Why Your Weight Loss Problem is a Gut Health Problem
Friday, November 11, 2016
LifeTime WeightLoss in Samantha Bielawski, gut health, gutfix

It’s no secret that America has a weight problem. And sadly, it’s a majority of the population with this excess weight issue. Seven out of ten of us are struggling with extra pounds. If you plug “weight loss program” into an internet search engine, approximately 53 million hits turn up. Fifty three million! Wouldn’t it be nice if they all had a consistent message? Unfortunately, our sensory input is saturated by separate, conflicting and authoritarian-sounding messages about how to lose weight that seem to change almost daily. Where does all the confusion come from? Where should we start?

The answer is one we all know, but hate to admit: there is no magic bullet. While many may have already addressed the “Eat Well. Live Well.” habits that lay the foundation to better health and functioning, it’s important to note that persistent weight gain, trouble losing weight and trouble keeping it off have a complex interplay between physiology, emotions and environment. There is, however, one area of metabolism that involves all three of those factors and can bring your results to a screeching halt if it’s out of whack: gut health.

Surprised? A growing body of research is lending our digestive system the attention it deserves to help us achieve optimal body composition and health. If you’re curious about what your GI tract has to do with pant size, read on.

Belly Fat

Visceral fat, the fat found in our abdomen that surrounds our organs, is more than just a frustration of vanity. It is linked to health complications, inflammation and a disrupted metabolism. Gone unchecked, the consequences of the multiple disease states associated with visceral belly fat are grave. While most of us know that avoiding added sugars, limiting processed foods and exercising regularly are all key players in keeping your belly fat in check, some are surprised to hear that the actual integrity of the gut barrier (think the separation of what is inside our digestive tract from the rest of our body) has been linked to visceral adiposity, or fat found deep in the abdomen. In fact, a 2011 study1 on women without known gut issues highlighted a positive correlation between the “leakiness,” or permeability of the small intestine and fatness in the belly region. To boot, it’s not uncommon for those with gut issues to not have overt GI symptoms.

Fatty Liver

You might be thinking “Hey, I know I may have some excess fat-- but now my organs do too?” Well, it’s possible! Fatty liver is a condition in which liver fat accumulates beyond what is normal and can eventually even cause cirrhosis. While most of us know that alcohol is no friend of liver function (to put it lightly!), a condition called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is on the rise, and it occurs in people that drink little to no alcohol. Generally, it afflicts those who are overweight or obese.

In cases of excess weight and NAFLD, limiting fructose2 and added sugars is an important first step in a larger nutritional strategy. Surprisingly though, getting a gut check is in order to support liver functioning as well! It’s been found that both gut barrier function and an overgrowth of normally beneficial gut bacteria from the large intestine to the small intestine (referred to as SIBO) are correlated with NAFLD.3 A struggling gut lining can be the result of toxin exposure from pesticides and herbicides, unmanaged stress, underlying food sensitivities, SIBO, and gut infections that release endotoxins. Consider getting tested for food sensitivities, trialing an elimination diet or digging deeper into testing to see if gut infections are impacting you. Plus of course, implementing eating strategies and quality supplements that are gut friendly to get on the right track.


This one can get tricky, since inflammation, a process involved in various levels of metabolic dysfunction, is often silent. When it does show, it often can display itself with achiness, stiff joints, redness to the skin tone and stubborn fat.

In our gut, we have good, beneficial bacteria and not-so-good bacteria. When there’s a disruption in the balance of good guys to bad guys, or when either one of them start to creep up from the colon to the small intestine, our metabolism can come under siege. Endotoxins are released, (toxins made in the body by the organisms, as opposed to toxins we are exposed to environmentally) the small intestine lining can get leaky and release them, and the conditions ripen for a consistent level of low-grade, chronic inflammation. When we’re inflamed, our bodies do not necessarily burn fat well. Taking care of the good bacteria can go a long way. It’s important to feed them with prebiotics from a diet rich in non-starchy plant fibers, starchier carbohydrates, (based on activity level of course) and resistant starch, as well as some extra support with a quality, pharmaceutical-grade probiotic supplement.

The growing body of literature about bacterial balance and its impact on several facets of health is fascinating and promising. Evidence is revealing that certain strains like the Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus casei, found in Life Time Multi-Pro 30B, can even be protective against metabolic issues4 and that the balance of bacteria in the mother around the time of the birth of the child could have an impact on the child’s weight in the future.5

The bottom line is: without a healthy balance of gut bacteria, getting inflammation and body weight under control may be elusive.  

Eating on the Run

We’re all busy and often overbooked, and it seems that the times that we regularly stop, sit down, express gratitude and eat our meals undistracted are long gone. (In fact, I may have caught a few of you reading this while you’re eating!) How often do you find yourself multitasking while you’re eating: eating while driving, eating while standing up, and so on? As luck would have it, our speed of eating actually might be impacting our weight unfavorably.6

Not only will slowing down and paying attention to actually chewing food increase mealtime awareness, but chewing thoroughly in a relaxed environment prepares your system to better break down foods and increase absorption of critical nutrients. Digestion is a chronological process; each step of digestion is dependent on the preceding step working properly. If we rush through meals and do not chew adequately, it’s likely that our gut function gets disrupted. And by now we know that disrupted gut function can create significant issues for our weight loss journey.

Time for a Gut Check

It’s often said, “you are what you eat,” but it’s more likely that “you are what you eat, chew thoroughly, breakdown properly, absorb, and metabolize.” While it does not have the same ring to it, it’s an important concept. If you feel like you’re doing many of the right things and not seeing the results you want, consider addressing gut health. In addition to those listed above, there are several red flags that can indicate an imbalance that might be disrupting your ability to burn fat well. Check out some of these red flags below:

What to do?

Don’t let imbalanced gut health sabotage progress toward your goals. We have a team of Registered Dietitians available that are passionate about improving gut health and metabolism if you are ready to take an inside-out approach to weight loss. If you have questions about gut health and how it might be impacting you, reach out to us at GUT.FIX@lifetimefitness.com.

Thanks for reading!

In health, Samantha Bielawski, Registered Dietitian, Program Manager - Life Time Lab Testing

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader. 


  1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2011.251/full
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23390127
  3. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.22848/full
  4. http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(06)00329-7/abstract
  5. http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v34/n10/abs/ijo201050a.html
  6. http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S0002-8223(11)00584-0/abstract 
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