13

votes

Is gut flora a major cause of obesity? Why low carb may work for some and not for others.

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 12, 2011 at 11:58 AM

There is discussion about how low carb to normalize weight works for some and not for others. Questions of why obesity increased with the modern diet while macronutrient ratios appear not to be causative when compared to minorities and the past. Certainly there must be a causative factor that came to dominate the standard western diet.

Fructose availability and consumption have increased dramatically. At least 1/3 of westerners have fructose malabsorption, most of them asymptomatic on the surface.

There are various types of gut flora and there is a type of gut flora that can make people obese (PMID 17183309 et seq.).

Unabsorbed fructose ferments and feeds bacteria in the gut. Starch can also be malabsorbed. Metabolites of these bacteria can cause inflammation and autoimmunity. Can they cause obesity too?

Some people do not tolerate carbs ??? why, if not because of gut flora? IBS and IBD have been on the rise for a while. They respond to carbohydrate and FODMAP reduction. The SCD and GAPS diet do not always work. I think they have serious limitations because they allow honey, fruit, fermented dairy and other FODMAPs. It makes no sense to allow honey and fruit on these diets but not dextrose when many people don't absorb fructose but would absorb glucose.

If somebody goes on a low carb diet, they greatly reduce the potential of fermentable carbs. If an individual goes on a low carb diet and still eats some fructose or FODMAPs, it may or may not be enough to shift gut flora sufficiently towards fewer Firmicutes and more Bacteroidetes so as to enable proper leptin metabolism.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on July 16, 2013
at 12:51 AM

after many months, same here. keep adding back starch or vegetables (i love sauerkraut) but keep bloating, getting hives, feelin tired and staying fat. i think our guts just can't handle carbs/fibers, probably related to dysregulation/overgrowth of colonic bacteria causing inflammation.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on December 23, 2012
at 11:27 PM

I have eaten a plant-free diet for over three years. However, a couple of time I have done short experiments that show that nothing is being reset.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 23, 2012
at 10:21 AM

I've been on a ZC Paleo diet eliminating grains/dairy, fructose, major allergens, all starches and now vegetables. This is to clear my gut of any pathogenic/problem causing bacteria. I'm feeling pretty good and will slowly introduce fermented vegs/probiotics. Maybe i'll even stick to my primarily animal-based diet plan in the long run if I continue to feel good...

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 23, 2012
at 10:19 AM

great observation. gotta reset the gut bacteria load somehow...

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 23, 2012
at 10:19 AM

i would try eliminating all fibers/vegetables/starch/fructose and major allergen sources to reset and rid the gut of bad bacteria

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on September 03, 2011
at 08:24 PM

Sam's Club. Be sure to bring it to work and leave it out for 4 hours, works like a charm :D

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on September 03, 2011
at 08:23 PM

Oh man, you do not want that bacteria growing in leftover chicken salad! lol Streptococcus aureus, anyone? :D

76fd821658bfeefcdd91a25eb67ec683

(65)

on September 03, 2011
at 08:17 PM

Where can I get some of that gut-bacteria resetting leftover chicken salad?

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on August 13, 2011
at 12:12 PM

Depends on the degree of intake and malabsorption, as well as other individual factors, I would think.

Medium avatar

(39831)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:48 PM

Unabsorbed fructose reaching those bacteria is likely a preferable outcome compared to absorption all told.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:28 PM

haha I don't know! Not sure I want to find out :D I take them only because I don't eat any fermented foods, which I know would have been almost a daily thing for a caveman. The probiotics are like a stand-in for a bacteria source that I feel is a necessary part of a diet.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:24 PM

wonder what would happen if you stopped...

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:02 PM

Yes, still taking it, and miss a day or two per week on average. And I try to take it right after dinner, although some nights it's an hour or two afterwards.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 12, 2011
at 04:48 PM

interesting. are you still taking that same pro-biotic? have you ever stopped taking it for more than a day or two?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:37 PM

If I suspected my gut bacteria had a role in my adiposity, I think the evidence shows that a diet low in carbs AND calories in general can shift the ratio of Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:32 PM

I would also be careful with probiotics because they can be growth promoters in animals.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:31 PM

Dean, in my experience as someone with stomach problems, you have to starve the gut bacteria to remove the SIBO before you even think about inulin. I remember back when my gut health was pretty iffy, I took some probiotic with inulin and it gave me terrible cramps and diarrhea for a week. Now I can take inulin and not have diarrhea. Inulin feeds good and bad bacteria, so I wouldn't take it if there is evidence you have pathogenic bacteria. I don't think the efficient bacteria are pathogenic, there are just too many of them in obese people.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:29 PM

there is some evidence that some lactobactelli probiotics allow for a shift towards Bacteroidetes, but not enough studies on it.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on August 12, 2011
at 02:28 PM

I'm not sure extra inulin, pectin etc are a good idea after listening to Mat Lalonde's talk on vimeo - he pretty much described what had happened to me regarding SIBO. Maybe there is enough soluble fiber in leafy greens and small amounts of a variety of other plants. Dr. Ayers, who does recommend inulin, also mentioned soluble fiber in meat. If there are super-efficient bacteria producing absorbable nutrients, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they also produced pathogens that affect metabolism. I definitely agree about the need to fix bacterial diversity and possible benefits of butyrate.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on August 12, 2011
at 02:27 PM

I'm not sure extra inulin, pectin etc are a good idea after listening to Mat Lalonde's talk on vimeo - he pretty much described what had happened to me regarding SIBO. Maybe there is enough soluble fiber in leafy greens and small amounts of a variety of other plants. Dr. Ayers, who does recomment inulin, also mentioned soluble fiber in meat. If there are super-efficient bacteria producing absorbable nutrients, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they also produced pathogens that affect metabolism. I definitely agree about the need to fix bacterial diversity and possible benefits of butyrate.

E7a462d6e99fec7e8f0ddda11b34a770

(1638)

on August 12, 2011
at 02:02 PM

+1 for the buttah! And Annie, I am coming off a long-term course of antibiotics for Lyme disease. I have been able to maintain things pretty well - at least as far as any overt symptoms - by taking as wide a variety of different probiotic supplements as I could find, eating lightly or un-washed organic vegetables and fruit, and naturally fermented sauerkraut and any other fermented foods I could get my hands on. Except kimchee - that's a bit TOO intense for me! Not perfect maybe, but certainly better than doing nothing.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on August 12, 2011
at 01:27 PM

So how do we get the good bacteria? Is it too late?

  • 2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

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4 Answers

11
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 12:35 PM

Growing up, my sister and I ate the same things pretty much. We ate a lot of junk food. I was always thin, even underweight. She was overweight. I had chronic stomach problems and autoimmune issues, she didn't. When the doctor put me on drugs for my stomach problems was when I started to gain weight. I think carbohydrate intolerance makes you less likely to gain weight since your gut will be too irritated to absorb as much. In my experience, people who are fructose or FODMAP intolerant tend towards the leaner, but I didn't have any studies on that.

Most of the articles I've read on obesity and gut flora says that the obese have more efficient gut flora and may be extracting more energy from fatty acids and carbohydrates than the bacteria of a lean person. They also might not be as good at signaling satiety.

A low-carb diet will reduce the amount of most bacteria, which could help if the person has those super-efficient bacteria. But in general this also might explain why so many who lose weight on low-carb gain it all back with absurdly small additions of carbs into their diet- the problem was never fixed. What needs to be fixed is the diversity of bacteria, which promotes a proper balance. Unfortunately, this diversity is often established at a young age and can be ruined by antibiotic use.

What might be negative is that it reduces the amount of SCFA-producing bacteria, which modulate inflammation and the appetite. To mitigate this, some low-carbers take inulin, which has shown promise in some studies, or exogenous SCFA such as butter (butyrate).

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:31 PM

Dean, in my experience as someone with stomach problems, you have to starve the gut bacteria to remove the SIBO before you even think about inulin. I remember back when my gut health was pretty iffy, I took some probiotic with inulin and it gave me terrible cramps and diarrhea for a week. Now I can take inulin and not have diarrhea. Inulin feeds good and bad bacteria, so I wouldn't take it if there is evidence you have pathogenic bacteria. I don't think the efficient bacteria are pathogenic, there are just too many of them in obese people.

E7a462d6e99fec7e8f0ddda11b34a770

(1638)

on August 12, 2011
at 02:02 PM

+1 for the buttah! And Annie, I am coming off a long-term course of antibiotics for Lyme disease. I have been able to maintain things pretty well - at least as far as any overt symptoms - by taking as wide a variety of different probiotic supplements as I could find, eating lightly or un-washed organic vegetables and fruit, and naturally fermented sauerkraut and any other fermented foods I could get my hands on. Except kimchee - that's a bit TOO intense for me! Not perfect maybe, but certainly better than doing nothing.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:29 PM

there is some evidence that some lactobactelli probiotics allow for a shift towards Bacteroidetes, but not enough studies on it.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on August 12, 2011
at 02:27 PM

I'm not sure extra inulin, pectin etc are a good idea after listening to Mat Lalonde's talk on vimeo - he pretty much described what had happened to me regarding SIBO. Maybe there is enough soluble fiber in leafy greens and small amounts of a variety of other plants. Dr. Ayers, who does recomment inulin, also mentioned soluble fiber in meat. If there are super-efficient bacteria producing absorbable nutrients, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they also produced pathogens that affect metabolism. I definitely agree about the need to fix bacterial diversity and possible benefits of butyrate.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:32 PM

I would also be careful with probiotics because they can be growth promoters in animals.

2870a69b9c0c0a19a919e54cb3a62137

(1520)

on August 12, 2011
at 02:28 PM

I'm not sure extra inulin, pectin etc are a good idea after listening to Mat Lalonde's talk on vimeo - he pretty much described what had happened to me regarding SIBO. Maybe there is enough soluble fiber in leafy greens and small amounts of a variety of other plants. Dr. Ayers, who does recommend inulin, also mentioned soluble fiber in meat. If there are super-efficient bacteria producing absorbable nutrients, it wouldn't be surprising at all if they also produced pathogens that affect metabolism. I definitely agree about the need to fix bacterial diversity and possible benefits of butyrate.

6670b38baf0aae7f4d8ac2463ddc37c0

(3946)

on August 12, 2011
at 01:27 PM

So how do we get the good bacteria? Is it too late?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 12, 2011
at 02:37 PM

If I suspected my gut bacteria had a role in my adiposity, I think the evidence shows that a diet low in carbs AND calories in general can shift the ratio of Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes.

3
1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 12, 2011
at 04:37 PM

That's an interesting supposition. When I started doing Paleo, I noticed that starches would give me serious indigestion in the form of gas, bloating and grumbling. White rice, potatoes, etc. And even though I was getting plenty of fiber from greens, fruits and veg, constipation was a serious problem that was making my life miserable. Taking MiraLax once a day just so I could do a poo that didn't tear my butthole apart was getting old, fast.

Then I got a lovely case of food poisoning from left over chicken salad that pretty much wiped my gut clean of any bacteria, good or bad. After the vomiting and butt water phase subsided, I was still pooping basically water, and several times a day--anything I ate was moving through my system too quickly to be absorbed properly. I began taking a basic probiotic--

(AccuFlora: http://www.drugstore.com/products/prod.asp?pid=221322&catid=184257&aid=338666&aparam=221322&scinit1=pla )

--and within a couple of days my poops were back to normal, and have been ever since. No more constipation either, and this happened back in mid-April. I can now digest starchy foods with no issues whatsoever, it's awesome! I still take a probiotic with dinner each night, but if I skip a day or two it doesn't have a noticeable effect on the outcome in the morning ;)

I definitely think that having the wrong strains of gut bacteria can lead to digestion problems.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:02 PM

Yes, still taking it, and miss a day or two per week on average. And I try to take it right after dinner, although some nights it's an hour or two afterwards.

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:28 PM

haha I don't know! Not sure I want to find out :D I take them only because I don't eat any fermented foods, which I know would have been almost a daily thing for a caveman. The probiotics are like a stand-in for a bacteria source that I feel is a necessary part of a diet.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 12, 2011
at 05:24 PM

wonder what would happen if you stopped...

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 12, 2011
at 04:48 PM

interesting. are you still taking that same pro-biotic? have you ever stopped taking it for more than a day or two?

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on September 03, 2011
at 08:24 PM

Sam's Club. Be sure to bring it to work and leave it out for 4 hours, works like a charm :D

1d0497f8781845ab371b479455bfee8e

(11157)

on September 03, 2011
at 08:23 PM

Oh man, you do not want that bacteria growing in leftover chicken salad! lol Streptococcus aureus, anyone? :D

76fd821658bfeefcdd91a25eb67ec683

(65)

on September 03, 2011
at 08:17 PM

Where can I get some of that gut-bacteria resetting leftover chicken salad?

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 23, 2012
at 10:19 AM

great observation. gotta reset the gut bacteria load somehow...

3
100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 12, 2011
at 03:53 PM

That's a very interesting idea. It could be the reason I can tolerate almost no carbohydrate whatsoever. I have basically 3 conjectures, and bacterial or otherwise microorganismic involvement, is one of them, be it in the gut or elsewhere. The others are (1) intolerance to specific compounds like anti-nutrients / toxins in vegetables, or (2) needing to be in deeper ketosis, just like some epileptics will respond only when ketosis is deep enough. My problems were psychiatric, not just bariatric, so it's more obviously about the brain, although weight problems are of course also brain problems.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on December 23, 2012
at 11:27 PM

I have eaten a plant-free diet for over three years. However, a couple of time I have done short experiments that show that nothing is being reset.

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on December 23, 2012
at 10:19 AM

i would try eliminating all fibers/vegetables/starch/fructose and major allergen sources to reset and rid the gut of bad bacteria

Cc69a51b427eaad36251cce9dcca4d3a

(1074)

on July 16, 2013
at 12:51 AM

after many months, same here. keep adding back starch or vegetables (i love sauerkraut) but keep bloating, getting hives, feelin tired and staying fat. i think our guts just can't handle carbs/fibers, probably related to dysregulation/overgrowth of colonic bacteria causing inflammation.

0
669790861549f3c6d54d88a65296ed19

(452)

on August 12, 2011
at 01:33 PM

*A low-carb diet will reduce the amount of most bacteria, which could help if the person has those super-efficient bacteria. But in general this also might explain why so many who lose weight on low-carb gain it all back with absurdly small additions of carbs into their diet- the problem was never fixed *

I think that's where GAPS might be beneficial. Most GAPSers turn WP when done with GAPS,so they eat some amount of carbs&fructose,even grains. Yet they aren't obese,so I guess that might be bc they restored their bodies/metabolisms on GAPS?

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