Does Your Microbiome Rule Your Metabolism?
BREAKING DOWN THE LATEST RESEARCH ON THE CONNECTION
From Sakara In-House Nutritionist Colleen Coffey, MS, RDN, LDN
The microbiome (one of our favorite topics here at Sakara!) plays a crucial role in maintaining human health, as it supports digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function. And, as it turns out, the composition and diversity of our microbiome can be key indicators of metabolic function and associated health outcomes, too.
New evidence shows us that individuals with Type 2 Diabetes (a metabolic disorder) had lower gut microbiota diversity and reduced levels of beneficial bacteria, such as butyrate-producing bacteria, compared to healthy individuals. Another recent study found that the microbiomes of individuals with obesity had less diversity and a higher abundance of certain bacteria compared to individuals with a healthy weight.
So, what does this mean for our well-being?
What the Research Reveals
Even if these specific metabolic conditions don’t resonate with you, the health of our metabolism is essential in almost everything we do. These new findings unveil promising ways in which we can maximize our metabolic health—and ultimately achieve optimal health and vitality.
The research reveals that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in regulating metabolism function—generating metabolites (byproducts of our microbiome that play an essential role in regulating metabolic processes and our overall health), influencing hormones, and balancing the body's energy. In order to optimize metabolic function and lower our risk of metabolic disorders, we need to diversify and balance the health of our gut microbiome through a diverse, plant-rich diet and crowd out “bad” bacteria with a high-quality probiotic.
The Gut’s Role in Nutrient Absorption
Science also shows that the gut plays a key role in regulating metabolism by influencing the absorption of, and interaction among, nutrients. Certain gut bacteria have been shown to produce metabolites, like short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs)—from complex carbohydrates and fiber that the human body cannot digest—which can positively influence energy metabolism, improve glucose metabolism, and support insulin sensitivity (read: system-wide vitality). Bile acids are another metabolite the gut microbiome can create, which are involved in fat absorption and cholesterol metabolism, and can affect our associated health outcomes for the better.
FYI: The Gut Helps Regulate Hormones, Too
The gut microbiome can directly influence our hormones, too. For instance, researchers have recently found that gut bacteria Akkermansia muciniphila is positively associated with glucagon-like-peptide-1, a hormone that regulates our satiety. Another study found that those with higher prevalence of Bifidobacterium species can counteract the ghrelin dysregulation, which signals hunger and can lead to overconsumption of food. Nourishing our gut and creating a balanced, healthy microbiome can play a major role in flipping the switch from overeating.
While more research is needed to fully understand the complex mechanisms underlying the gut-metabolism relationship, it’s clear that the microbiome plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism and maintaining overall health—and that we can nourish our energy, joy, and light from the inside out.