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  1. Exam Room Podcast

  2. Jan 8, 2018

Gut Bacteria 101

It’s not the most glamorous of subjects, and yet gut bacteria is one of the most talked about health topics online.

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In fact, our page on the subject is one of the most viewed on the website. So what do you need to know? 

“The Weight Loss Champion” Chuck Carroll is joined by Dr. Jim Loomis and nutritionist and diabetes expert Meghan Jardine to further examine the ins and outs of microbiota on the show. You’ll learn about the link between gut bacteria and food cravings. Plus, you’ll discover the best foods you should be eating to improve your own gut health. 

Chuck also sits down Connie Crosby for an emotional interview in which she details her incredible weight loss journey. She already weighed 242 pounds by the time she was just 12 years old. And her struggle would continue well into her adult life. How she lost the weight after decades of highs and lows is remarkable. 

And Dr. Neal Barnard reveals the one thing we shouldn’t overlook when cleaning up our gut. If we do, he says the body could cramp "like a toothpaste tube being squeezed at both ends."

On The Show

Inspiration: By the time she was 12 years old and standing just 5 feet tall, Connie Crosby weighed 242 pounds. With peers often cruel at that age, she describes that time in her life as traumatic. Although she felt isolated and alone, Connie was far being stranded on an emotional island of her own as obesity ran rampantly in her family. As the years passed, her struggle continued as she yo-yo dieted up and down the scale. Finally, in her mid-60’sa whole-food, plant-based diet enabled her to live the life she always wanted to lead.  

Food craving gut check: We all know that the gut and brain are in constant communication. No doubt they have an unlimited talk and text plan. Unfortunately, their conversations can center around unhealthy foods and cause you to relentlessly crave them. Dr. Jim Loomis joins the program to reveal how you can alter the conversation and change your gut bacteria to curb those cravings and improve your health.

Best foods for a healthy gut: If not pepperoni pizza, steaks, and milk shakes then what should I be eating? Certainly you’ll need to kick those three to the curb before you can even think about improving your microbiota. Meghan Jardine, associate director of diabetes nutrition education for the Physicians Committee, reveals the top foods to super charge your gut and boost your health! 

Sick stomach: Gut health goes far beyond having an upset tummy. In fact, your stomach can feel just fine while unhealthy bacteria lurking in the intestinal track are wreaking havoc on your overall health. Dr. Loomis rejoins Chuck to talk about the link between gut bacteria and the immune system. As Loomis explains, there is a strong connection between nefarious microbiota and susceptibility to viral infections, including the common cold, as well as long-term chronic disease.  

Recipe: Beans, beans, they’re good for the gut. Legumes are one of the best foods you can eat to jumpstart gut health. With that in mind, chef Beverly Kumari is back with another delicious recipe for us. She’s prepared a delightful Ful Mudammas, a middle-eastern dish that features a heavy dose of fava beans. 

About Connie Crosby

Connie Crosby

Connie Crosby lost an incredible 110 pounds and revolutionized her health by revolutionizing her diet. Be sure to check out her five tips that helped her lose the weight.

From her blog on

“I’ve struggled with weight problems my whole life. I was very overweight as a child, and while I managed to reach a healthy weight in my 20s and 30s, in my 40s the slow creep upward began. However, when my beloved mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and passed away not long thereafter, I turned to food to cope and my weight gain really took off.

Ironically, I had switched to a vegetarian (not vegan) diet a couple of years before reaching my all-time high weight in 2012. While many people lose weight on a vegetarian diet, I found a wide variety of absolutely delicious vegetarian comfort foods. When stressed, I turned to pancakes and maple syrup, massive cupcakes loaded with icing (hey, if one is good, three are great) and bean burritos with cheese, sour cream, white rice, and avocado. Emotional eating in combination with these foods can really pack on the pounds.

As a result of my moment of despair, I decided I had to get myself in gear. … I managed to pull off some 20 pounds on my own. But then I stalled out, and bad habits snuck back in.

By February 2013, I found myself headed back up into the 260s. Yikes! At 64, I dug in for a fight. I just didn’t want to weigh that much anymore. So I began anew by ditching the processed carbs and most of the fats and reading Eat to Live yet again… Lots of water weight went flying off and gave me the kick start I needed.

I plateaued for a couple of weeks, got frustrated, and true to form, turned to comfort food. Horror of horrors, the pounds reappeared. Intervention time, folks! I knew I needed an accountability partner and a coach, and who better than [my daughter] Lee [Crosby] (Barnard Medical Center nutritionist)? I called my absolutely fabulous daughter and said “HELP!”

Lee and I had our first session in March 2013 and outlined a game plan. I would use MyFitness Pal to record what I ate, because that had helped me stay on track in the past. I have to have immediate feedback! I also wrote down a basic meal plan and got trigger foods out of the house as best I could.

Frankly, I was still too heavy to do much land exercise, weighing 238 pounds with achy joints, so my exercise option was water aerobics. 

I still struggle with eating ups and downs… The temptation to yield into overeating again looms over me like a ghost from Christmas past. This time, though, I’m sticking to what works for me: I record my food, continue coaching sessions with Lee (Bless you, Lee!), stay plant-based (cutting out highly processed carbohydrates is big for me), and try to work in more exercise. (Guess who can run up a flight of stairs without stopping to catch her breath, get up from the floor without help, and walk over 5,000 steps a day! Cool, huh?)

These last few years have taught me that I do not have to accept the theory that I cannot succeed at losing weight and getting more active just because I am older. I do accept that there have been and will continue to be ups and downs; I will just have to work with that. In the final analysis, I am not on a diet…I am on a live-it. Just being on and sticking to the path is a victory of its own!”

Recipes On The Exam Room

The Ful Mudammas recipe is courtesy of Chef Beverly Kumari. This and many other vegan and vegetarian dishes are available in her book, Nouveau V: The New Renaissance of Vegan & Vegetarian Cuisine.

More on Gut Bacteria

Join us Wednesdays at noon ET for a live Q/A with Dr. Neal Barnard!