A question I frequently encounter is: "Should I incorporate a probiotic into my routine?"
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help populate the gut microbiome. Research consistently shows that a diverse microbiome, with a wide variety of microorganisms, is associated with improved health. This highlights the importance of maintaining a rich and varied gut microbiome for overall well-being.
However, a recent study has discovered an additional method to enhance the microbiome:
It did not matter whether individuals practiced intermittent fasting or calorie restriction, weight loss resulted in increased microbiome diversity and, notably, alterations in DNA methylation—a further indicator of improved health.
Why is this so fascinating?
It demonstrates the remarkable resilience of the human body.
Enhancing the health of your microbiome goes beyond weight loss. Surprisingly, your gut already harbors bacteria that play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy microbiome. This bacteria is called Akkermansia. This particular microbial species is among the twenty most prevalent microorganisms found in the human gut.It resides within the mucus layer that coats the gastrointestinal tract. This protective mucus layer plays a vital role in safeguarding the intestinal epithelial cells, which form the inner lining of the intestine. Furthermore, the mucus layer serves as a source of nourishment for the microorganisms that contribute to the proper functioning of the immune system. (1)
Multiple studies have demonstrated a significant rise in Akkermansia levels within the gut following periods of intermittent fasting. Both alternate-day fasting, where you fast every other day, and time-restricted eating, where you limit your eating to a specific time window, have shown promising results in increasing Akkermansia levels. This, in turn, has a positive impact on the overall composition of the gut microbiome—the community of microorganisms residing in the gut. The gut microbiome plays a vital role in metabolic health by enhancing insulin sensitivity and boosting metabolism, thereby preventing weight gain. (3)
A study investigating the impact of calorie restriction on metabolic health and obesity revealed that individuals with higher initial levels of Akkermansia exhibited more favorable weight loss outcomes at the end of the study. This evaluation was conducted following six weeks of adhering to a calorie-restricted diet rich in fibers and protein, followed by six weeks of a weight stabilization diet. Additionally, participants demonstrated an improvement in blood sugar levels. (4)
Maintaining a healthy gut barrier function can strengthen the immune system and prevent metabolic disorders like obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Exciting stuff in that little (humungous) microbiome!
Kong S, Zhang YH, Zhang W. Regulation of Intestinal Epithelial Cells Properties and Functions by Amino Acids. Biomed Res Int. 2018 May 9;2018:2819154. doi: 10.1155/2018/2819154. PMID: 29854738; PMCID: PMC5966675.
Hill EB, Konigsberg IR, Ir D, Frank DN, Jambal P, Litkowski EM, Lange EM, Lange LA, Ostendorf DM, Scorsone JJ, et al. The Microbiome, Epigenome, and Diet in Adults with Obesity during Behavioral Weight Loss. Nutrients. 2023; 15(16):3588. [link]
Stanislawski MA, Frank DN, Borengasser SJ, Ostendorf DM, Ir D, Jambal P, Bing K, Wayland L, Siebert JC, Bessesen DH, et al. The Gut Microbiota during a Behavioral Weight Loss Intervention. Nutrients. 2021; 13(9):3248. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13093248
Dao MC, Everard A, Aron-Wisnewsky J, et alAkkermansia muciniphila and improved metabolic health during a dietary intervention in obesity: relationship with gut microbiome richness and ecologyGut 2016;65:426-436.