A new piece of the obesity puzzle has been coming to light in recent years which could be the missing component in your weight control issues. Several studies are now revealing that probiotics are associated with smaller waists and quicker weight loss.

If you are not quite familiar with probiotics, they are the “good” bacteria that live in your digestive system. They are the first line of defense in your immunity and they help promote better digestion. You will find them naturally occurring in yogurt and other fermented foods.

By simply analyzing the difference between obese and lean people, a 2006 study discovered that obese people had significantly different bacteria populations than those of lean people. Furthermore, when the obese individuals lost weight over the period of a year, their bacteria population more closely resembled those in the lean group. These findings alone reveal how closely the health of your gut is related your weight.

Several additional studies showed that taking a probiotic actually promoted weight loss. Stanford University found in their research that gastric-bypass patients who took a probiotic pill for three months lost 10% more weight than the control group. In 2010, the Japanese administered a double-blind, randomized controlled trial involving 87 overweight participants. Over a period of twelve weeks, they showed that consuming a Lactobacillus probiotic reduced abdominal fat by 4.6% and subcutaneous fat by 3.3%.

Other studies researched obesity following pregnancy, and found that women who took probiotics during pregnancy showed less weight gain and faster weight loss in their post-partum period. Women were given the supplements Lactobaccillus and Bifidobacterium during their first trimester of pregnancy and continued them up to six months after giving birth.

There seems to be a correlation between the hunger hormones ghrelin (the hormone that triggers appetite) and leptin (the hormone that signals you are full), and the microbial populations in your gut. According to Dr. Martin Blaser, a microbiologist professor at New York University Langone Medical Center, taking antibiotics to kill off the stomach microbe Helicobacter Pylori, can actually promote overeating. His 2011 study found that veterans who took a course of antibiotics typically increased their Body Mass Index by 5% - that’s a 10 lb increase in a 200 lb individual. Upon closer inspection, it was found that ghrelin levels rose an alarming 6 times higher due to a lack of bacteria in the gut, therefore increasing appetite and food intake of participants.

In contrast, taking probiotic with prebiotics (food for probiotics) has been shown to have a positive affect on weight control, by decreasing ghrelin levels and increasing leptin levels, therefore decreasing appetite and sending a stronger signal to your brain that you are full. Since beneficial bacteria balance the health of the digestive tract, their presence allows your body to more fully assimilate the nutrients you consume. In turn, you crave and require fewer calories, resulting in a leaner body.

There are a few key factors to consider when choosing a probiotic, including the quality and quantity of species in the capsule. The therapeutic dose of probiotics should be 10-20 billions of CFU (colony forming units). Look for CFU instead of “quantity at manufacturing”. The latter could be different at the time of purchase, as some probiotics need to be refrigerated, and they can lose their potency.

If you think that you may benefit from a physician grade quality probiotic supplement, please come talk with me about that and about your weight loss goals. As a bonus, be sure to mention this newsletter at my office to receive 15% off physician grade probiotics.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Klimenko's mission is to promote optimal health in her patients, using a blend of conventional Western medicine and alternative treatments such as acupuncture and homeopathy. When treating a medical problem, she identifies the core issue and addresses it using whichever treatments are most effective, treating not only the symptoms of disease but the underlying cause.

Dr. Klimenko is board certified in internal medicine and licensed in medical acupuncture and homeopathy.