Gastrointestinal Health and Weight Management

Gastrointestinal Health and Weight Management

Your mother was right: an apple a day CAN keep the Doctor away, though for reasons she probably never suspected.  It turns out the microscopic bacteria in your stomach play a much larger role in overall health than previously thought.  As a result, we now see an influx of foods and supplements on the market claiming to contain “Probiotics” or “Prebiotics”.  If you understand their impact on overall health and weight management, we believe you’ll make better nutrition choices.

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are healthy bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract that aid in digestion and help defend against harmful bacteria. We all share a mutually beneficial relationship with these bacteria.  However highly processed foods, antibiotics, and increased stress can disrupt the ratio of beneficial to harmful bacteria in our digestive tract.  Probiotics and fermented foods may help restore the balance. They are found in foods such as yogurt, buttermilk, brined pickles and olives, and aged cheeses such as Gouda and Cheddar.  The benefits of including Probiotics in your diet include:

  • Treating Diarrhea
  • Preventing urinary tract infections
  • Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Treating certain intestinal infections
  • Preventing or reducing the severity of cold/flu

What are Prebiotics?

Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates that serve as food for the healthy bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract, promoting the growth of good bacteria.  Prebiotics are found in whole grains, onions, garlic, asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, and berries.  Together, Probiotics and Prebiotics improve overall gastrointestinal health.

Probiotics and Weight Management

Low ratios of good bacteria have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  Most chronic diseases are comprised of some form of inflammation, and “bad” bacteria have been associated with low grade inflammation in the body.

Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that increasing the ratio of good gut bacteria by consuming Pre and Probiotics may help decrease inflammation and the risk of related metabolic disorders.  This can be achieved by eating more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes (lentils and beans) and yogurt (with “live and “active” cultures), as well as decreasing consumption of sugar sweetened beverages (soda, juice), starches (potatoes) and refined grains (white bread, white rice, white pasta and processed snack foods such as pretzels, saltines,  and low fiber cereals).


Diet is the best way to consume Probiotics but supplements are readily available for over the counter purchase.  As with all supplements, they are not regulated by the FDA.  If you’re planning to take supplements, you should discuss with your CRMA Primary Care Physician.

Meet the Dietician, Sangeeta Pradhan RD

Sangeeta Pradhan is a licensed Clinical Dietitian/Nutritionist, and has worked for CRMA for 6 years.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and a Diploma in Clinical Lab analysis from Bombay University and Sophia College in Bombay, India.  In addition she holds a Bachelor of Science in Food and Nutrition, with a minor in Biology, from Framingham State University.  She is a Certified Diabetes Educator with the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators.

Registered Dietitians (RDs) conduct a thorough review of patients’ presenting diagnoses, past medical history, pertinent lab tests, medications, diet and nutritional history.  Based upon this information, a nutritional care plan is formulated that is individualized to the patient’s needs and food preferences.  The care plan includes ongoing follow up and re-evaluation including monitoring and/or ordering of nutritionally relevant labs, behavior changes, and overall progress.  RDs also provide Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) for a wide variety of conditions such as obesity, heart disease, (including high blood pressure, cholesterol and congestive heart failure), diabetes, kidney disease, food allergies, food intolerances, and other chronic conditions requiring nutritional intervention.

While Sangeeta’s initial studies were focused on microbiology, she soon chose to follow a more patient care oriented career path.  Sangeeta explains, “I realized very early in the process that I was far more interested in interacting with people than with microbes in test-tubes and petri-dishes. I followed my instincts and pursued a degree in Nutrition which gave me an opportunity to influence human behavior positively in terms of leading a healthy lifestyle.  As a nutritionist, I feel very blessed that I am able to empower individuals to make meaningful lifestyle changes, and often alter the course of chronic disease.  The results are very gratifying, thus making my work very fulfilling.”

One of Sangeeta’s biggest challenges is dealing with misinformation patients pick up from mass media and the internet.  Our scientific understanding of nutrition has been rapidly evolving and it’s hard even for professionals to stay up to date.  Sangeeta believes Registered Dietitians play a pivotal role in translating the complex science of nutrition into easy to understand and easy to implement messages for the lay consumer.

Outside of work, Sangeeta conducts nutritional talks to non-profit organizations and other local community organizations, especially in the South Asian Community.  She is currently the Chair of the Central Mass Dietetic Association, (CMDA).  She has a son who is an attorney in Wisconsin and a daughter who is a senior at Brandeis University.  She enjoys reading, travel, cooking and going on hikes with husband and her kids.