The gut is a major gateway to the rest of the body but plays more than just a support act for your health and wellbeing. The gut may also help you maintain a healthy weight.
Overweight and obese people are more likely to experience poor gut health than people in the normal weight range. Symptoms such as heartburn, acid regurgitation, bloating, increased stool frequency, diarrhoea and upper abdominal pain are more prevalent among the overweight than those with a healthy weight BMI. Obesity can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems such as gastric cancer, diverticular disease, polyps and gallstones.
Want to know more about gut health? Learn how you can improve your gut function with our comprehensive guide!
What does one have to do with the other?
A poor-quality diet can upset the gut's delicate balance and reduces the abundance and diversity of beneficial bacteria. There is evidence that disrupting this balance leads to the development and progression of obesity.
For example, if you consume a poor-quality, high fat diet, you increase the amount of fat that the small intestine can absorb. It also increases your body's efficiency at transporting and storing dietary fat.
Why is this a problem? Well, since your body is more efficient at absorbing the energy from fat, you feel full for a shorter period of time. This again can lead to eating more often - and eating more food overall.
How does better gut health help?
Your stomach doesn't just digest food, it also lets you know when to start and stop eating in two different ways:
- When you eat and your stomach fills up with food and liquid, nerves in the stomach walls signal to the brain that you can stop eating.
- The stomach also releases the hunger hormone ghrelin, which tells your brain when it's time to start and stop eating.
A well-functioning gut basically regulates your feeling of fullness and there is evidence that when you upset the bacterial balance, this function stops working as well as it should. Yo-yo-dieting, for example, can really wreak havoc on these hunger signals.
It’s not yet obvious whether losing weight leads to better gut health – or if better gut health helps you lose weight. There is a chance that these are interconnected, and that by doing one, you’ll also be doing the other.
What is certain is that eating a varied diet that contains both an abundance and a diversity of different fibres, as well as high protein and low GI carbs, you will both lose weight and support your gut health.