Antibiotic overuse among humans is causing an international health crisis – not only making us more susceptible to “superinfections”(2) but also increasing our waistlines, according to New York University Medical Center’s Dr. Cho(3).
Overuse of antibiotics isn’t just leading to the development of superbugs – it’s affecting the flora that live in our guts, according to one recent study.
“The administration of therapeutic doses of antimicrobial agents to patients is a leading cause of disturbance of the normal gastrointestinal microflora,” the study authors write(4).
Other recent studies have highlighted how changes to your body’s ecosystem can be indicators of obesity. For example, the bacteria bifidobacteria is found in higher concentrations in the stomachs of children who maintain a normal weight than it is in children who struggle with obesity(5).
There are several ways the bacteria in your gut influence your weight. For starters, they affect your metabolism due to their role in harvesting energy from the food you eat. Between 4 and 10 percent of your daily calories come from your gut bacteria(6).
Secondly, gut bacteria regulate your hormonal balance, which controls your blood sugar levels, make you feel full, and reduce your likelihood of developing leaky gut syndrome(7). Leaky gut can contribute to obesity and problems with regulating blood sugar levels.Finally, unhealthy gut bacteria can contribute to systemic inflammation. Recent research has shown that bacterial toxin levels are higher in those fighting obesity and type 2 diabetes(8), and in animal studies, higher levels of similar bacterial toxins have been shown to cause significant weight gain(9).
How Probiotics Can Help
Probiotics help to feed and balance the bacteria in your gut, promoting a healthier environment for diverse gut flora. Recently, scientists have been exploring the possibility of probiotic treatment for obesity, given the weight-loss promoting potential of healthier gut bacteria.
“Recent studies suggest that manipulation of the composition of the microbial ecosystem in the gut might be a novel approach in the treatment of obesity,” one review states(10).
“Such treatment might consist of altering the composition of the microbial communities of an obese individual by administration of beneficial microorganisms, commonly known as probiotics.”
Other studies have had success managing metabolic syndrome – the combination of obesity, blood sugar problems, high blood pressure and high cholesterol – with probiotic interventions(11).
Getting a dietary dose of probiotics isn’t hard – you can find them in yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and other fermented foods.