Health: It takes guts to have good health

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones

Why is it that some people eat to their heart’s content and never gain a pound, while others gain weight with a glance at the plate? As Bill Gates said, “Life is not fair. Get used to it.” But fair or unfair, is there a complex, unseen system that plays a role in weight management for each of us?

Your ability to maintain a healthy weight involves factors beyond diet and exercise. Some people’s metabolism, or operating system, is faster than others, requiring more energy to run.

But there’s more than speed and efficiency. The gut microbiome contains microbial cells, including bacteria, that outnumber the cells in the body. Having evolved with us for millions of years, they all serve important functions, using us as hosts and interacting with our environment. The conditions of our environment and our interactions with the world affect the microbiome and thus our performance.

It’s a mistake, therefore, to think about weight gain and obesity in simple terms. Similarly, it’s a mistake to equate poor mental health or neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s or depression solely with problems located in the brain. The gut and the brain are intricately connected.

A growing body of research demonstrates that the gut microbiota is a significant environmental factor contributing to obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. This is the basis for recommendations in favour of diets rich in fruit and fibre. Apples and other fruit contain prebiotics, compounds that support the growth and function of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. These prebiotics can change the speed and efficiency of your digestive engine, in turn affecting the performance of other systems and organs.

These alterations in your gut microbiome are important because bacteria regulate how much fat you absorb, thereby affecting your weight and susceptibility to problems such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Changes in the environment, and thereby in the microbiome, may be an important part of the explanation for the obesity pandemic. Increased use of antimicrobial soaps and sanitizers are killing good and bad bacteria alike and we have become increasingly exposed to environmental pollutants.

Furthermore, studies show that stress triggers changes in the circuits between the gut, the nervous system and key organs such as the brain, heart and lungs. When you are feeling stressed, your body is programmed to focus less on the work of digestion and more on fight-flight or freeze-hide response – the former involving high energy and the latter like a shut down.

Chronic stress can result in sustained poor digestion. It should be no wonder that our systems get out of whack, leading some to gain weight more readily or to suffer other unhealthy consequences.

This is why we’ve recommended in past articles that supplements like AppleSlim can help with weight management. There’s a growing body of research showing that apple polyphenols and other prebiotics can assist with the functions of a “good gut.” One study showed that apple polyphenols could help to improve the composition of our gut bacteria towards a ratio that reduces inflammation and the likelihood of obesity. This microbiome “renovation” is believed to account for ability of apple polyphenols to reduce dangerous visceral fat and improve cardiovascular health markers.

Bill Gates understands how to build an operating system. Had he done for medicine what he did for computers, he would have created integrated health systems with gastroenterologists, dieticians, and other nutrition specialists working with doctors who care for your nerves, heart, head, and all other parts.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones can be reached at contact-us@docgiff.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

A firetruck sits in front of a home on Harvey Close in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to Red Deer fire

Red Deer firefighters responded to a blaze in the north part of… Continue reading

(Courtesy photo)
Red Deer rental prices drop slightly

Renting an apartment in Red Deer became slightly cheaper last month. Rentals.ca… Continue reading

Rylee Trippel was last seen Friday. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing teen

Police are looking for a teen who was last seen in the… Continue reading

The Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60,000 in 2020. (Photo courtesy Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Facebook)
Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60K in 2020

The executive director of the Red Deer Outreach Centre says she is… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

RCMP say missing teen Hope Tivendale has been found. (File photo by Advocate staff)
No foul play suspected after burned body of homeless person found in North Vancouver

VANCOUVER — A burned body, believed to be of a homeless person,… Continue reading

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Spartan Bioscience says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

TORONTO — An Ottawa company says it’s received approval from Health Canada… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defends decision to back, then oust, Sloan

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he was once willing to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault pauses as he speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert

MONTREAL — Fear that Quebecers will catch a new variant of COVID-19… Continue reading

A woman walks outside the Roberta Place Long Term Care home in Barrie, Ont. on Monday, January 18, 2021. The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in Canada has underscored the need for increased public funding for home care, advocates say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
COVID-19 deaths in long-term care reveal need for home supports: advocates

VANCOUVER — The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in… Continue reading

A Chinese flag is illuminated by sunshine in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, September 22, 2016. China is threatening retaliation against Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Diplomats contact Canadian held for over 2 years in China

BEIJING — Canadian officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig,… Continue reading

Marc Gold (centre) stands with senators André Pratte (left) and Peter Harder before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate on Parliament Hill, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Senator urges study of vexing barriers to using secret information in court cases

OTTAWA — A Senate committee should examine the hurdles that make it… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winnipeg ticket holder wins Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — A ticket holder from Winnipeg won Friday night’s whopping $60… Continue reading

Most Read