By now the significance of keeping your belly bugs balanced is probably pretty obvious. I know I’ve written about the subject of gut bacteria over three dozen times myself.

In fact, a quick check of the online archives confirms that we first started covering the importance of good bacteria, balanced gut flora and probiotics in the Guide to Good Health and on the NorthStar blog at least five years ago now.

We, of course, know that immunity starts with your gut bacteria… which means that probiotics could be the key to helping you avoid getting a cold or the winter flu this year. And if you do fall victim, one study found they can help you bounce back 30 percent faster than the sad saps that just suffer through without them.

In my book, if you’re ever on an antibiotic, taking a probiotic to replenish the good bugs is not optional… it’s essential. Some experts even believe the gut bacteria in your belly can affect your mood and behavior.

And just last year exciting new findings about a potential link between the gut bacteria in your intestines and type 2 diabetes began to emerge. (To catch up… and learn how a “hostile gut” could be to blame for your blood sugar battles… check out the complete story on the NorthStar blog.)

Now a new study published in the journal Nature has strengthened the apparent link between diabetes and gut bacteria. But, it’s gone much further than that. Scientists say your gut bacteria could predict your risk for obesity and obesity-related illnesses including heart disease and diabetes.

It’s a lack of variety in the bacterial strains that appears to be the key. Generally, we walk around with trillions of the little suckers in our bellies. But if those strains of bugs aren’t diverse enough, your risks for being fat and sick could skyrocket, according to the study.

Now we can’t say for certain yet that balancing your gut bacteria with a probiotic will help you shed pounds and lower your disease risks, but the signs are all starting to point in that direction. And what the experts do agree on is that changes in your gut germs… which they suggest increasing fiber to accomplish… might make it easier for you to lose weight.