What is your gut telling you?
By Renee Covey, RD, LD, CDE
Center for Weight Management at
Gwinnett Medical Center
A Look on the Inside
For every cell in the human body, there are about 10 non-human cells. These micro-organisms are found in our gut, skin, eyes and nasal passages. They’re referred to as microbiota—formerly called microflora.
Of particular interest are the gut bacteria. Gut bacteria play a role in our digestion -- and possibly in chronic health issues. Irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, depression, autoimmune disorders and Parkinson’s disease, can all be affected by gut bacteria.
The bacteria that our immune systems recognize as “normal” is established in infancy, shaped by diet and environment. By age two, a child’s microbiota is believed to resemble an adult’s microbiota. Once established, it is believed to remain relatively stable throughout life, however, diet and environment (such as antibiotics), can disrupt the colony of bacteria.
It is now believed that the gut microbes (bacteria) compete for nutrients and space. These microbes can influence food choices by triggering cravings that either benefit them or suppress their bacterial competitors. Research shows that microbes may influence taste receptors by making some foods taste better. They can also release hunger-triggering hormones that affect our eating behaviors.
Mind your microbes
Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of good bacteria. They act as food for the microbes. Probiotics are the good bacteria we consume, mainly from fermented food or supplements.
A daily diet that includes fruits, vegetables and legumes benefits the microbiota. They act as fuel for the good bacteria. Fermented foods such as yogurt and Kefir (with live active cultures) help maintain the colony of good bacteria. Garlic and leeks are natural prebiotics fostering the growth of good bacteria as well. Fresh foods instead of processed foods are also beneficial.
The following recipe incorporates pre- and probiotics. It is great as a veggie dip, salad topper or drizzled over fish or chicken.
Avocado Yogurt Dressing
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
¼ small avocado
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic
Juice from ¼ lime
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon water as needed
Blend all ingredients in food processor. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week.
How Gwinnett Medical Center Can Help
The Center for Weight Management at Gwinnett Medical Center understands dieting and exercise alone aren’t the answer for every person, and that keeping the weight off can be a challenge. We offer a full spectrum of weight loss programs, from medically supervised weight loss, to the ORBERA® Balloon weight loss program, to various types of bariatric surgery. The Center for Weight Management also offers the only accredited adolescent weight loss surgery program in the region. Plus we have a world-class aftercare program to provide each patient a wide variety of services under one roof. Learn more about our program or view a free online weight loss surgery seminar at gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/bariatrics.