The microbiome refers to all microbiota (micro organisms such as bacteria) living on or inside our body. Fun fact; your body contains more bacteria cells than human cells and they are powerful. Specifically when it comes with it’s association with obesity. They can make digestion more efficient, which leads to an increase in calories consumed. More importantly they can also impact our appetite significantly. We also know our microbiome achieves maturity when we are 3-5 years old. Therefor, some people may be predisposed to develop obesity from a very early stage in life.
Many factors can affect your microbiome’s health right from the moment you are born. We know babies born vaginally and breastfed have a healthier microbiome than caesarian and formula babies. We also know the early usage of antibiotic has a negative impact on gut microbiome. Having a caesarian, using formula and needing antibiotic is often not a choice but a necessity. Sadly these circumstances can increase the chance to develop obesity by up to 50%. Unfortunately we do not currently have a way to fix this issue but more research is being done on this subject.
Due to the significant impact of our microbiome on our health many researchers looked at how it can be improved in our adult life. In fact some research demonstrated how our environment and behavior can have an impact. More research is needed on this subject but it is said that physical activity might also help us achieve a healthier microbiome. Our diet has the biggest impact as the food we eat also feeds our bacteria.
Changing our eating behavior to change our microbiome is not as simple as it sounds. When we change our food choices, the bacteria relying on your old food choices begin to die and be replaced. When this happens the dying bacteria starts to “fight” back. This translate to increase cravings for the food we stopped eating. Which often leads to us eating the food we had previously cut out.
Probiotics (live bacteria) has been available on the market as a supplement designed to boost our microbiome, but does it work? Research does show a significant reduction in weight with the usage of probiotics. More importantly it showed a reduction in waist circumference, fat mass and LDL which are better health indicators. However research done on this subject is limited because of the usage of small sample size and short duration, about 8-24 weeks. We do not have long term research demonstrating the long term effect of taking probiotic supplements. We also don’t know enough about probiotic at this time to have an efficient supplement that can have a significant impact long term.
In conclusion, your microbiome plays an important role in your overall health. It can be challenging to change the microbiota on and in your body with food changes. Probiotics might be able to help you. If you are interested in taking probiotics keep in mind research showed consuming yogurt, kefir or fermented milk is a great option and cost savings as supplements can be pricy. Supplementations whether through capsule, sachet, powder or food must be done on a daily basis. We currently do not have research demonstrating the long term benefit of taking probiotics.