In the past several years, there’s been numerous articles on the effects that gut flora or gut bacteria can have on your health. Whether it’s for mental, digestive, or even immune health, we can all get on board with those ideas and swallow down a probiotic pill or cultured food. But would you also consider that gut bacteria makes you fat or skinny?
Another words, could you get on board with the idea that weight gain or loss might be regulated by something more than just calories in versus calories out?
Get ready to buckle your seat beat because Brenda Watson, CNC is about to blow your mind with her incredible research on how gut bacteria would even regulate weight and what type of bacteria it is that cause all of the problems.
Gut Bacteria Makes You Fat: Here’s How it Happens with Brenda Watson, CNC
The following points were discussed in during the podcast:
00:21 — Jennifer introduces bestselling author and speaker, Brenda Watson to discuss whether bacteria in your gut actually helps or harms you.
02:12 — How scientists discovered the connection between gut bacteria and weight issues.
04:10 — What’s really causing the obesity epidemic in North America.
05:37 — Have you experienced any of these factors contributing to gut bacteria imbalance? It’s more than tummy troubles.
09:28 — 80% of women in Brenda’s group suffered from another microorganism in the gut, which inevitably contributes to increased gut bacteria imbalance, weight gain and inability to lose weight.
11:39 — The number one reason non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is on the rise, which cascades into secondary symptoms.
13:35 — Leaky gut explained using a simple analogy.
14:41 — How the body goes from inflammation to storing fat, and what actually causes sugar cravings.
17:25 — The first (and most couterintuitive) rule to turning on the ‘skinny bacteria.’
20:36 — Rule number two to balancing gut bacteria.
22:39 — Brenda’s third rule to balancing the gut and eliminating cravings.
24:25 — Jennifer and Brenda swap “grab and go” breakfast ideas (including kid-friendly options!).
26:11 — What about snacks?
27:28 — The research and weight-loss study that lead to Brenda’s book, The Skinny Gut Diet: Balance Your Digestive Health for Permanent Weight Loss.
29:14 — Staying in touch with Brenda, how to get her goodie bag and Jennifer’s closing thoughts.
Then take a moment and leave a review on iTunes sharing what you’ve learned and why others would benefit from subscribing as well!
Jennifer: Welcome back to the Gluten Free School Podcast. I’m your host, Jennifer Fugo.
Today, we are going to talk about your gut and more specifically, the bacteria that lives in your gut and whether it could actually help you and help you lose weight in a sense or it could harm you and cause you to gain weight. That’s a very interesting concept and I want to explore this topic more with my guest. Her name is Brenda Watson.
Brenda has, for more than 20 years, been helping people achieve vibrant, lasting health through improved digestive function. She’s among the foremost authorities in America today on optimum nutrition and digestion, natural detoxification and herbal internal cleansing.
Brenda has published eight books including the New York Times’ bestseller, the Fiber35 Diet. Her new book out on October 7th, The Skinny Gut Diet: Balance Your Digestive System for Permanent Weight Loss examines the little known link between optimum gut health and permanent weight loss.
Her no-nonsense approach to bodily functions has made her a popular presenter on public television where she has been successful in launching five nationally televised health specials.
A wife, mother and grandmother, Brenda resides in Florida where she established five natural healthcare clinics specializing in cleansing and detoxification.
Someone who firmly believes that you should practice what you preach, Brenda’s own personal health makeover is a model for women and men of all life stages. While waging her own battle with poor health, she discovered the natural remedies that would be the foundation for her recovery.
Brenda believes each of us holds the power to turn our health around and has made it her mission to educate others on the importance of good digestive health and how to achieve it.
Brenda, welcome to the podcast.
Brenda: Thank you. Jennifer, I’m so happy to be here.
Jennifer: I’m glad that you could make it. This topic to me is so fascinating. I see articles all the time about how our gut bacteria affects not just your gut, but your brain and now you’re saying it can affect your ability of whether you gain weight or lose weight. This is so crazy!
So why don’t we start there. Tell us a little bit more about this be skinny bacteria and fat bacteria, what the balance is of both and how they impact us.
Brenda: Originally, this concept of gut bacteria affecting weight management started with a scientist called Jeffrey Gordon in 2004 who was experimenting with mice.
What he would do is he would take the gut bacteria of an obese mouse and put it into a regular white mouse and that mouse would become obese. That was the first clue that there was something going on with gut bacteria and weight management.
So then, we come along now, we’re in 2014. In the last two years, of course, they’ve done more research on humans. What they discovered was just to give a little bit of history, we have trillions of bacteria in our digestive system.
To give people a visual on this, think of it as you have a weight of a brick. The weight of a brick, that gives you some sort of visual on how much gut bacteria that we have.
Now, in a healthy person, this bacteria level, if it stays 80% in what we call the good guys, the lactobacillus and the bifidu bacteria and also this fat bacteria we’re going to talk about, then people stay pretty healthy. But unfortunately, as you know, obesity is an epidemic and being overweight in this country.
So what has happened is this gut bacteria is no longer in that ratio in a lot of people, in millions and millions of people, especially those people who are overweight or obese. It has shifted. And it shifted, Jennifer for many different reasons.
So what we’re talking about is this bacteria that affects whether you’re overweight or not is a specific bacteria. I’m going to break it down real easy – the bacteroidetes (and I call that the be skinny bacteria for simplicity) and then you have what’s called firmicutes, which is a group of bacteria in your gut (and I call that the fat bacteria).
So what happens in an individual is when they begin to become overweight, then their be skinny bacteria goes down and their fat bacteria rises.
Now, how do I know this? You can do a stool analysis and it’s called the adiposity or fat bacteria scale. And so when you test with a stool test, you can get these ratios of these fat bacteria to be skinny bacteria.
And that’s how it started with me. I went to a symposium by a microbiologist (that was really way over my head) and I started to look at that and say, “Wow! This is very interesting. I wonder how it would really work on a group of people.”
Jennifer: And you know what’s interesting as you’re talking, I have gotten so many emails from women who have gone gluten-free (they found out they were gluten sensitive) and they didn’t lose – they feel really overweight. They’re not at their healthiest state and they kind of feel better more or less, but they can’t lose weight. It is a constant trend through the gluten sensitive community.
And granted, there are some people – I mean, I lost a lot of weight when I went gluten-free, but there are some people who are unable to. And some people even gained weight. They’re in the opposite direction that they want to go and they didn’t need to gain any in the first place.
So could you tell us how this imbalance that might be created between the be skinny bacteria and the fat bacteria could cause your body to become overweight or fat?
Brenda: Like I said, why does this bacteria become out of balance? Why does this happen? It’s for many different reasons, Jennifer.
For some people who have gone gluten-free, I was saying in the cases of being overweight or obese, the bacteria has shifted from more of the fat bacteria being low to being high. And the reason it happens is for many reasons. A lot of times, these people have had too many antibiotic regiments and have not been able to re-establish what I call their ‘microbial footprint’.
So if you historically go back to the way we’re back, we either go to the vaginal tract and we’re inoculated with good bacteria from our mom and that bacteria colonates in our digestive system and we tend to be healthy.
Then there’s 32% of the births in the United States that’s by caesarean. In that particular instance, these children who are born caesarean do not get that first microbial footprint. They tend to get the bacteria of the mother’s skin and then the environment of the hospital.
So they don’t develop that good digestive lactobacillus bifidus and bacteroidetes, which is the be skinny bacteria levels. They found that these people become obese very much in their adult life. So that’s one thing.
And then the other thing is they could’ve had antibiotics. What they have found is in some people, one 7-day round of antibiotics could disrupt your gut bacteria balance for up to two years.
Jennifer: Two years?!
Brenda: Two years. And most of these people who let’s say have had too many antiobiotics as a child or were caesarean born or have had a poor diet (like you said, they were gluten intolerant and didn’t know it for many years), these are some of the reasons that their bacteria balance gets out of balance.
Now here’s the big dilemma with that. A lot of times, you would think these people would have digestive symptoms. And a lot of times, maybe gas and bloating or constipation or IBS or something like that. But what you find in a lot of people, Jennifer is they won’t have necessarily a digestive symptom. They won’t think, “Well, I’ve got a digestive imbalance because I’m feeling something in my gut.” They don’t think that because they’re not feeling anything in their gut. But their symptom could be that they’re overweight. Do you see what I mean?
Jennifer: I do.
Brenda: So that’s a big place where there’s a little bit of like, “Uhhh… I don’t think I have a digestive problem because I’m not having any symptom.” So these two main groups of bacteria, your fat bacteria and your be skinny bacteria ratios get out of balance. And so these women who have not been able to lose weight, that’s one of the reasons.
Now, the other reason that I found with my group that I’ve worked with for six months and did stool testing on is about 80% of them, Jennifer had candida overgrowth.
Brenda: Yes, I was shocked. I’ve been testing for candida for years in people and I did see it particularly in overweight people who could not lose weight no matter what, no matter if they went gluten-free, no matter what they did, but especially in some of these women that I worked with.
One woman in particular was 61 years old. She was gluten-free. Gradually, her weight had crept up over the years. So what I found with her in particular was a tremendous amount of candida overgrowth. Now until we got that candida overgrowth level down, she was a slow starter in the weight loss. You know what I mean? It wasn’t just the be skinny and fat bacteria ratios we were working with. We had another microorganism in the gut called candida that was also affecting that.
Jennifer: And I want to point out too in case anyone is not sure what candida is, it’s basically yeast if you want to think of it as that. And so this creates sort of a dysbiosis in the gut?
Brenda: Mm-hmmm… usually, a lot of times, in the upper part of the small intestine is where a lot of fermentation would happen if you had an overgrowth of candida because what candida does is it eats sugar and carbs. And as it eats it, it produces a byproduct called alcohol. It actually produces methane as a byproduct of taking in sugar.
And if you’ve got a lot of it there, just think about it. If you think about the upper small intestine and there you are, you’re sitting there and every time you eat carbs or sugar, that yeast is taking it in and multiplying it. And as a byproduct, it’s putting off methane gas in you. And a lot of times, these people do have some upper – I would say up under the rib cage, right in that area, a lot of that maybe bloated feeling in there.
Jennifer: Wow! That is not a comfortable feeling. I didn’t even realize that that’s what’s going on in essence, that you’re really being flooded with a gas that shouldn’t be there.
Brenda: Well, it’s the number one reason I believe that we’re having the uptick in non-alcoholic liver disease that we have today and especially in women too that are overweight.
Think about it, your liver is sitting right there and you’re making alcohol and most don’t drink. You’re producing alcohol as a byproduct of this yeast overgrowth.
Jennifer: Oh, my gosh! That’s wild!
Jennifer: And then this plays into a level of inflammation in your system, yes?
Brenda: Yes, absolutely. Then once that happens, you stay in that condition for a long period of time, then what happens is you develop what we call more of the leaky gut condition. That then in essence overflows into people having other types of symptoms like joint pains, like respiratory problems, sinus issues, eczema on the skin. That’s a secondary reaction to an internal gut problem where the gut has become inflamed.
If you want to look at it, just a simple explanation of it, think of your skin on the outside of your body and every day, you take a shower and your skin sheds cells and you rebuild new cells and you’re healthy.
The same thing happens all along your digestive tube. Every three to five days, you’re going to shed off cells and when you’re healthy, you rebuild new ones.
But when you’ve got organisms in there, this fat bacteria overgrowth or the candida overgrowth or your good bacterial levels are low, then you develop an internal inflammation. I call it an internal sunburn. It’s like the inside of you is not building new cells so you open up your blood stream to whatever’s passing through your gut.
Now think about that.
Jennifer: That does not sound good.
Jennifer: I have to say it’s not good.
Brenda: Think of it like a screen on the window of your house. This is a simple analogy. All along your digestive tract is a barrier. So once you digest your proteins, your starches and your fats into tiny nutrients, that little screen inside your gut wall allows those small nutrients to pass into your blood stream, circulate through your body and create health.
Well, if that screen has holes in it like your home, what comes inside? Bugs, right? Mosquitoes and dirt, things like that. So the analogy is if that screen inside your gut lining is compromised, then anything passing through there, which is undigested foods to make it simple, all kinds of things enter in and then your immune system says, “Oh, my gosh! There’s a foreign invader. Let me turn myself on.”
And that’s what happens in many cases because these toxins float around in the blood stream and create an inflammatory response wherever that person is genetically weak.
Jennifer: And how do you think that we then go from that state of inflammation or almost like a wildfire inside the body as an analogy (the body is on fire with inflammation), how do we go from the inflammatory state to that which is storing fat?
Brenda: What happens is in the inflammation itself begins to store the fat. So what happens let’s say you have an overgrowth of the negative bacteria, what the negative bacteria likes to feed on is sugar and simple carbs.
So what happens is as those bacteria become more pronounced in the digestive system and have more of the space, then you crave more, you eat more and it tends to store itself around the abdomen, the visceral fat, which is much more dangerous than fat of course on the lower parts of the body.
And so that’s the result of it. You crave more of the simple sugars and then as a result of that craving, you eat more and then that begins the process of storing that fat because it manages a lot of hormones (not to get complicated) to get involved at that point.
Jennifer: And it’s not a good space to be in where we’re constantly craving food that is not in our best interest. I know too that many women are busy. It’s difficult.
You get up in the morning, you’ve got your kids to take care of, you’re rushing out the door and you figure, “Well, at least I’ve got that gluten-free waffle with some peanut butter to snack on something” and I’m out the door to work, to get the kids to school, run errands and whatever it may be.
But we don’t realize the larger consequence sometimes because in the moment, we think, “Okay, we checked off that box,” that thing I’ve got to do first thing in the morning and yet day by day, meal by meal, you walk yourself down this path, making yourself more I guess of a desirable environment to those fat bacteria as opposed to the be skinny bacteria.
And I have a question for you. Is it easier for the body in a sense to host the fat bacteria over the be skinny bacteria?
Brenda: You’re never going to not have any fat bacteria and you’re not ever going to have a total abundance of the be skinny bacteria. Those bacteria will always be in you, Jennifer. They just have to get in to the right ratio.
It’s really a space issue. You’re always going to have them. But you want of course the ratio of the be skinny to be higher than the fat. And that’s the crux of the program, beginning to get the switch going on.
Jennifer: You’ve got three very simple rules that are incorporated into the diet that you’re putting out there, which I think is in many ways simple, but it’s also very ingenious.
It stinks that as I’m reading them, I thought to myself, “Wow! These are things that a lot of women are afraid to do or don’t do out of convenience, but they’re so important.”
So could you tell us what those rules are?
Brenda: We have three simple rules. The one is to eat more fat. I know that we have been running from fat most of our lives because we were given information back from the ‘60s and ‘70s that fat was bad and yes, we shouldn’t be eating fat. And there are certain fats, yes, Jennifer that are bad. Trans fats are mostly in processed foods and they’re not good for us.
So when I say “eat more fat,” I’m saying “eat more healthy fats” of course, but even some of the fats that we sometimes wouldn’t think of, they’re actually not so bad. Some people think, “Well, if I eat a piece of beef, that’s an unhealthy fat.” Some saturated fat is really good for us. That’s what now all the research is showing.
So you want to enjoy the good fats like your olive oil and certainly coconut oil. I’m sure you’ve done a lot on that, teaching people how beneficial that saturated fat is for you. And then the foods like avocados and olives and walnuts and pumpkin seeds and coconut milk and all of these things that we should now enjoy freely and not worry about that fat element.
The fat element becomes a problem, Jennifer when you start mixing these unhealthy fats with sugar and simple carbs. That’s where the inflammation comes from, mixing fat with sugar.
Jennifer: And I was going to add too that if you’re going to eat – this is my personal opinion and a lot of what I’ve read supports this. If you’re going to eat fat that comes from animals, it’s best to get the better quality meat like the grass-fed and such. That way, you’re reducing the more inflammatory fat that’s stored in the animal say when they’re fed corn. So grass-fed is a better way to go if you’re going to eat beef.
Brenda: And also, even if you’re looking at chicken or anything like that, making sure that you’re not getting the ones that have the antibiotics because see, what people don’t realize is you think, “Well, I haven’t taken antibiotics a lot in my life,” but if you’re eating the diary and the meat that has the antibiotics that’s been given to them, you are getting that antibiotic inside of you.
Jennifer: That’s true. And you know, that’s the number one reason why antibiotics are no longer effective today. It’s because of the amount that they’re being used on animals.
People alone, how much doctors prescribe antibiotics, it’s alarming. But the amount that they’re being used on animals that we then eat is astounding. That’s really the bigger of the two problem. So that’s another really great point.
What about rule number two?
Brenda: Rule number two is eat living foods every day to balance your gut. I want to define that a little bit clearer.
There’s two kinds of living foods the way I explain it. The living foods would be your foods like your fruits and vegetables. Of course, your salads, eating those types of foods are great for you and you should eat those freely.
But there’s also another category of living foods that I think people really have to come back home to and that’s fermented foods. Those fermented foods would be things like your live cultured pickles, your sauerkraut. Today, people are fermenting anything from a carrot to a beet to all sorts of cultured vegetables. They’re very easy to do.
You can have some cheeses that are made from raw milk or actually fermented food. Your kombucha drinks that you buy on the store now, unpasteurized miso.
All of these were foods that were in certain cultures and still are, but because we’ve dropped over here on the west a lot of the culture that we had and we – you know, once refrigeration came about, we didn’t need to ferment foods anymore to keep them from spoiling.
Jennifer: I love kimchi. I add that to a lot of different things. And there are some really great companies out there. If your of the mindset that you don’t have enough time, you don’t have time to do all those fermenting stuff, go and buy them.
There are plenty of companies out there that are offering them on the market that you can then just add to your breakfast (maybe like top your eggs with them or put it on top of a salad). There so many things that you can do with fermented foods and there’s some really great beverages out there as well as you mentioned.
Brenda: And always remember, Jennifer for your listening audience, you want to buy them in the refrigerated section. Anything on the shelf does not have life bacteria in it.
Jennifer: Good to know.
Jennifer: Very good to know.
And so this is the one that I really want to know about, rule number three.
Brenda: Rule number three is eat protein at every meal and stack to eliminate cravings.
Jennifer: Because see, I started this whole thing off with, “I’m the Mom that’s getting up and grabbing the gluten-free waffle and putting some peanut butter on it and running out the door.” We could argue that maybe peanut butter is a type of protein and that there’s some things about peanuts that aren’t necessarily the most healthy, but why protein? Why is that so important especially for women who find it so easy to just go for the carbs?
Brenda: First of all, protein, if you start out with protein in the morning, you will not have cravings as you go through the day. When you start out your morning with that carb, then you’re automatically going to go through blood sugar swings throughout the day. And that is a fact.
Now, imagine I took 11 overweight people and worked with them for six months. The first thing I had to overcome in them, Jennifer was the cravings because the minute they stopped eating, the sugars and the things that they were eating and we were transitioning them into a more healthy diet, I knew that the craving issue would become a problem.
But because I had worked with this program before in other people, I knew that if we started putting protein in in the morning – now, having said what you said about the mom that’s in a hurry, there are very good protein powders on the market that they can throw in a blender with some kale and unsweetened almond milk or whatever they use to give them that protein kick in the morning and they don’t need to necessarily scramble eggs and make an omelet. You see what I mean?
Brenda: So that’s one of my little skinny tips I call it, being able to get these things on the fly, get these things quickly. You don’t want to get up in the morning and make omelets unless it’s the weekend. So you’ve got to go out in your health food store and look for a good protein powder that you can throw some good nutrients in and then you’ve got something on the go.
And that would be wonderful for the children, wonderful for them to start their day that way.
Jennifer: And I actually (just to throw out some ideas there) use water as my liquid base for all smoothies. I use a really good pea protein powder. I personally can’t do dairy. A lot of people in my audience tend to have trouble with dairy, but I love protein powder. I think it’s actually wonderful.
But everybody’s got their own thing. You’ve got to try different things, but I love adding a tablespoon of coconut oil to my smoothies, just add it right in.
And then if I’m looking for a little bit more fat, instead of looking for it in my peanut butter, I’ll just grab a handful of almonds or a handful of cashews and I’ll throw it in. That adds a really nice creamy factor it. And by adding that fat, as you’ve said, eating more healthy fat, it helps me in conjunction with the protein to stay full a lot longer.
And I focus the fruit of my smoothies around berries and things like that that are lower glycemic. I’m not starving an hour later and it’s a really great thing to do.
Brenda: No! That’s exactly right. And there’s coconut butter now that’s out there that’s really yummy to put in your shakes in.
I do the same thing you do in a hurry too just like everyone else. And in the morning, to get up and to be able to throw something in a blender and take it in the car with me or wherever, we all need those types of things. But the protein in the morning begins to set you up your day.
Now having said that, another good thing to do is to make sure that you have some little protein snacks always around. I will tell you just from a personal experience. My husband lost several years ago 45 lbs. doing this program. He had basically struggled with weight himself his whole life.
So what I will tell you is I’ve learned over this last few years how to do things quickly. So I sometimes – you know, to have my mid-morning snack, you want to also have something with protein in there. I just go and get some good slices of turkey or sometimes, I even make my own, slice it up and I do little roll-ups. I put some of the fermented vegetables in the middle of it, roll it up and put it in a little baggie with a little icepack and I throw it in my purse.
Or like you said, some almonds. Something like that as a snack and not the carbs because that’s going to swing the blood sugar and you’re going to start craving.
And the other thing that’s going to happen, Jennifer is you’re going to feed the fat bacteria that way. Whereas if you’re eating the protein, it does not feed the fat bacteria and they begin to die. And that’s what we want them to do.
Jennifer: So Brenda, this has been a fascinating conversation. I feel like we could go on for a lot longer about this, but I wanted to touch on your book real quick and give everybody an idea of how they can get it. I know that it’s coming out, as I said on October 7th and it’s called The Skinny Gut Diet: Balance Your Digestive Health for Permanent Weight Loss. Why did you write this book?
Brenda: I was fascinated by the research I was seeing on the gut bacteria affecting weight. I have been to a symposium in New York last July (not this July, but July before) and I said, “You know what? I’m testing this theory out for myself.”
I recruited the people into a weight loss study, myself out of emails and gathering people. I met with them every single week. I taught them how to prepare things quick, fast, easy.
I stool tested them every six weeks for six months to see their levels of fat bacteria declining, their be skinny bacteria getting higher and I became just enamored and fascinated and inspired by watching these people lose weight so I wanted to write about it.
Jennifer: I love that. And I think that your book is really a powerful message. It gives women maybe this key, this missing key to what’s going on and understanding the importance behind their gut bacteria and that it’s more than just this idea of taking a probiotic.
This is a full lifestyle change. I do really support the place that you’re coming from and providing the information.
So thank you so much for joining us and sharing with us about your book and the research you’ve uncovered.
Brenda: Thank you, Jennifer. I’m so happy to share it with you.
Jennifer: So everybody, remember to stay in touch with Brenda. Go visit Brenda at SkinnyGutDiet.com. You can pre-order her book.
She’s got a really amazing offer. If you go and pre-order the book, you will get a skinny gut diet tote bag, a magnet with your sugar tracker for the refrigerator. You’ve got a shopping list, start-up tips, a collection of videos that Brenda has created for you to get in the kitchen and actually do this as well as a coupon for some amazing supplements that I personally use that include either for fiber or probiotics.
So definitely go and check that out. Again, go to SkinnyGutDiet.com.
And remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast and then head on over to gluten-free school and leave your comments and questions below.
I know that this is probably going to spark some questions for you. If it doesn’t, then maybe you’ve already figured this stuff out. But I’m telling you, for me, this is fascinating stuff and I hope that this will help turn that light bulb on and maybe help you think less about calorie counting and restriction and more about enjoying your diet and getting more of that be skinny bacteria into your gut.
Alright! Thank you, guys so much for joining us. I look forward to seeing you the next time. Bye bye.
The links referred to in this episode are:
Get your copy of Brenda’s book –> CLICK HERE