Losing Weight: You Can Gut It Out

 Last month, the New York Times reported on a new study that says having proper gut microflora might aid weight loss. The story quickly rose to the most-emailed article of the day, which highlights just how eager we all are for that holy grail of weight management. The medical community has observed the power of probiotics for everything from immune system enhancement to the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease and even cancer prevention. The National Institutes of Health launched the Human Microbiome Project to pinpoint the microbial communities found at various sites on the human body and to investigate the role of these microbes in human health and disease. The far-reaching health impact of the microbiome, as the microbial environment of the digestive tract is known, has been discussed lately in mainstream publications like the Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker. Who knew the gut would become such a hot topic? We holistic doctors have always considered the digestive tract to be the seat of health. In fact, I can count on two hands the number of patients I’ve seen who do not have some sort of gastrointestinal imbalance. But is a healthy gut truly the key to lasting weight loss? While there are myriad variables when it comes to successful weight loss, it’s fair to say that healthy digestion just might create a good groundwork.

The new study correlating intestinal health with weight loss looked at humans who had undergone gastric bypass surgery, in which the stomach is divided into a lower and upper pouch and the intestines rearranged to attach to both. Up until now, it wasn’t exactly clear how patients lost up to 75 percent of their body weight through this surgery, but the scientists behind this current study believe that 20 percent of such results could be attributed to a shake-up of gut flora. It was not clear to the authors of the study whether the change was from the surgery itself or the subsequent weight loss, and if the microbial shift had any distinct effect on its own. . .  reader_3