Losing sleep over weight gain? Blame it on bacteria

Did you know that bad bacteria in your stomach can interfere with normal digestive processes to such an extent that they may affect food absorption resulting in weight gain, disrupt metabolism and upset sleep patterns? That’s why it is important to maintain healthy volumes of good bacteria in your gut and ensure that the ratio doesn’t go askew.

“It is important to ensure that nutrients present in the body function properly and for that one has to watch over one’s gut health rather than dismissing conditions as something to be lived with,” says Dr Sanjay Khanna, Director and HOD, Gastroenterology, Fortis Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi. He de-jargonises many studies and lays out an easy reckoner.

1) How exactly do bad bacteria affect your sleep cycle and weight gain?
It is a continuous process. Your health and overall sense of well-being is decided by what we term USS, which is basically the balance between the good and bad bacteria in the intestine. This governs the normal functioning of almost all organs in the body. Whenever the bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria, more harmful substances enter the body. Some of them reach the brain, which can alter sleep patterns. This is more prominent in patients who have liver disease. The bad bacteria can influence how dietary fats are absorbed in the intestines, which may affect how fat is stored in the body. They may outnumber the good bacteria, which affect how different foods are digested and produce chemicals to keep you feeling full. As a result, they can affect your weight. There have been studies to show that people who had a fibre-rich, whole grain diet lost more body fat than those who ingested more animal protein and fat that upped the numbers of bad bacteria.

2) How does bad bacteria enter our cells?
Bacteria starts to enter the fetal intestine and the increased exposure to external sources of nutrition as we age constantly tilts the balance. Other than that, GI infections, obesity, consumption of antibiotics and some other illnesses can affect the good versus bad bacteria balance. Studies show that pathogenic bacteria are commonly caused by food-borne illnesses, contaminated food and water or close contact with wildlife. Once an individual is infected with bacterial disease, they may experience symptoms, including vomitting, diarrhoea, weight gain, disruption in the sleep cycle and so on.

3) How can we restore the right amount of good gut bacteria?
Normally we ask patients to have a probiotic-rich diet, which can produce good bacteria inside the body, like yogurt and curd. You can limit the growth of bad bacteria by decreasing the amount of readymade carbohydrates, reducing regular carbohydrates and fats, and increasing proteins. If the balance is not restored within a certain time period, then we advise good bacteria supplements that come in the form of capsules. Self-medication is something that patients should avoid when they contract an infection because unauthorized use of antibiotics decreases the good bacteria in the body. Understand that if the antibiotics or any infection persists in the system for a longer time period, then there will be a longer wait time for the good bacteria to multiply.

4) Do bad bacteria cause digestive issues?
If the bad bacteria outweigh the good bacteria, then it can lead to a lot of issues like simple bacterial infection inside the intestine, inflammation of blood vessels and dysbiosis.

5) Does this mean that individuals need to continuously maintain a stable diet plan 24/7?
Normally, with a proper diet this problem will not occur too often and the body’s normal defense mechanism kicks in. But if you are constantly exposed to outside food or are in the habit of ordering in, you are risking an imbalance in your gut bacteria.

6) Can fecal transplants help?

Fecal transplant has a role for dysbiosis in conditions like ulcerative colitis. Prospective trials are on for many other conditions where dysbiosis happens but results are not very convincing yet. More studies are required.

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