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Want to Promote Lasting, Healthy Weight Loss? Support Your Gut.

We know the gut is connected to so many other aspects of your health, like immunity and mental health. So how do you make sure you nurture your gut, especially when you’re looking to lose weight?

While it’s tempting to grab a probiotic pill to do the heavy lifting, the fact is that it might not do much. Studies show mixed results with supplemental probiotics (as we’ll detail later), while diet can really make a lasting impact.

This article will walk you through the important foods you need to feed your gut in order to be happy and healthy—all while helping you lose excess weight. First, we’ll focus on how the gut affects your body weight.

The Gut’s Role in Weight Management

Obesity isn’t just a matter of weighing too much. It is a state of altered metabolic function that changes numerous body processes, including: [1, 2, 3]

  • How the gut functions
  • How the body breaks down and uses energy
  • How your genes and DNA respond to environmental influences
  • Your body’s inflammatory load (which influences your risk factors for developing other chronic diseases)

The bacteria in the gut—both good and bad—is not static and can be influenced by your lifestyle, stress load, and most importantly, your diet.

Research has looked at how to alter gut microbial balance for the purpose of promoting weight loss, ranging from dietary modifications to probiotic supplements to fecal transplants. [2] While some of these may work, you don’t need to go to extremes to support your gut health.

Also, keep in mind that body weight is not the most important marker of health. People should not obsess over their weight, and counting calories or restricting food intake is not the way to support healthy body weight.

Remember that your microbiome plays a role in controlling body weight. When you focus on supporting and optimizing gut health, weight loss should happen naturally—along with addressing other health needs and risk factors. [4]

How to Support Good Gut Health

Your gut will reap significant benefits simply by switching to The Paleo Diet®. You’ll get the nutrients that your body needs to function properly when you replace your high-carb, heavily-processed diet with whole foods.

Specifically, supporting good gut health comes down to three key areas.

1. Eating a Variety of Foods.

Your Paleo Diet doesn’t have to be low in calories or even low-carb, as long as you are eating the right kinds of carbohydrates balanced with other macronutrients. Vegetables and fruits offer many health benefits, but if you only eat high-sugar fruits (like ripe bananas and mangos) on their own, you may be getting too much “sugar” without the balance of fiber and fat.

Variety in your diet will also lead to a diverse gut microbiome. You want your gut to be rich in good bacteria, which will make it more resilient and leads to a robust immune system. It is the modern world’s lack of diversity in diet and environment that has led to such an increase in inflammatory and immune-related disorders, including obesity. [5]

2. Getting Enough Prebiotics and Fiber.

While many versions of modern ketogenic or primal diets suggest extremely high levels of fat, ancestral diets were not ultra-low-carb and void of fiber. It’s estimated that ancestral diets may have even contained up to 100 grams of fiber per day—which is more than six times what the average person consumes today! [6]

Prebiotics are a specific type of carbohydrate that nourishes the good bacteria in the gut. They feed off of it and replicate, leading to increased and more robust populations of these “good” guys. Foods that are rich sources of prebiotics include:

  • Chicory root
  • Dandelion greens
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Garlic
  • Unripe bananas
  • Jicama
  • Artichokes
  • Apples
  • Seaweed
  • Asparagus

By including prebiotics in your daily diet, you give your microbiome the tools it needs to be healthy.

3. Eating Your Probiotics (Not Just Taking Them!)

It’s also important to give your gut dietary infusions of probiotics, too. While these play a smaller role in populating the gut, they are still essential. Probiotics can come from food sources and supplemental sources.

Foods that are rich in natural probiotics are typically fermented, like sauerkraut and kimchi. Eating these on a regular basis was part of more traditional dietary habits. While it’s less common in the modern diet, by including fermented vegetables and fruits in your diet, you support a diverse gut landscape.

Probiotic supplements come with mixed reviews on whether they do any good or not. The essential thing to know is that there are transient strains and colonizing strains. If you only take supplements with transient strains, they will have a short-term impact on your gut. Colonizing strains can be helpful when it comes to supporting gut health after antibiotic exposure or when you’re trying to address chronic or inflammatory health conditions. [7]

How a person responds individually to probiotic supplements can vary. With some strains, like B. longum, evidence can be found that they’re still present up to six months after the last dose. [8] But with others, like L. rhamnosus, it was only found in 10 percent of people two months after the last date of consumption. Some strains aren’t even found within one or two weeks after the last dose. [8]

Bottom Line

To find your ideal body weight, you must prioritize your gut health. This isn’t a simple matter of popping a few probiotic pills, but requires dietary changes that nourish gut bacteria. While probiotic supplements may have their role based on individual needs and practitioner recommendations, it’s far more important to focus on the bigger picture of feeding your gut a diverse, whole-foods diet that is rich in prebiotic carbohydrates and fermented probiotic foods.


  1. Sivamaruthi, B. S., Kesika, P., Suganthy, N., & Chaiyasut, C. (2019). A Review on Role of Microbiome in Obesity and Antiobesity Properties of Probiotic Supplements. BioMed research international, 2019, 3291367.
  2. Davis C. D. (2016). The Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Obesity. Nutrition today, 51(4), 167–174.
  3. Castaner, O., Goday, A., Park, Y. M., Lee, S. H., Magkos, F., Shiow, S., & Schröder, H. (2018). The Gut Microbiome Profile in Obesity: A Systematic Review. International journal of endocrinology, 2018, 4095789.
  4. Abenavoli, L., Scarpellini, E., Colica, C., Boccuto, L., Salehi, B., Sharifi-Rad, J., Aiello, V., Romano, B., De Lorenzo, A., Izzo, A. A., & Capasso, R. (2019). Gut Microbiota and Obesity: A Role for Probiotics. Nutrients, 11(11), 2690.
  5. Belkaid, Y., & Hand, T. W. (2014). Role of the microbiota in immunity and inflammation. Cell, 157(1), 121–141.
  6. Eaton S. B. (2006). The ancestral human diet: what was it and should it be a paradigm for contemporary nutrition?. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 65(1), 1–6.
  7. Esaiassen, E., Hjerde, E., Cavanagh, J. P., Pedersen, T., Andresen, J. H., Rettedal, S. I., Støen, R., Nakstad, B., Willassen, N. P., & Klingenberg, C. (2018). Effects of Probiotic Supplementation on the Gut Microbiota and Antibiotic Resistome Development in Preterm Infants. Frontiers in pediatrics, 6, 347.
  8. Jotham, S., Niv, Z., Segal, E., & Eran, E. (2019). The pros, cons, and many unknowns of probiotics. Nature Medicine, 25(5), 716-729.

Aimee McNew

Aimee McNew is a nutritionist and writer who focuses on women’s health, infertility, and postpartum wellness.

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