I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.
Also, If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.
Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues. I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet. What was going on?
This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!
My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.
I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.
There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.