While the keto diet, is not new. It was first used back in the 1920’s-30’s as a therapeutic diet to help control epilepsy seizures resistant to drugs. Over the past 8 or so years there has be a substantial increase in people taking up low carb and keto diets, after learning of the so many more health benefits. The most used reason being for its weight loss benefits.
The question is, is it really a good way to go long term and how is it affecting our gut?
While restrictive diets may often be needed in the initial stages when looking to heal the gut or achieve a certain health outcome, the goal is to always get people back to a varied wholefoods fibre rich diet as soon as possible. While low carb and keto can be very beneficial, especially for those with type 2 diabetes, those overweight or obese, and those with metabolic syndrome, in many cases doing these types of diets long term can have a negative effect on the gut
The reason for this, is often because Low carb, keto diets often equals lower fibre intake. Fibre is essential for promoting good gut bacteria and is needed for our guts to thrive.
While there are variations to the keto diet, some better than others, some have seen the popular keto diet as a green light to eat all the bacon, butter, eggs and cheese they want while excluding healthy fruit, and starchy veggies. While small amounts of these keto foods might be okay, when these foods are making up a high portion of the diet, with very little fibre, this is certainly not a healthy way of eating.
Why does my bloating and gut discomfort improve on low carb?
Some swear by a low carb way of living, after noticing that reducing the carbs, produces less gas, bloating and gut discomfort. I was one of these people originally.
Dietary fibre is made up of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water, is readily fermented and can be found in oats, barley, psyllium, carrots, citrus fruits and apples.
Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water, is fermented poorly and can be found in wholegrains, legumes, seeds, veggies from the cruciferous family and root vegetables.
For overall good health we require a mix of both soluble and insoluble fibres in our diets. Many of these fibre rich foods have both a small amount of both soluble and insoluble fibre.
When our gut bugs break down fibres, for some they may cause bloating, gas and tummy discomfort. And when we eat low carb, we reduce the amount of soluble fibre we consume, which explains why many swear by a lower carb diet as a way to reduce their uncomfortable gut symptoms.
Negative Effects on the Gut
Reduction in Short Chain Fatty Acids:
In the short term, this can be great to help calm and reduce gut inflammation.
Yet the downside of dramatically reducing carbs in the long term, can mean there is a reduction in short chain fatty acids (SCFA’s) in the gut. SCFA’s are produced by the breakdown of fibres and are the primary source of energy for the colon cells.
Increased Risk of Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut:
Producing a good amount of SCFA’s in the gut, is important to increase the ratio of good gut bugs and crowd out the bad. SCFA’s such as butyrate help keep the gut lining intact. When SCFA’s are low the gut mucosal lining becomes thin, making the development of a leaky gut a high risk. This is where a whole lot of problems occur from obvious gut symptoms to wide spread systemic inflammation.
Decrease in Production of Our Happy Hormone ‘Serotonin’:
SCFA’s have also been shown to promote colonic serotonin production. Serotonin is a key hormone and neurotransmitter which is best known for its key role in mood, sometimes described as the happy hormone. Serotonin not only affects our mood but also plays an important role in digestion and sleep. We now know a vast majority of our serotonin is found in the gut. This is where the gut brain connection evolved.
A healthy balanced gut microbiome, is essential for a strong immune system, more balanced moods, regulation of healthy hormones, sustainable weight loss, healthy bowel motions, and overall more vibrant health.
I suggest that keto and low carb diets are not something to be on a long term basis, yet this is something best discussed with your health care practitioner who can help determine the best option for you. If low carb works for you, you might like to cycle in and out of it, along with increasing fibre intake rather than being strictly low carb daily.
Its important to understand that there is no one diet fits all, low carb and keto have their benefits but they also have their downside too. which is often not discussed.
The Take Home Message
The take home message from this is, adequate amounts of fibre are absolutely essential for good health. You cannot possibly be healthy, if you starve your good gut bugs of the their preferred source of food- FIBRE and PREBIOTICS.
And where do we get fibre and prebiotics from?
The simple answer is plant based foods.
The higher carb root vegetables are the best sources of prebiotics. You can be taking a probiotic to help increase good gut bacteria but if the probiotics don’t have the food (prebiotics) to feed on, they are not going to be of as much benefit.
So if you are someone who is eating a keto or low carb diet, I urge you to possibly reconsider if this is a good long term option for you?
Ask yourself are you eating enough fibre?
Are you experiencing gut symptoms?
Or mental health related conditions which have been shown to be linked to the gut?
Could you do some tweaks to make sure you are better feeding your beneficial gut bacteria?
If fibre makes you more bloated, more gassy and more uncomfortable in the gut, I urge you to get in touch. Just avoiding it, is not your answer. There are way too many health benefits of a fibre rich diet that not eating it, is going to have you missing out on.
You may need to start slow and work your way up. There may also be some underlying gut imbalances, inflammation and dysfunction that needs to be corrected first. This can be determined by symptoms along with comprehensive integrative functional gut testing, which can be ordered through your natural healthcare practitioner.
To find out if your gut health may be compromised and needs some attention, you can take my ‘Is Your Gut Healthy?’ Quiz here.
Working with a practitioner can help guide you to a more healthier, happier gut, and determine a way of eating that is best for you and your health goals without compromising your gut and overall long term health.
I invite you to book a no obligation complimentary discovery call to find out more about how I can help you achieve overall more vibrant health all while helping you work out the best diet for you.
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Here’s to good health and happiness x