By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Bacteria line your intestines and help you digest food. During digestion, they make vitamins that are vital for life, send signals to the immune system, and make small molecules that can help your brain work. If you have frequent digestive symptoms and/or discomfort, you likely have an issue with the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Today’s talk is going to be on bacteria balance and weight loss. I had a patient come to me just the other day. We were knocking out infection in their gut. I noticed a significant amount of weight loss above and beyond the last few months with their healthy diet, healthy eating, sleep, and exercise. They just noticed a 5-pound reduction in their weight and nothing else changed. And I said, “What’s going on?” And we looked through the program and the protocol, and it was really the fact that we were knocking out a couple of infections, H. pylori, but also some dysbiotic bacteria. Also, we saw some weight loss. So I’m going to break that down for all the listeners so they can understand what’s happening inside the guts.
Gut bacteria can affect weight loss. So we have two different families or phylum. We have the bacteroidetes and the firmicutes. So easy way to remember this–firmicutes is gonna be higher in people that are heavier or more obese. Bacteroidetes is better. B for better. F for fatter or more obese. We’re going to see more people that are lean having more of the bacteroidetes. A lot of the trials and the studies that have happened, they saw more of the bacteroidetes being at higher level with the leaner people. And they saw lower bacteroidetes and higher firmicutes with the more obese people. Part of the philosophy and theory behind that is that firmicutes is involved with more calorie extraction and that can cause more calorie absorption.
But we also know that bacteria affects different things in the gut. So good beneficial bacteria is when we have a healthy bacteria balance. So for instance, we should have this 80-20 kind of schtick happening here where here is our good bacteria. Here’s a good bacteria and then here’s our bad bacteria. And here’s my little see-saw effect here so you can see we typically want to have more of the good stuff.
So the good stuff is weighted down here. We have more good and less bad, and that’s kind of how we want it, about an 80%, 90% good to 20% bad. Good bacteria actually provides nutrients, Vitamin K, various B vitamins. We also have things like butyrate and various acids that come off to keep the colon in a really good place and prevent a lot of the bad bacteria from migrating up from the colon into the small intestine. So we want this nice good ratio.
Most people are totally flipped where it’s actually the other way around. We have a lot of the bad stuff here. The bad stuff is a lot higher and then we see the good stuff a lot lower. Most people are in this place. Why is that? Sugar, antibiotics, antibiotics in essentially a lot of the meats, the conventional foods, pesticides, chlorine in the drinking water that’s not filtered. A lot of these and stress can always throw the bacteria ratios off. So one of the things that we see here in the population is this nice bacteroidetes being higher in the lean. And ideally, the firmicutes being lower, and that switches when we get more obese.
Now there’s been some rat studies on this. In the rat studies where they implant the bacteria from one rat that’s obese into the lean rat, and the rat becomes obese that was lean. This hadn’t quite shown that replicated in a lot of the human trials. There’s one study I looked at where they give you specific bacteria in this fermented milk culture and they saw an 8.6% reduction in the group that had the beneficial bacteria. So there is some research showing that you can see a significant reduction in weight loss.
If we have a significant amount of bad bacteria in the gut, it’s like gardening. It’s like washing your car. You don’t get your car waxed before you get it washed. You don’t throw down a whole bunch of seeds before you do the weeding. So in garden analogy, you get the garden tilled. You get the weeds pulled, then you put the seeds down. When you go to the carwash, you get your car washed and then you get it waxed. You don’t want to put a whole bunch of wax on a dirty car. That’s not the way to do it. Same thing with our gut bacteria.
We want to take specific antimicrobial herbal medicines. Herbs tend to be nicer because we have less side effects. We can take them longer, which is one of the benefits that we don’t get in antibiotics. And they tend to be more cost-effective. So with specific herbs we can take them for a period time. Knock down that bad bacteria. There may even be an infection like H. pylori or a parasite or a fungal overgrowth, too, and knocking that down can significantly allow more space for the good bacteria.
And that one trial I mentioned before, this group lost 8.5% taking this fermented milk culture, so there is some evidence. Now I find a lot of people do better if their gut is full of bad bacteria. They could have this histamine response and they may actually feel worse after taking probiotics when their gut is out of balance. So we clean out the gut, they are much more responsive to the beneficial bacteria. And depending on how sick some individuals are, they may even benefit by taking a soil-based probiotic, tend to be a little bit more gentle and little less histamine response.
We talked about the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. That’s really important. Butyrate keeps the colon nice and acidic, keeps the bad stuff from growing. Again nutrients, the vitamin K, the B vitamins, a lot of the nutrients that come from that.
Good bacteria is going to keep that gut from being leaky. A good healthy gut function is going to be with your fingers nice and tight. Inside here is the inside part of your stomach. Outside part is outside of your stomach. And again, more stress, bad bacteria means more infections. Pull those fingers apart, show some daylight.
That’s what’s happening in a leaky gut at a microscopic level. Immune function and bacteria has a major effect on your immune system. Again, your immune system essentially is located in your gut. 70 to 80% in your MALT, in your GALT. GALT stands for gastric associated lymphoid tissue, and MALT, mucosal associated lymphoid tissue. GALT’s in the stomach. MALT’s in the small intestine. A lot of the immune cells live there, so healthy gut bacteria interplays directly with the immune system
Lots of studies of people that have bacteria imbalances and have metabolic syndrome have high levels of insulin, high levels of inflammation, and skewed blood sugar levels.
We know fire in the gut equals fire in the brain. When we have inflammation especially things like endotoxin and lipopolysaccharides, these tend to be the by-product of a lot of the bad bacteria. So part of the bad bacteria, we see things like LPS. Nasty. We see things like lithocholic acid that unconjugates bile. Not good. We see things like mycotoxins. Not good. We see other biotoxins that come from various infections. I mean critters when they’re being killed, they produce chemicals that make you crave sugar and make you crave the bad foods. It’s kind of their last way of kind of getting a hold of you. So they can get a breath, kind of breathe into them so they can continue to live on.
Now this case study with this patient that I alluded to in the interlude or the first part of the video here. This person’s skin significantly cleared up. We thought their skin was caused potentially by some food allergens and some hormonal issues and adrenal stuff. It may have been but we really had the breakthrough when we actually cut out almonds for a period of time. And also, when we really upped a lot of the antimicrobials, the skin cleared right up.
Again, the skin is the mirror of the gut. Skin is the mirror of the gut. It’s the largest organ in the body and when the body’s having a hard time detoxing or there’s a lot of intestinal stress, we’ll see it through the skin.
We also have weight loss. This person lost 5 pounds and I don’t go around promoting probiotics in gut cleansing programs and knocking out infections as being like the root cause of weight loss. It’s because everyone’s weight loss can be from different reasons.
Some could be from insulin resistance and too much carbohydrates. Others could be from sleep, stress, adrenal fatigue, low thyroid, you name it, so it’s hard to know. But in functional medicine world, we do see common things happen. I have seen a lot of gut bacteria killing programs really help individuals lose weight. Can’t say it every time, but I’ve seen it clinically. The research is coming and showing that. We see animal studies. We see some human studies and there is a connection.
So maybe if you’re struggling with your gut, struggling with weight loss, maybe looking at the gut will be a really good step. And if you have any gut or hormone issues and you’re not quite sure the next step to go. Feel free and click on screen to get more help, and subscribe so you can get more info right away.