The bacteria in our guts are estimated to number in the region of 39 trillion, a figure in excess of the number of human cells in the body. These bacteria exert a powerful effect on our health and metabolism and there is quite a body of research demonstrating how the balance of species (and there may be as many as 10,000 to juggle with) can affect our tendency to either gain or lose weight, and a significant impact on obesity has been demonstrated.
The good news is that the type of bacteria in our gut can be altered by changes in diet and lifestle factors. So, if you are trying to get in shape for the New Year, try thinking beyond calories to your internal friends who may be able to do a lot of the work for you. Some of the factors which can support a healthy bacterial composition include:
Reducing consumption of refined carbohydrates (pasta, white rice, bread), sugar and processed foods
Including foods containing a type of fibre which acts as a source of nourishment for the beneficial bacteria (eg apples, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, oats)
Avoiding antibiotics, if possible, and anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibruprofen.
Using coconut oil, butter, or olive oil for cooking and keeping temperatures low or moderate.
And, since each of us is unique, not just genetically but in terms of our gut bacteria, it may be that , the best diet for you, is not the same as that even of your twin!
Ley, E; Turnbaugh, P; Klein, S; Gordon, J. 2006 Microbial ecology: Human gut microbes associated with obestiy. Nature 444, 1022-1023.
Tremaroli, V; Backhed, F. 2012. Functional Interactions between the gut microbiota and host metabolism. Nature 489, 242-249