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Do Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?
Updated on November 16, 2023
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Diet / Weight Loss
Do Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?

Probiotics may have potentially beneficial effects when it comes to losing weight. However, their impact may be small and not a guaranteed fix.

Some probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus, Lactobacillus gasseri, and Lactobacillus acidophilus, are associated with small weight and fat percentage losses and other health benefits.

About 41.9% of people in the U.S. are obese.1 Excess body fat increases a person’s risk for metabolic disorders like diabetes and heart disease.

This is why the demand for probiotic supplements has become popular recently. They contain live microorganisms that promote intestinal health and tackle many health conditions, including weight problems.

We asked Dr. Rizza Mira, general practitioner and our in-house medical expert, to explain the connection between gut flora and a person’s weight.

Do Probiotics Help You Lose Weight? 2

The Role of Gut Bacteria on Your Health

The beneficial bacteria in your gut help with vitamin production, digestion, and metabolism.

They help break down food, such as fibers, including those you can’t digest. This allows you to get the most out of every meal.

Gut bacteria also affect the amount of fatty acids stored in your tissues. This may explain the link between your gut flora and your weight.

Why Are Probiotics Important for Digestive Health?

There are many benefits of probiotics to your digestive health. They are beneficial live microorganisms that help maintain a balanced and healthy gut microbiome, essential for efficient digestion and overall well-being.

The benefits of probiotics to your digestive system are that they:

  • Maintain balance in your digestive system – Probiotics keep the good and bad bacteria in your gut in harmony. This helps prevent stomach troubles like diarrhea, constipation, and tummy aches.
  • Help absorb nutrients – They help your body break down food and absorb vitamins and minerals. That means you get more out of the healthy foods you eat.
  • Boost your immune health – Your gut communicates with your immune system. Probiotic bacteria strengthen your defenses by creating a strong and diverse team of gut bacteria, which helps keep you from getting sick.
  • Reduce inflammation – When the balance in your gut is off, it can lead to inflammation, which can cause problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Probiotic foods can help calm things down by making your gut healthier.
  • Address digestive issues – Probiotics can effectively manage digestive conditions, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). They can help ease symptoms.
  • Probiotics for weight loss – One of the benefits of probiotics is that they may offer modest support for weight management when incorporated into a healthy diet and physical activity routine.

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Is There a Connection Between Gut Microbiome and Obesity?

Yes, there’s a strong connection between gut microbiome and obesity.

What you eat, your genes, and your surroundings all shape the microbes in your gut. In turn, it can impact whether you're more likely to struggle with obesity.4

For people dealing with obesity, they often have an imbalance in specific types of microbes in their digestive system.

These microbes in your gut play a big role in how your body handles things like food, appetite, and inflammation. If there's an imbalance, it can mess with your body's normal processes and possibly lead to metabolic issues and a higher risk of obesity.

“An unhealthy population of gut microbiota causes overt inflammation in the body. It’s a common culprit for metabolic diseases and obesity,” says Rizza Mira, M.D.

Imbalances in beneficial bacteria can affect your mood, metabolism, and appetite. It can increase your stress levels, disrupt sleep, and alter your hormone levels, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.

Effects of Gut Flora on Weight

Your gut bacteria won’t directly cause weight reduction or weight gain. However, they affect many bodily functions that can influence your weight.

Gut Flora Imbalance and Weight Gain

Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes are two of the most dominant bacteria in your gut. 

A higher ratio of Firmicutes is linked to obesity. Meanwhile, a decreased ratio is related to irritable bowel disease (IBD).2

Obese people generally have more Firmicutes and less Bacteroides in their gut. Too many Firmicutes can reduce your energy consumption, causing weight gain.

Gut Flora and Weight Loss

Having a diverse microbiome may keep you from gaining excess body weight.

A diverse gut flora can help in a few key ways, including:

  • Breaking down and absorbing nutrients from the food you eat more efficiently, which means your body can use energy better
  • Controlling your appetite and regulating your metabolism
  • A diverse mix of gut bacteria is linked to lower inflammation and better sensitivity to insulin, which are essential for overall metabolic health and can contribute to weight reduction

Additionally, some studies found increased Bacteroidetes in people who are losing weight.5

“Bacteroidetes are a special population of gut bacteria. They break apart bulky starches so that the body can use them efficiently,” says Dr. Mira.

Remember that your diet can influence the delicate balance of microorganisms in your gut. Avoid foods high in fat and sucrose because they don’t offer beneficial bacteria.

Do Probiotics Help You Lose Weight?

Probiotics have the potential to influence weight reduction through various mechanisms.

They help regulate appetite, improve nutrient absorption, reduce inflammation, and affect the way the body stores fat.3

Additionally, specific probiotic strains, like those belonging to the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera, have been associated with beneficial effects on metabolism.

When there are too many harmful bacteria, your risk for obesity increases. The balance between good and bad bacteria helps keep you at a healthy weight.

Probiotics can improve your gut health and restore good gut bacteria. Studies show they can help your body burn fat faster and reduce weight gain.3 

Probiotic supplements are a good source of beneficial bacteria. They usually contain bacteria like Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, which promote gut balance.3

Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, and pickles are healthy probiotic foods.

While gut health is essential, a healthy diet is still the most significant contributor to weight management. You may want to reach a calorie deficit if you’re trying to achieve a healthy weight.

Weight Loss Challenges

Weight loss can be challenging. Many people who focus on weight reduction can encounter many obstacles along the way.

Probiotic foods can help deal with weight loss challenges such as:

Appetite Control

One of the common challenges in weight loss is controlling appetite and cravings.

Probiotic strains, particularly those containing Lactobacillus and Lactobacillus gasseri, may help by influencing gut hormones responsible for appetite regulation.

They can promote feelings of fullness, making it easier to stick to a healthy diet.

Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is when people eat in response to stress or emotions. This can sabotage weight loss efforts.

Probiotics are associated with improved mood and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

By supporting mental health, probiotics may help individuals manage emotional eating and make healthier food choices to maintain or reach a healthy weight.

Digestive Problems

Digestive problems like bloating, gas, and irregular bowel movements can be uncomfortable and discourage weight loss efforts.

Probiotics can aid in maintaining a balanced gut microbiome. As a result, they can reduce digestive issues, leading to health benefits like greater comfort and motivation to stay on track with dietary changes.

Metabolic Health Benefits

An efficient metabolism is essential for effective weight management. Some probiotics, such as those in the Bifidobacterium genus, can help regulate metabolism by influencing the absorption and storage of fat.

This can enhance the body's ability to burn calories and manage weight. This can complement other weight loss efforts.

Balanced Blood Sugar

Blood sugar spikes and crashes can lead to overeating and cravings for sugary or high-calorie foods.

Certain probiotic foods have been linked to better blood sugar control, potentially reducing the risk of cravings and overindulging.

Positive Gut-Brain Connection

The gut-brain connection is crucial for weight management, as it influences food choices and feelings of fullness.

Probiotics may positively impact this connection, helping to regulate appetite, emotional eating, and mental health.

How Can Probiotics Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals?

Probiotics could be helpful in reaching your weight loss goals. They may be able to help control your appetite and reduce those intense food cravings.

They could also improve how your body uses and stores energy, affecting how efficiently you burn calories.

Probiotics may even help bring down inflammation linked to obesity, creating a healthier environment in your body.

Keeping a balanced mix of good bacteria in your gut is essential for overall health, and probiotics can help with that. There's also some evidence that some probiotic strains might influence how your body stores fat, potentially helping to reduce fat buildup.6

Consult a healthcare pro before you start, and they can guide you on the right probiotic supplements and a diet that suits your needs.

Weight reduction is a dynamic process, and probiotics can help by maintaining a balanced gut, making your digestive system resilient and flexible, and supporting your overall health.

While probiotics are helpful, they work best with a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.

How Can I Use Probiotics to Lose Weight?

Combining probiotic supplements with diet and exercise is a smart move towards your weight loss efforts. It can also help improve your overall health.

To achieve lasting results in weight loss, here are what you need to do:

  • Right probiotic strains – Choose probiotics for body weight loss. Pick the ones containing probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus and Lactobacillus gasseri.
  • Balanced diet – Maintain a balanced, nutrient-rich diet with plenty of fiber, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. They support your digestive health and help you feel full and satisfied, reducing the temptation to overeat.
  • Prebiotic-rich food – Include foods high in prebiotic fiber, such as onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and whole grains. Prebiotic fiber serves as "food" for the beneficial probiotics in your gut, helping them thrive and support your digestive system.
  • Regular exercise – Physical activity is a cornerstone of any effective weight loss strategy. It burns calories and contributes to a healthy gut microbiome. Even moderate physical activity, like daily walks, can make a big difference.
  • Stay hydrated – Proper hydration is critical for digestive health. Drinking enough water supports the digestive process and helps prebiotics and probiotics work optimally.
  • Talk to a healthcare professional – Consult with a healthcare provider before making significant changes to your diet, exercise, or adding new supplements. They can provide personalized guidance.

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Updated on November 16, 2023
Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Jennifer Anyabuine
Jennifer Anyabuine
Content Contributor
Jennifer Anyabuine is a content writer with KnowYourDNA. She has a B.S. in Biochemistry. She has been writing for 2 years. Her focus is women’s health, fitness, mental health, and general wellness.
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