The Fit Student—Get Bug Thin

Doctors who hype health remedies often seem pudgy.  Perhaps they work nonstop, never getting to the gym.  Or maybe they have mad science syndrome, opting for an overworked, middle-aged look.  And remember when doctors stylishly smoked?

I don’t know one doctor with big pecs and barn-door lats.   My dentist ran marathons, but didn’t push health, she pulled abscesses.  So she doesn’t count.

So, why should we believe a doctor’s hoopla over something called the gut biome?  After all, it’s claimed the gut biome can trim your waist, ending your lifelong wars with diet.  It also might prevent you from coming down with diabetes, which sometimes ends with an amputated leg.  Just ask my uncle Bob who’s one leg shy and five-hundred pounds obese.

But fat is the new fit, right?  Don’t be duped.  Fast food and processed foods insidiously fatten us up.  And now retailers are embracing this heavier demographic.  Ka-ching!

Big business tries to trap us in unhealthy diets.  Hungry Man dinners.  Pizza pops.  Poptarts.  All making us sick.  And fat.  So, are we doomed to crave Uncle Burgers and New York fries when they lurk in every mall?  Maybe not.  Recent discoveries surrounding the gut biome shed hope in the form of bacteria.  Yes, the gut bugs.

The unhealthy bacteria in our bellies crave junk food.  The healthy bacteria crave health foods.  And these bugs send signals to our brains, making us crave what they do..  So, when you feed your bad bugs, you crave more of the bad bug diet.  Cola.  McDonald’s.  Pizza.  The bad bugs win.

But if you eat sour cabbage (or other probiotics rich food), you fill your belly with good bugs, and you crave more of the good bug diet.  Unripe bananas.  Bran.  Asparagus.  The good bugs win—and so do you.  You defeat disease more readily.  You lower your risk of diabetes.  You triumph in weight wars.

Michael Mosley shows you the why’s and how’s of farming good bugs in his book The Clever Gut Diet: How to Revolutionize the Body from the Inside Out. 

  • Beware bad gut bugs: “Can your biome make you fat? It certainly can” (p.  51).
  • What do good or bad gut bugs do? “The microbes in your gut can decide how much energy your body extracts from the food you eat; they control hunger signals, they help decide which foods you crave, and they determine how much your blood sugar spikes in response to a meal” (p.11).
  • What magic do gut bugs do in your belly? “The microbes in your gut can communicate directly with your brain via the vagus nerve ….  They also produce hunger hormones and neurotransmitters which they may use to influence your cravings and your behavior ….  If so, then changing the microbes in your gut may also change your cravings” (p.  92).
  • Befriend good gut bugs: “Changing your biome may reduce anxiety and lessen depression” (p.12).
  • And good gut bugs do more: “Changing the mix of bacteria in your gut can reduce the number of coughs and colds you get as well as the impact of a range of allergenic and autoimmune diseases” (p.51).
  • So, what do healthy gut bugs look like? “A healthy biome is home to a rich diversity of microbes.  It is a delicately balanced ecosystem.  Where bacteria vie for supremacy” (p.  71).
  • How do you get loads of gut bugs? “The more different types of plants you eat, the more diverse your microbiome”(p. 67).
  • Probiotic-rich foods swarm with good gut bugs. So, get probiotics from yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, and apple cider vinegar (either unpasteurized, or organic, or labeled as having “live cultures”).
  • And feed your good gut bugs foods they love: prebiotics. “Prebiotics act a bit like a fertilizer, boosting the growth of ‘good’ bacteria” (p.  125).
  • Your good gut bugs crave prebiotic fiber: “Eating plenty of fiber, particularly if you get it from vegetables and grains, is very important for feeding the ‘good’ bacteria that live in your large intestine” (p. 36).

Before changing my gut biome, I craved KFC, stricken with guilt, stuffed with keels.  My weight yo-yoed: frail to fat, fat to frail, but never fit.  Since I shifted my gut biome (and hit the gym), my weight stays low—despite eating every two hours.

And I look ten years younger.  You are what you eat, they say.  And that means you—you healthy bug!