Is Your Digestion Making It Hard For You To Lose Weight?
Problems in your digestion can lead to poor absorption of all essential nutrients, ill-health, chronic diseases and the inability to shake the pounds. We have all heard the phrase “You are what you eat”, however, more resent research into the gut has expanded on this phrase to “ You are what you eat and absorb.”
To give you an idea of what this means, vitamins and minerals are needed to help stimulate many chemical reactions in all systems of the body, whilst proteins, carbohydrates and fats are needed to make structure like cell membranes, muscles, immune cells and hormones etc. Even if we consume these nutrients on a daily basis if they are not broken down sufficiently and do not make it past the digestive tract the body can’t use them efficiently and effectively they are no good to us! Digestion is a complex multi-step process involving many organs, hormones, enzymes, nutrients and systems so there’s a lot that can go wrong.
Potential imbalances in your digestion may affect its function and as we know we need the digestive system to work efficiently in order to be healthy and we need to be healthy in order to lose weight efficiently.
Here are just a few examples of specific problems that can occur in the digestive tract:
These may not lead to a specific disorder such as IBS, but they can cause discomfort and may reduce nutrient absorption significantly overtime whilst leading to reduced immunity, poor absorption and damage to the digestive tract itself.
Lack of chewing leading to incomplete digestion of foods
Lack of antimicrobial (friendly bacteria) factors to kill microbes (overgrowth of bacteria) in the digestive tract
Low or high stomach acid and digestive enzymes (proteins that help break down food into smaller parts)
Low bile production (a liquid required to digest fats)
Reduced or increased peristalsis may cause constipation / diarrhoea (movement of the muscles in the intestines which move food and waste through the digestive tract and eliminate it)
Dysbiosis (overgrowth of bacteria in the digestive tract)
Inappropriate stool formation (constipation or diarrhoea)
All of the above can be linked to dietary factors, lifestyle factors, stress and imbalances in other systems of the body. Luckily, some of these can easily be fixed with some basic dietary and lifestyle changes.
How to Improve Your Gut Health and Speed Up Fat Loss
While the human body contains 100 trillion cells, our digestive tract contains close to ten times that amount in our intestines. Your digestive tract actually contains microorganism known as ‘gut flora’ which have a huge impact on the body as a whole.
Our bodies use gut flora /microbes for lots of things like:
Fermenting unused energy substrates
Keeping the immune system strong
Growing helpful bacteria
Producing vitamins for the intestinal tract
The production of hormones
You have probably heard of “probiotic” before. This refers to the general bacteria that we know exist in the gut. If you’ve taken a probiotic, you probably took lactobacillus to get rid of some nasty bloating.
So you’re probably thinking, what does any of this have to do with your stomach and the abs that you want?
Well, believe it or not, your gut can control how efficiently you’ll lose weight and, to a larger extent, your metabolism as a whole. The health of the gut is directly affected by weight. Leaner people have been determined to have the healthiest intestinal tract. Remember, we have millions of strains of different types of bacteria, and each type has different effects on your appetite and metabolism (how efficiently your body uses energy i.e. burns calories – so this is another reason gut bacteria are important).
Changes in our gut health can speed up the rate that we absorb fatty acids and carbohydrates, and can even increase how many calories we store as fat. With a less effective gut, you could eat the same amount of food as someone with better gut health, but your body will handle the calories differently.
Recommendations depend on the length and severity of your gut health and anyone with digestive symptoms such as chronic bloating, constipation/diarrhoea, foul smelling stools, flatulence, fatigue after eating should seek professional advice as this may indicate or develop into more serious medical conditions such as crohns disease, celiac or other chronic illnesses.
Some of the below suggestions are fantastic for preventing digestive issues and therefore the knock on effects in other systems due to malabsorption of nutrients. The suggestions below are designed to help individuals optimise their digestion and ensure the entire digestive system is supported in its vital role in keeping us healthy anyone with ongoing digestive issues should seek professional guidance.
5 Tips to Support Digestion for Weight Loss
1. Bitter Foods such as Bok Choy, Mustard Greens, Kale, Chicory and Dandelion Greens.
They may help to stimulate stomach acid and support the digestion of nutrients.
2. ‘Live’ Probiotic Yogurt and Naturally Fermented and Unpasteurised Food
Such as unpasteurised cheeses, apple cider vinegar, miso, tempeh, tamari (dark soy sauce) and tofu may help supply plenty of beneficial bacteria to the intestinal lining. When purchasing yogurts look for the ones that have the most pre/probiotics in them (I like brands like Fage, Gelnisk, Liberte and Old McDonalds) and also the once with the lowest sugar. Remember, sugar can feed the bacteria and help them multiply to an inappropriate level so we want to ensure this is well balanced.
3. Fibre Rich Foods
Such as: fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds. Fibre aids the body in removing waste and helps the cells of the colon to replenish and repair. Remember if you are increasing your fibre to increase your water intake and also too much fibre can cause bloating so do this gradually.
4. Drink 1.5-2 litres of Water Per Day
This will help to support digestion and bowel movement.
5. Remove Suspected Allergenic Foods
Identifying allergens should be done with a healthcare professional/nutritionist trained in this area. In the meantime, you could keep a food and symptom diary to help you identify if specific foods trigger digestive symptoms. This can then be given to an allergy specialist who may also perform biomedical tests. Foods associated with inflammation such as alcohol, simple sugars, and caffeine should be removed.
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Elysia Doody is a Functional Nutritionist & Exercise Coach specialising in female health and wellness and the founder of The Female Wellness Hub.
She’s embraced Functional Medicine to address her health concerns, and is now helping as many women as possible in a similar position. Taking everything she’s learned through education, her own health, and working with clients, she’s keen to share it all through online programmes.