Belly Brain:

Your Gut Health & Wellness Resource

With weight loss, fitness & wellness program reviews, supplement reviews and lots more, Belly Brain is here to help you achieve lasting healthy habits and routine changes! Women of all ages should understand the important role their gut plays in the gut-brain connection.

gut health belly brain

What’s the "Gut-brain Connection"?

Your brain and gut have a communication system. Neurotransmitters – your body’s chemical messengers – connect the gut and the brain and help regulate emotions.

For example, a large portion of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that contributes to you feeling happy) is produced in the gut. Your gut also has 500 million neurons that physically connect via the central nervous system to your brain.

Nearly 2X

Women are almost twice as likely to have common digestive issues, like IBS, vs. men1


Of our immune system is located in our gut 2


Of your body’s serotonin, a major mood-regulating hormone, is produced in the intestine 3

100 trillion

Microorganisms from over 500 species live in your gut4

Reviewed Products & Programs

Get the scoop with Belly Brain reviews of top women’s health programs and products and how they can help you with sustainable daily wellness habits. More coming soon!

Weight Loss + Metabolism

Top Womens' Probiotics

Modere Trim Review

LeanBean Review

Fitness, Yoga, Meditation

Top Home Workout Programs: our recommended smartphone apps for women on the go

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about our weight loss & fitness product evaluations – or any general women’s gut health questions? See FAQs here or contact us online

While a primary goal of our website is to objectively review, compare and evaluate popular and emerging women’s health products, including for weight loss, we’ll ALWAYS recommend to try proven weight loss methods such as exercise and proper nutrition in combination with a supplement for a holistic day-to-day approach. 

There is no “one-size-fits-all” method for safe and healthy weight loss, so it’s important to stay informed. If you ever have questions about a specific diet plan or supplement as part of your overall wellness plan, please consult with your physician first.

Gut health is essential to weight loss or gain. By taking probiotics, you can help balance gut microbes, which could aid in weight loss.
One study of individuals who took probiotics while they had IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and mild depression or anxiety showed their symptoms greatly improved after six weeks. Another study showed prebiotics significantly reduced stress hormones in the body, which resulted in a healthier gut.
There are many probiotic and prebiotic supplements out there and not all of them are high quality, so do your research first.

Probiotics are beneficial live bacteria that can offer you a range of health benefits – or as Mayo Clinic says, “maintain or improve the ‘good’ bacteria (normal microflora) in the body.”

Prebiotics, on the other hand, are fibers that act as food for that healthy bacteria and, by helping it grow in your gut, can make your digestive system work better.

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Did you know that your mental state can affect your gut?

For example, if you’re worried about an upcoming work presentation or something you’re not looking forward to, this could make your tummy feel like it has butterflies or is on fire.

Vice versa digestive problems such as constipation, bloating and gassiness could cause you to be anxious and stressed out.

If you’re wondering how this is possible, it is because the brain and gut have a communication system often referred to as the gut-brain connection [1] .

Columbia University Medical Center gastroenterologist Dr. Daniela Jodorkovsky describes the gut-brain axis as follows, “The gastrointestinal tract is considered the ‘second brain’ because it contains a lot of nerve cells, which send signals back and forth to the brain. Chronic stress and anxiety release a compound in the brain called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). This can have effects on spasms or diarrhea, as well as increased pain signaling from the nerve fibers of the gut to the brain.”

In this post, I’ll delve deeper into the gut-brain connection and how to keep this link healthy.

How Are the Brain and Gut Connected?

These two organs are connected biochemically and physically in several ways.

Physically the gut and brain are connected by neurons.

Your gut has 500 million neurons that connect via the central nervous system [2] to your brain.

One of the larger neurons connecting your brain and gut is the vagus nerve [3] , which sends bidirectional signals.

Neurotransmitters commonly referred to as the body’s chemical messengers also connect the gut and the brain.

Neurotransmitters are produced in the gut and brain and help control your emotions.

For example, a large portion of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to you feeling happy, is produced in the gut.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) [4] , another neurotransmitter that helps your brain control anxiety and fear is also produced in the gut.

The Gut-Brain Connection and Mental Health

From the information above, it is possible to see how your stomach and intestines can cause you to experience sadness, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other mental issues.

I know it sounds crazy, but several studies [5] have found that people with functional bowel issues such as an upset stomach, diarrhea, and constipation, and those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may have drastic mood changes.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates almost 90% of IBS sufferers have depression or anxiety.

New research on the gut-brain connection also suggests that gastrointestinal tract activity may also affect cognitive skills (memory and thinking), but more research is needed on this.

The Role of Nutrition in the Gut-Brain Connection

What you eat will determine if you have a healthy or unhealthy gut.

A healthy gut has a large number of good gut microbes which are bacteria and other microscopic living things found in your intestines.

Having good microbes in your gut not only helps you manage mental issues but also boosts your immune system, combats obesity, and offers many other health benefits [6] .

Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and foods rich in fiber contributes enormously to you having a healthy gut.

Processed, high-fat, and sugary foods can cause a decrease in the number of good bacteria in the gut, which can lead to an unhealthy gut and brain health problems.

Signs you have an unhealthy gut because of your diet include:

  • An upset stomach. This is the most obvious sign of an unhealthy gut and its symptoms include bloating, gas, heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation.
  • Unplanned for weight changes. If you suddenly lose or add weight without exercising or a diet change you might have an unhealthy gut.

For example, a decrease in good bacteria in your gut could affect your body’s ability to store fat and absorb nutrients leading to reduced weight. Decreased nutrient absorption could also cause you to feel hungry often resulting in you overeating and gaining weight.

  • Constant fatigue and sleep disturbances. An unhealthy gut may not produce the right amounts of serotonin, a hormone that stimulates the parts of the brain [7] that control your sleep. Due to this fact, you may experience poor sleep or insomnia causing you to suffer from fatigue.
  • Sugar cravings. The reduction in your gut’s good bacteria could cause you to have a big appetite for high-sugar foods. Giving in to your sugar cravings could further damage your gut.

Other signs that you have an unhealthy gut are skin conditions like eczema, autoimmune conditions, and food intolerances.

Pay close attention to your gut-brain connection to avoid digestion and anxiety problems

You should take your gut-brain link seriously because as you have seen it can cause many stomach and mental problems.

If you do find your gut is not in the best condition possible and it is causing you to have mood swings, anxiety, depression, etc., there are some steps you can take to remedy the situation.

Here are a few of them.

  • Change your diet

This is easier said than done, but to have a healthy gut you should avoid eating a lot of processed, high fat, and sugar-filled foods. Many people find that removing high inflammatory foods such as gluten and dairy products can improve the health of their gut.

Instead, try to consume more plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

Lean protein foods such as white-fleshed fish, turkey, chicken, beans and eggs are also good options to include in your diet.

  • Drink lots of water

Health experts recommend that you take at least eight glasses of water a day. Following this advice is a simple way to ensure your gut remains healthy.

  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night

Lack of enough sleep can seriously damage your gut and lead to more sleep problems and mental issues. So, ensure you prioritize getting a good night’s sleep every day.

  • Keep your stress levels low

High levels of stress affect not only your gut but your whole body.

So if you’re stressed, look for ways such as walking, meditating, hanging out with friends, and yoga to lower your stress levels.

  • Take a probiotic or prebiotic

Probiotic or prebiotic supplements can significantly improve your gut-brain connection.

Probiotics are good live bacteria that give you several health benefits. Prebiotics, which provide a food source for probiotic bacteria, stimulate the growth of good bacteria in your gut.

One study [8] of individuals who took probiotics while they had irritable bowel syndrome and mild depression or anxiety showed their symptoms greatly improved after six weeks.

Another study showed prebiotics [9] significantly reduced stress hormones in the body which resulted in a healthier gut.

There are many probiotic and prebiotic supplements on the market and not all of them are high quality.

If you do choose to use one of these supplements consult your doctor first so that you can choose a probiotic or prebiotic supplement that gives you the best health benefits.



About Sonja Schoonenberg, RDN, CDE

Sonja Schoonenberg, RDN, CDESonja Schoonenberg is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. Having worked in corporate America for many years she quickly realized that her passion and fulfillment wasn’t in a traditional job. Thirteen years ago, she fell in love with entrepreneurship. She created Dietitian With A Mission in her relentless determination to help others.

Please note, when considering any diet change like increased protein intake, it’s best to consult with a doctor or dietician regarding your own unique needs.

Are you currently trying to lose weight and wondering how protein can help you achieve your goal?

If you are, you have come to the right place.

In this post, I’ll share with you everything you need to know about how protein helps in weight loss and how to ensure you’re getting the right amount of protein in your diet to stay on your fat loss journey.

Let’s get into it!

What is Protein?

Like carbs and fat, protein is a macronutrient that performs several important functions in your body.

Among the key things protein does is, it helps the body grow, repair, and maintain healthy skin, bones, muscles, and hair.

Protein is built of amino acids. One of its primary roles is to ensure that your body’s organs perform optimally, and it can reduce the risk of heart disease, bad cholesterol, and several other lifestyle diseases.

You can get your recommended daily dose of this macronutrient from the following high-protein foods:

  • Eggs
  • Meats: Lean beef, turkey, pork, and chicken.
  • Dairy: Cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.
  • Fish: Salmon trout, sardines, etc.
  • Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.

How Does Protein Help You Lose Weight?

To answer the question that brought you here, numerous studies [1] have found that consuming a high protein diet can have a big impact in helping you manage your weight.

I’ll explain how below.

  1. Protein helps you stay fuller for longer

Protein reduces the levels of ghrelin [2] , the hunger hormone that communicates to the brain that you’re hungry and should get some food.

What this does is that it makes you take longer to get hungry between meals, which can help in your weight loss journey because you might consume fewer calories in a day.

  1. Reduces your appetite

Protein also raises the levels of appetite-reducing hormones such as peptide YY [3] , GLP-1, and cholecystokinin.

One study [4] done on overweight women who increased their intake of protein from 15% to 30 of their meals found they experienced sustained reductions in appetite, which resulted in significant weight loss.

This goes to show the boost in appetite-reducing hormones can be beneficial in weight management.

  1. Protein reduces cravings

If you find yourself often craving a bag of chips, a bar of chocolate, or any other unhealthy snack, even when you’re not hungry, increasing your protein intake could help you deal with your unmanageable cravings.

In a study [5] of overweight men, it was found that when they took a diet rich in protein their food cravings went down by 60%.

Their urge to eat late at night, which is not recommended for anyone wanting to lose weight, was also drastically reduced when compared to overweight men who had a low or normal protein diet.

Another study on overweight teenage girls [6] also found a high-protein breakfast helped them minimize their cravings during the day and late-night snacking.

Protein can reduce craving significantly by boosting dopamine, a brain hormone that plays a part in controlling your cravings.

  1. Protein boosts your metabolism helping you burn more calories

Protein increases thermogenesis which is the energy required to digest, absorb and dispose of food nutrients.

This increase in thermogenesis means eating protein can help you burn 20-35% more calories than carbs, which has a thermic effect of 5-10% or fat at 0-3%.

So, by simply increasing your protein intake you can burn 80-100 more calories a day.

One research study [7] even found that people who had a 25% protein diet could burn 260 more calories than those consuming a low protein diet.

To put this in perspective, to burn 260 calories through exercise you would have to walk moderately for about an hour.

  1. It helps maintain your weight loss in the long term

If reading the above points on how protein can help in weight loss has got you excited there is even more good news.

Maintaining a high-protein diet reduces the chances of you regaining the weight you lost by 50% [8] .

This is welcome news because many people have a challenge ensuring they don’t gain back weight after losing it.

How Much Protein Should You Take to Enjoy Its Weight Loss Benefits?

Research done by various nutritional organizations shows that the minimum intake of protein the average person should take to maintain baseline health is 0.8-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.36g/lb), depending upon your goals. (If you’re interested in learning more, consult with a health professional like a dietician!)

Studies [9] have shown consuming 25-30% of your calorie intake from protein will boost your metabolism and lead to weight loss.

Note: when calculating your protein intake, don’t confuse the weight of the protein food you’re eating with the protein it contains.

This confusion happens a lot, and I’ll explain what I mean to ensure you don’t make the same mistake.

An egg could weigh 46 grams but only contain 6 grams of protein. Another example is an average chicken breast weighs 174g, but contains about 30 grams of protein.

Are There Side Effects of Too Much Protein?

If you’re wondering if there are any side effects if you consume too much protein, there have been claims that it could lead to diseases like kidney stones, and osteoporosis. However, no concrete scientific studies support this claim.

In fact, some studies have shown that a high protein diet can prevent osteoporosis [10] , fight diabetes, and lower blood pressure [11] .

You can consult your doctor or nutritionist if you plan to take a high-protein diet to find out what impact it will have on your health.



About Sonja Schoonenberg, RDN, CDE

Sonja Schoonenberg, RDN, CDESonja Schoonenberg is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. Having worked in corporate America for many years she quickly realized that her passion and fulfillment wasn’t in a traditional job. Thirteen years ago, she fell in love with entrepreneurship. She created Dietitian With A Mission in her relentless determination to help others.

When most people encounter the word bacteria, they immediately think about the terrible diseases and infections that these microorganisms cause. While that may be true for some strains, most bacteria actually help keep your gut healthy, and, as new evidence suggests, they may even promote weight loss.

The gut is home to about 100 trillion microorganisms from more than 500 species. These microorganisms aid digestion, keep harmful pathogens in check, and impact nutrient absorption.

These microorganisms that are beneficial to your health are known as probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria and/or yeast that naturally live in your body and help it stay healthy and functional. Probiotics are now the center of attention in the quest for an effective weight loss solution. Some people believe that taking supplements with live beneficial microorganisms may help shed some weight; after all, they naturally live in the gut. But can probiotics help you lose weight?

Does Taking Probiotics Help With Weight Loss?

We can’t definitively say that probiotics will help you shed extra weight at the moment, as most research available focuses on how they can improve gut health and improve digestive issues. However, mounting evidence suggests that probiotics may help.

The most compelling evidence on the link between probiotics and weight loss is a 2013 study [1] that investigated the effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one of the most widely used probiotic strains, on weight loss.

The researchers followed 125 obese men and women throughout a 24-week study period. Half the participants were given the probiotic and the other half a placebo and subjected to 12 weeks of moderate energy restriction followed by 12 weeks of weight maintenance. The study found that the women in the probiotic group lost significantly more weight than those given placebo after the first 12 weeks and continued losing weight even during the weight maintenance period.

Another study [2] found that the gut microbiota in people with obesity was different from people with average weight. To confirm the findings, the researchers implanted the microbiota from twins, one who was obese and the other average weight, into germ-free mice. There was no weight change in the mice that received gut bacteria from an average-weight person, but the mice that received microbiota from an obese person gained weight. From these findings, it seems possible that probiotics may have a hand in regulating weight.

This effect has also been observed in patients who received fecal transplants from obese donors. In one case report [3] , a patient who underwent a fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) gained more than 40 pounds in the months following the procedure. But does this mean probiotic supplements can help with weight loss?

The jury is still out on this issue, but more research is underway. That said, one new study [4] has found evidence that gut microbiomes can influence your ability to lose weight. This suggests probiotics could help build better gut bacteria and positively impact your weight loss journey! Here’s how probiotics may benefit weight loss.

Benefits Of Probiotics For Weight Loss

1. Probiotics May Help Improve Energy And Glucose Metabolism By Promoting Bacterial Diversity In The Gut

One study [5] states that obesity results from prolonged energy intake and use disparity. So, would improving metabolism help lose weight? While metabolism is linked to weight, it’s not always the cause of gaining excess weight.

However, some studies [6] have linked certain strains of probiotics to improved energy and glucose metabolisms. So, taking probiotics to promote bacterial diversity may help you utilize energy from foods better and store less fats.

2. Probiotics May Help Improve Gut Health

Gut health is essential to weight loss or gain. If your digestive tract isn’t functioning normally, you may be susceptible to abnormal weight gain or inability to lose weight. By taking probiotics, you can help balance gut microbes which could aid in weight loss.

A weaker gut lining is usually linked to people with obesity. So anything that can help rebuild the intestinal barrier may help promote weight loss.

3. Probiotics May Help Balance Gut Microbes

Several studies [7] suggest that the imbalance of gut microbes may contribute to obesity. Gut bacteria are a vital part of the ecosystem regulating digestion, hunger, metabolism, etc. Your microbiome needs diversity to function optimally as different microorganisms perform distinct roles in the ecosystem.

If your intestinal environment is imbalanced, you have fewer beneficial bacteria or reduced diversity, which may lead to dysbiosis. This imbalance may be why you may find yourself gaining weight more quickly.

Research studies [8] suggest that probiotics may help prevent and rebalance the gut microbiota ecosystem. This suggests if an imbalanced gut ecosystem was the cause of your weight problem, using probiotics may help stop gaining, and you can focus on losing extra weight.

4. Some Probiotics May Help Prevent Weight Gain

Preventing excessive weight gain in the first place may be the best way to avoid obesity, and new evidence suggests some probiotics may help you do that.

In a 2015 clinical study [9] investigating the effects of the probiotic VSL#3 on body and fat mass, 20 lean males were randomized to receive either a placebo or VSL#3 probiotics daily during a four week study period of consuming a high fat, hypercaloric diet that provided 1000 calories than they needed each day. The study found that those in the probiotic group gained less weight than those in the placebo group.

These findings suggest that some probiotics may help prevent weight gain following a high-calorie diet.

5. Some Probiotics May Help You Lose Weight And Belly Fat

A 2020 study [10] examining the effects of Lactobacillus sakei, a probiotic derived from Kimchi – a traditional Korean dish of salted and fermented vegetables found that obese participants given the probiotic had significant decreases in body mass and waist circumference.

Another study [1] investigating the effects of Lactobacillus rhamnosus probiotics on weight loss found that female participants given the probiotic lost 50% more weight than those taking a placebo over 12 weeks.

Best Probiotic For Gut Health And Weight Loss

Honestly, there are no bacteria that will magically cause weight loss. However, some probiotics are more promising than others regarding weight loss. Here are some probiotics that may help with gut health and weight loss.

1. Lactobacillus Species – Lactobacillus bacteria form a significant component of the human microbiota in the gut. They are the most common probiotic found in foods such as yogurt and are the most studied when it comes to weight loss.

Lactobacillus gasseri is the most promising probiotic for weight loss and has been shown to help reduce body fat, BMI, waist size, and hip circumference. In one study [11] >, researchers observed a reduction of belly fat by 8.5% after taking this probiotic.

Other strains in this family, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus sakei, have also been suggested as potential probiotics for weight loss.

2. Bifidobacterium Probiotics – Several strains of bifidobacterium may help reduce body weight and belly fat, according to studies [12] . In one study [12], 135 people with obesity took Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis for three months. The researchers observed that they significantly lost belly fat reduced BMI, and weight circumference compared to the placebo group.

Other probiotics associated with weight loss include Christensenella minuta and Akkermansia muciniphila.


  1. Sanchez M, Darimont C, Drapeau V, Emady-Azar S, Lepage M, Rezzonico E, Ngom-Bru C, Berger B, Philippe L, Ammon-Zuffrey C, Leone P, Chevrier G, St-Amand E, Marette A, Doré J, Tremblay A. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. Br J Nutr. 2014 Apr 28;111(8):1507-19. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003875. Epub 2013 Dec 3. PMID: 24299712.
  2. Venessa K, Jeremiah J, Jefferey I, Gordon. Gut Microbiota from Twins Discordant for Obesity Modulate Metabolism in Mice. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1241214
  3. Neha Alang, Colleen R. Kelly, Weight Gain After Fecal Microbiota Transplantation, Open Forum Infectious Diseases, Volume 2, Issue 1, Winter 2015, ofv004,
  4. Christian D, Shizhen Q, Yong Zhou, Sushmita P, Li T, Jennifer C, Andrew T, Nathan D, Leroy H, Sean M. Baseline Gut Metagenomic Functional Gene Signature Associated with Variable Weight Loss Responses following a Healthy Lifestyle Intervention in Humans
  5. Brahe L. K., Astrup A., Larsen L. H. (2016). Can We Prevent Obesity-Related Metabolic Diseases by Dietary Modulation of the Gut Microbiota? Adv. Nutr. 7, 90–101. 10.3945/an.115.010587
  6. Harakeh SM, Khan I, Kumosani T, et al. Gut Microbiota: A Contributing Factor to Obesity. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2016;6:95. Published 2016 Aug 30. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2016.00095
  7. Harakeh SM, Khan I, Kumosani T, et al. Gut Microbiota: A Contributing Factor to Obesity. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2016;6:95. Published 2016 Aug 30. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2016.00095
  8. Gagliardi A, Totino V, Cacciotti F, et al. Rebuilding the Gut Microbiota Ecosystem. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(8):1679. Published 2018 Aug 7. doi:10.3390/ijerph15081679
  9. Osterberg KL, Boutagy NE, McMillan RP, Stevens JR, Frisard MI, Kavanaugh JW, Davy BM, Davy KP, Hulver MW. Probiotic supplementation attenuates increases in body mass and fat mass during high-fat diet in healthy young adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Dec;23(12):2364-70. doi: 10.1002/oby.21230. Epub 2015 Oct 14. PMID: 26466123.
  10. Lim S, Moon JH, Shin CM, Jeong D, Kim B. Effect of Lactobacillus sakei, a Probiotic Derived from Kimchi, on Body Fat in Koreans with Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Study. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2020 Jun;35(2):425-434. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2020.35.2.425. Epub 2020 Jun 24. PMID: 32615727; PMCID: PMC7386112.
  11. Kadooka Y, Sato M, Ogawa A, Miyoshi M, Uenishi H, Ogawa H, Ikuyama K, Kagoshima M, Tsuchida T. Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in a randomised controlled trial. Br J Nutr. 2013 Nov 14;110(9):1696-703. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513001037. Epub 2013 Apr 25. PMID: 23614897.
  12. Yin YN, Yu QF, Fu N, Liu XW, Lu FG. Effects of four Bifidobacteria on obesity in high-fat diet induced rats. World J Gastroenterol. 2010;16(27):3394-3401. doi:10.3748/wjg.v16.i27.3394

About Sonja Schoonenberg, RDN, CDE

Sonja Schoonenberg, RDN, CDESonja Schoonenberg is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. Having worked in corporate America for many years she quickly realized that her passion and fulfillment wasn’t in a traditional job. Thirteen years ago, she fell in love with entrepreneurship. She created Dietitian With A Mission in her relentless determination to help others.

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