Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and weight loss: How gut bacteria make you thin or fat

thin and fat bacteria

thin and fat bacteria

As anyone with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism knows, weight loss can be a battle even when you do everything right. Although managing your autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroid condition is the most important strategy, turns out your gut bacteria also play a role in weight.

While obesity has long been blamed on laziness and lack of will power, but exciting new research shows the composition of your gut bacteria, which may have been set since birth, can play a deciding role in whether you’re thin or fat. In mice studies, mice that received bacteria from an obese person became obese. What’s more exciting is mice studies show that transplanting bacteria from thin humans into obese mice causes the obese mice to lose weight. This is a promising discovery for those who cannot lose weight despite diet and exercise.

It is promising for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism who need allies in their corner to avoid weight gain.

It appears these bacteria affect the mechanisms that promote leanness, one of the more notable being insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is typical in obese people. The most common culprit is a diet high in sweets, soda, and starches (breads, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, etc.) This diet consistently raises blood sugar levels, which in turn requires the body to secrete high levels of insulin to lower blood sugar. Eventually these insulin surges exhaust the body’s cells and they refuse entry to insulin. Insulin resistance promotes chronic hunger, obesity, inflammation, and a host of other health disorders.

Managing insulin resistance and blood sugar in general is an important strategy for managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism as blood sugar disorders promote autoimmune flare ups.

It also appears the gut bacteria in obese people are more efficient at breaking down and absorbing food, particularly fat, so that obese people obtain more calories from their food and put on fat more easily. Likewise, eating more calories promotes the growth of these particular bacteria. Obese people also have fewer bacteria that promote an anti-inflammatory effect than do thin people.

Compared to lean people, obese people show fewer bacteria from the Bacteroidetes group and more from the Actinobacteria group. Studies show Bacteroidetes numbers rise in obese people who lose weight. Obese people also show less diversity in gut bacteria than thin people.

In studies the bacterial switcheroo is performed through fecal transplants, an approach that has also proven beneficial in treating Clostridium difficile infections. However, scientists are working to identify and isolate the specific bacteria that affect weight so that fecal transplants, the idea of which makes most people squeamish, are not necessary.

The weight-loss effect of transplanting thin bacteria was shown to work only when accompanied by a high-fiber, lower-fat diet  which affects bacterial composition in the gut. It has also been shown a healthy, whole foods diet based on plant fiber—vegetables primarily—can help promote the growth of “thin” bacteria in humans as well.

Eating a plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables not only provides more vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but these studies show it also fosters the composition of gut bacteria to promote leanness and prevent obesity.

For more information on managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and adopting a diet that fosters a thin-promoting ratio of gut bacteria, contact my office.

Dr. Joni Labbe

About Dr. Joni Labbe

Dr. Joni Labbe is a board-certified clinical nutritionist specializing in science-based nutrition with a focus on women's health issues. She has successfully helped pre-menopausal and menopausal women regain and maintain their health since 1995. Dr. Labbe is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling book Thyroid & Menopause Madness and It’s Not Just Menopause: It’s Your Thyroid. She is also a professional speaker, radio personality, fitness expert, and former host of “Healthier Way With Dr. Labbe.” Dr. Labbe is one of the country’s leading authorities on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s disease. Dr. Labbe has also authored numerous articles and blogs on health, nutrition, and thyroid health, as seen in Naturally Savvy, Thyroid Nation, and Fox News. She is a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionalist, Doctor of Chiropractic, and has post graduate training in Functional Neurology, Functional Endocrinology, Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis, and earned a Diplomate and Fellow in Nutrition from the American Association of Integrative Medicine.

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