Is a fermented form of dairy with a distinct mixture of fermented milk and kefir grains. It is even suitable for people with lactose intolerance. This is the brand that we like.
  • Kombucha – A slightly sweet and fizzy drink made from sweet black tea and fermented with a bacteria. Like yogurt, watch for the added sugar content in these drinks. Try this brand.
  • Cottage Cheese – The comeback food of the year! You can pair it with walnuts, olive oil, and cucumber slices or some fruit for a healthy dose of probiotics and a great weight loss snack.

What are prebiotics?

Any conversation about probiotics is incomplete unless we discuss probiotics’ partner in crime (or should we say health), prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut. A healthy balance between prebiotics and probiotics supports a well-functioning digestive system, which can affect our overall health. Prebiotics contain dietary fibers that the human body can’t break down and absorb through the intestinal tract. So, good gut bacteria work to metabolize and ferment those prebiotic fibers, which then benefits our gut health.

Prebiotic Rich Foods

What are the best foods to feed your gut? As we know, your gut contains both good and bad bacteria. Inflammatory foods like fried foods and foods high in refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup actually feed the bad bacteria of the gut. These types of food also do not aid in weight loss. Instead, opt for high-fiber foods packed with gut-boosting benefits.

  • Bananas
  • Legumes
  • Leafy Greens
  • Whole Grains
  • Jerusalem Artichokes
  • Onions, Leeks, Garlic, and Scallions
  • Dandelion Greens and Chicory
  • Cabbage

Benefits of probiotics for weight loss and more

While probiotics can aid in weight loss, they have many other benefits as well. The main job of probiotics is to maintain a healthy balance in your body. Think of it as keeping your body in a neutral state. For example, when you are sick, bad bacteria enters your body and increases in number. This knocks your body out of balance. The good bacteria works to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better.

Good bacteria keeps you healthy by supporting your immune function and controlling inflammation. Certain types of good bacteria can also:

  • Help your body digest food.
  • Keep bad bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
  • Create vitamins.
  • Help support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed from entering your blood.
  • Breakdown and absorb medications.
  • Aid in weight loss.

What research says about probiotics and weight loss

Clinical studies show that specific strains of probiotics are consistent with reduction in body weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage and BMI.

How exactly do probiotics contribute to weight loss? Research has found various potential mechanisms that could contribute to resulting weight loss. These include decreasing appetite by facilitating the release of appetite reducing hormones such as leptin; inhibiting the absorption and storage of fat; and reducing inflammation levels within the body.

Further, research has found that treatments containing the following strains: bifidobacterial, lactobacilli and streptococcus thermophilus, yield the most improvement in weight.

One specific probiotic strain, L. (Lactobacillus) gasseri, appears to have the most promising impact on fat loss specifically. A 2018 study found that participants who consumed a high dose lactobacillus gasseri BNR17 supplement significantly reduced waist circumference and abdominal fat compared to those who took a placebo. It is beneficial to look for a probiotic that contains at least L. gasseri, if not the other species that are mentioned above.

It is also worth noting that the research, while promising and exciting, does seem to indicate that daily, long-term usage of probiotics is required to see the benefits when it comes to weight and/or fat loss.

Should I take a probiotic supplement?

We routinely recommend taking a probiotic supplement to help with weight loss, gut health, mental health and immunity. Probiotic supplements contain many and diverse strains and doses of healthy bacteria. They may also be combined with a prebiotic. Together this combination of a probiotic and a prebiotic are called a symbiotic. They come in a variety of forms including in capsules and pills, powders and liquids. Brands we love are Just Thrive, Ritual and Thorne.

Want to learn more?

While probiotics may be able to assist you in shedding some pounds, they are certainly only a compliment to a healthy diet and regular exercise. If losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is a priority for you, schedule a session with a Registered Dietitian (RD) from our team. An RD can help you increase your consumption of probiotics and diversify your gut flora. They can also formulate a weight loss plan just for you that is customized to your specific needs. Click the button below to learn more about our nutrition counseling programs, including our specialized Weight Loss Program.