Dieting Has An Unexpected Effect On Your Gut Health

A new diet seems to go viral on TikTok every few months, promising quick results just in time for swimsuit season, your cousin's wedding, or a class reunion. Your weight might go down for a few months, only for the pounds to creep back up several months later. Even if you do manage to sustain your weight loss for a year, you'll likely see it return in 5 years, according to WebMD.

Cycling between several diets can slow down your metabolism, which means it's more difficult to lose weight. You'll also lose some muscle while dieting, but fat returns more rapidly than muscle after the diet. Losing weight too quickly also increases your risk of gallstones and inflammation. Dieting also affects your gut health, according to a 2017 article in Obesity Reviews. In particular, restrictive dieting decreases the bacteria in your gut that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that maintains the health of your digestive tract.

How gut bacteria affect weight changes

Gaining weight after dieting might also be due to changes in your gut microbiome. A 2016 study in Nature put obese mice on a diet so they would have the same weight and metabolic factors as control mice. Even though the mice lost weight, their gut bacteria composition remained the same. When the formerly obese mice returned to their former diet, they gained weight more quickly than the control mice. The researchers then implanted this mix of gut bacteria into the control mice, and they gained weight more quickly. Even though the study was performed on mice, the study suggests that the gut microbiome remembers the previous weight and might contribute to gaining weight back more quickly.

Not all diets affect your gut microbiota in the same way, and some can be beneficial to your health, according to a 2021 article in the Journal of Personalized Medicine. People who follow a low-calorie Mediterranean diet can increase bacteria that produce short-chain fatty acids and break down carbohydrates. However, this diet decreased Lactobacillus, which is often found in many over-the-counter probiotic supplements and helps maintain balance in your gut. A low-calorie keto diet exhibited similar effects on gut bacteria, but each diet saw changes in specific strains of gut bacteria.

How to improve your gut health

If you've been yo-yo dieting for years and feel your gut bacteria might be out of balance, the European Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility says you can do a few things to improve your gut health. The carnivore diet might have promised quick weight loss, but your gut diversity can improve when you eat more diverse foods. You'll need to eat freshly washed raw fruits and vegetables and include fermented foods for their live microbes. Diversity also means diversity in the types of fiber from different fruits and vegetables at every meal. Probiotic supplements offer different strains of probiotics, but be sure to get the specific probiotic strains that suit your health needs.

Your diet isn't the only thing that can affect your gut diversity. Drinking alcohol can disrupt your gut microbiome, according to Healthline. Even though red wine has polyphenols that can improve your gut health, it's best to drink it in moderation. Antibiotics can be useful to fight infections, but they also temporarily kill off the good bacteria and increase the more harmful bacteria in your gut. It can take up to 4 weeks for your gut bacteria to restore, but even then, they won't be restored to their levels before getting sick. Too much stress, combined with a lack of sleep and exercise, can also factor into poor gut health.