How often have you tried to lose weight and gotten nowhere? I have been a competitive swimmer for over 15 years, swam from Alcatraz without a wetsuit twice, competed in triathlons, and ran the New York marathon four years in a row. In my experience, losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is as challenging an endeavor as training for competitive sports. You have to be strategic about it and use every advantage in your favor to succeed!
Losing weight is not easy because our biology is designed to protect us from starvation. Using willpower to fight against it is like bringing a spear to a gunfight. However, it is possible to get a little help by manipulating the microbes in your gut. Studies show that microbes can influence eating habits. Some probiotics enhance the growth of microbes in your stomach that reduce hormone levels that make you hungry, making it easier to lose weight and keep it off long enough for your body to adjust.
Scientists point to the fact that weight loss is essentially a battle of hormonal imbalance.
Insulin is a hormone that plays a significant role in controlling your weight, and blood sugar triggers it. Insulin signals the cells in your body to metabolize sugar in your blood and store it as glycogen. Glycogen serves as a buffer to maintain blood glucose levels between meals. If you don’t use it, your body will convert it into fat. The more you eat, particularly sugar and refined carbohydrates, the more insulin your body will release in response. Do it too often, and the cells become insulin resistant. The Western diet has many sources of hidden sugar. If you are overweight, you probably have some level of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what defines your body’s set point, the weight at which your body is comfortable. The cells in your body become adapted to a certain level of insulin exposure every day. Eating enough to trigger that insulin level causes the body to express another hormone, leptin, that provides the sensation of satiation. Eat below the amount you are accustomed to, and your hunger hormone, ghrelin, is secreted, making you feel hungry.
Using willpower to overcome a hormonal imbalance only lasts temporarily, definitely not long enough for the weeks and months it may take for your body to shift to a new setpoint biologically. Establishing a new setpoint means adapting your system to lower levels of insulin. After all, weight gain is a biological change that happens gradually over time, and the same is true for extended weight loss.
Why probiotics can be beneficial.
Having the correct microbiota species (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) living in your gut can improve your hormonal response to diet. The right probiotics can make you feel satiated, stabilize insulin levels, lower your need for willpower and change your eating habits to lose weight effectively over the long haul.
Recent studies in both animals and people show changes in reduced hunger and appetite in those taking probiotics. (See animal study, yogurt study, and probiotic study). There is increasing evidence that certain bacteria can trigger sugar cravings, influencing your dietary choices to feed them their preferred carbohydrates. (Study on microbes manipulating host eating behavior.)
Intrigued about the possibilities, I decided to test probiotics myself.
I searched for probiotics designed to lower blood sugar since that is the main trigger of insulin. I found that there are many of them in the market, and some of them are pretty expensive, costing as much as $200 a month!
I came across a reasonably priced one called Sugar Shift. It has eight different strains of probiotics. The species that stood out within the various strains in Sugar Shift is called Leuconostoc Mesenteroides.
Leuconostoc Mesenteroides has a direct impact on metabolism because it converts glucose and fructose into mannitol. Mannitol is the most abundant sugar in nature, found in most fruits and vegetables, and has 60% fewer calories than table sugar. The probiotic also produces butyrate in the gut, which is a short-chain fatty acid. Butyrate is essential because it protects the gut lining by breaking down dietary fiber where the human body can’t, providing energy for the cells that line the gut. Most interestingly, butyrate is converted in the liver to beta-hydroxybutyrate, an anti-aging molecule better known as ketones. Ketones are an alternative energy source the cells that your liver produces from fat. The implication here is that there is a synergy of the biotic working together to reduce glucose and increasing ketones, in other words, making it easier for you to burn fat! (Probiotics may even be a powerful hack for the ketogenic diet, but that’s a topic for another post.)
For the experiment, I took a baseline of my blood sugar and ketones with a blood glucose and ketone meter several times a day for a month. Then I started taking the recommended dose of Sugar Shift for two months. Here are my results:
After taking a baseline of my blood sugar and ketones for 33 days, I started the regimen of the Sugar Shift probiotic. It didn’t seem like anything was happening for about eight days, then I started noticing that my blood sugar values were coming down without changing my diet! My daily average glucose dropped 8%, from 92.3% down to 84.9%. Then after about 20 days, I was excited to find that my ketone values began to climb. On some days, my ketones cross the threshold of nutritional ketosis, meaning that my body was deriving a significant percentage of its energy in the form of metabolizing fats. On average, my daily ketone level before Sugar Shift was at 0.33 mmol/l, and at the time of this writing, it’s up to 0.6, a 100% change!
Well then, you may ask, did I lose weight and fat?
Yes, I lost nearly 7 pounds, and my body composition went from 14% body fat to 12% body fat without changing my diet. Here is a table that summarizes my results:
My journey continues, and I will let you know what happens. I look forward to getting the results of my HbA1C to see if it drops in correlation to the new glucose readings. It seems that I am getting some well-needed help from probiotics. I am getting lighter and feel that it is happening with less effort. Hopefully, my experience will give you more insight into a better way to approach your weight loss journey.