The industry behind weight-loss fads benefits greatly from new and trendy diets. From the cabbage soup diet to all-out juice cleanses, there have been many options to choose from for anyone looking to shed a few pounds.
There’s a reason the grandiose health claims are eaten up by the masses, so to speak. According to data from the CDC, roughly 71.6% of adult Americans over the age of 20 are either overweight or obese. With such high numbers, it’s not hard to come to the conclusion that a lot of these people want to reduce their weight and live healthier lifestyles.
The latest trend in weight loss and general health, the microbiome diet, was created by Dr. Raphael Kellman in the hopes of restoring gut health. But what is the microbiome diet – and does it work?
What is the microbiome and why is it important?
The microbiome is a large group of microorganisms that work symbiotically within the body to contribute to a plethora of biological systems. So much of the proper function of organs and systems rely on the microbiome that it has been labelled an organ in and of itself. The microorganisms that make up the microbiome can be found in the small and large intestines, the mouth, the gut, and even on the skin.
The trillions of bacteria that make up the ‘organ’ contribute to the smooth operation of:
- The immune system
- Protection against harmful bacteria and pathogens
- The production of vitamins and minerals such as B12
- Mental health and cognition
When the microflora is off balance due to an issue with the microbiome, it can lead to dysbiosis, which is thought to be responsible for a host of health conditions, including obesity. Other conditions that can be caused by an imbalance of the microflora include:
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Chronic heart disease
- Liver disease
What is the microbiome diet?
Based on the principle of elimination and reintroduction, the microbiome diet operates under a very strict phase system.
Phase one consists of the “four Rs”:
This step has participants eliminate foods and other chemicals from their diet that could lead to possible inflammation. Anything from junk food to medications could be taken out of the equation during the removal phase. This stage often includes gluten, dairy, grain products, packaged food, fish, and artificial sweeteners.
During this stage, participants are told to introduce new and healthier options into their diet through wholefoods rich in vitamins and nutrients, as well as supplementation. Foods that are encouraged during this stage are all plant-based and include fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and foods high in probiotics.
To encourage healthy levels of digestive enzymes and stomach acid, the “replace” aspect of the diet involves adding certain supplements, herbs, and spices.
The fourth and final stage of phase one is to repopulate the stomach with healthy bacteria via the ingestion of probiotics.
During phase two, things become a little less restrictive. Many foods eliminated during phase one will still need to be avoided; however, the strength of the microbiome is said to be increased, thus leading to more wiggle room when it comes to no-go foods.
Phase three is the final step in the full completion of the diet and is designed to be continued for any length of time to maintain weight loss and a healthy microbiome. It also allows you to add back in more foods that weren’t allowed during the first two phases, in moderation.
Does the microbiome diet work?
Although there have been no direct studies indicating that the microbiome diet works for weight loss, there are some that show a direct correlation between overall levels of health and the microorganism balance within the body. One such study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that one’s diet and one’s microbiome data work in conjunction with one another, and the risk of disease is lower for people who eat in a way that encourages healthy levels of microorganisms.
Another study published in Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI) painted a similar picture. The study suggested that the microbiome had a heavy hand in the fermentation of dietary fiber, which led to the production of fatty acids, the reduction of widespread inflammation, and lipid metabolism.
How do I heal my microbiome?
There are many things you can do to heal your microbiome. They include:
- Eating pro- and prebiotic rich foods
- Avoid sugar and sweeteners
- De-stress as much as possible
- Limit the use of antibiotics
- Get enough exercise and sleep
- Eat a plant-based diet
Having a healthy gut can be a great first step on the road to weight loss, and research has suggested that it can lower the risk of becoming obese in the future. The microbiome diet may not be the holy grail when it comes to shedding unwanted pounds, and its restrictive nature is not easy to adhere to. But using some principles from the diet about fueling the body with whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals could be of benefit, ultimately leading to a healthier you.