At first, farmers gave antibiotics to their livestock to keep them healthy, but then they noticed something strange—their cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens were not only free of infection, they were fatter, too.
Since the 1950s, antibiotics have been given to livestock to control infection and boost their weight on the scale.
But Dr. Cho at New York University Medical Center argues that antibiotic overuse is not only making animals fatter, it’s making us fatter, too.
Indeed, conventionally farmed meat is loaded with antibiotics that can be traced back to the farmer who raised the animal. But that’s not all: chances are you’ve also taken antibiotics at some point during your life.
The problem with antibiotics is that they wipe out your inner ecosystem and destroy key species of healthy bacteria. Sometimes, the damage is permanent.
The good bacteria that you kill with antibiotics are the same bacteria that keep you lean.
This helps explain the growing obesity epidemic that researchers now believe is linked to gut health and gut bacteria.
5 Ways a Wounded Gut Increases Weight Gain
Stubborn weight gain and obesity are becoming more common.
With obesity, you encounter other problems, like:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Trouble managing blood sugar
Otherwise known as metabolic syndrome, this constellation of health problems now affects one out of three Americans. Worse, it doesn’t end there. Many of those who have been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome go on to develop a fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease.
So what is really going on?
For starters, diversity matters. Diversity describes the number of different species of bacteria living in the gut. In a nutshell, the more, the merrier.
Changes in your inner ecosystem may also help to predict obesity. For example, the numbers of Bifidobacteria are higher in children who maintain a normal weight than in those who later become overweight.
Scientists have been able to identify five ways that gut health influences weight:
- Metabolism: Gut bacteria harvest energy from the food that you eat. Some harvest more energy than others. The bacteria living in your gut provide roughly 4-10 percent of your daily calories.
- Hormonal Balance: Gut bacteria regulate the release of gut hormones. These hormones control blood sugar, encourage satiety (the feeling of being “full”), and reduce leaky gut.
- Genetics: Your genome helps shape your inner ecosystem. For example, genetic mutations that affect levels of the “satiety” hormone leptin are associated with more fat-forming bacteria and less good-for-you Bifidobacteria.
- Inflammation: Unhealthy gut bacteria produce toxins that trigger a systemic inflammatory response. Research shows that levels of bacterial toxin are higher in those who struggle with obesity or type 2 diabetes. In animal studies, high levels of bacterial toxin will cause weight gain—without any shift in diet.
- Leaky Gut: Intestinal inflammation, or leaky gut, drives obesity and problems with blood sugar. When the gut barrier is “leaky,” bacterial toxins make their way into the bloodstream. A dose of probiotics (like Bifidobacteria) has been shown to reduce leakiness and improve blood sugar.
Probiotics Support Weight Loss
Antibiotics destroy a healthy inner ecosystem, but probiotics restore it. Once the inner ecosystem is healthy, the body naturally drops excess weight. Probiotic foods include kefir and cultured vegetables, which literally seed your inner landscape with helpful bacteria that fight inflammation and control the growth of harmful microbes.
Cultured vegetables like kimchi have been found to reduce body weight and improve markers of inflammation in those who struggle with weight loss. Other studies show that kefir fights inflammation, lowers cholesterol, and supports weight loss.