The keto diet has become a popular diet in recent years. Some speculate that the increase in popularity is largely due to the diet’s ability to stimulate weight loss. The keto diet involves drastically reducing the amount of carbohydrates consumed and replacing them with a large amount of fat. The logic is simple: reducing carbohydrates and increasing fats causes the body to enter a metabolic state called ketosis. Ketosis stimulates the burning of body fat and also causes several other noticeable changes in the body. While some of these changes are beneficial, others are known to have adverse effects on overall health. In addition, the keto diet has been shown to affect the diversity and abundance of the gut microbiome in both negative and positive ways.
What is the Gut Microbiome?
Think of your gut (also called your digestive tract and gastrointestinal tract) as home to millions of tiny bacteria, archaea, viruses and other microbes.
The term “gut microbiome” therefore refers to all the microbes that live within your digestive system-your stomach, small and large intestines, and to a lesser extent, other organs.
In proper balance, these microbes protect your immune system and assist in digestion. When you eat well, exercise regularly, and lead a stress-free lifestyle, your gut microbiome stays healthy.
Conversely, an unhealthy lifestyle can damage this tiny “metropolis” of bacteria living in your gut, which in turn exposes you to digestive problems and makes you more susceptible to illness.
The Keto Diet and the Gut Microbiome
The delicate ecosystem that lives in your gut has a profound impact on your overall health. These essential microbes contribute to the function of most major body systems, including the brain and immune system.
The intestinal microbiota is also highly sensitive to your diet. Changing your daily dietary patterns can alter the composition and health of your microbiome in both beneficial and negative ways.
A keto diet is known to cause substantial changes in the gut microbiome, which are mediated by changes in the metabolites produced by gut bacteria.
It is critical to fully understand how these changes can help and hinder the microbiome, as it can have a considerable impact on your overall health.
Benefits of Keto Diet on the Gut Microbiome
Research on how the keto diet affects gut health is mixed, and recommendations vary depending on individual needs and preferences. The benefits of a keto diet on the gut microbiome include:
Isn’t indigestion a common problem for most of us? While there can be many causes, overeating is one of them. When you feed yourself too many carbohydrates and fats, it can cause you to gain weight and lead to digestive problems. So, to improve your digestive health and make the whole process easier, you can try a keto diet. It will allow you to eliminate every food that can trigger your acidity, gas or heartburn. Instead, you will focus on foods that are easy to digest and high in fiber and other nutritional values. For example, you can consume nuts and seeds during this period, which are great for your gastrointestinal tract. They make your stomach feel full, even in small amounts, while lowering your calorie consumption. Another option is a gut health supplement that focuses on similar issues. However, make sure that you are buying organic products that do not have any side effects.
Increases colonies of certain beneficial bacteria
Ketosis can stimulate an increase in the number of bacterial species in the microbiome associated with fat digestion and metabolism. Such bacteria are known to be beneficial to overall health because they improve the digestive process in the gut and help stimulate essential immune cells. These bacteria include Bacteroidetes, Lactobacillus, Ackermannia, Stachybotrys and Bacteroides.
Reduces Gut Inflammation
Inflammation that occurs within our body systems, such as the stomach, intestines or any other internal organ, takes time to get our attention. The same symptoms are fatigue, diarrhea, blood in the stool, cramps, etc. All of these are indicators that we need to work on improving our gut health. Here is where the keto diet comes into play. When we are on a ketogenic diet, there is a direct impact on our gut microbes. In addition, in order to avoid carbohydrates, we take more anti-inflammatory foods in our diets. Together, these two factors ultimately suppress inflammation. This is one of the mechanisms of the keto diet that people can use to achieve better health. Also, keto or not, if you are dealing with inflammation in your stomach, you should eat more gut healing foods. It includes kimchi, yogurt, pineapple, asparagus, and much more. Don’t forget to stick with it and slowly all your symptoms will go away.
Improves symptoms of some neurological and digestive disorders
The beneficial bacteria added to the gut microbiome through the keto diet can help manage certain neurological disorders through the production of enzymes and hormones. These disorders include epilepsy, seizures, autism and Alzheimer’s disease. They also help with insulin sensitivity, weight loss and digestive disorders such as IBS.
Good For Detoxification
It is important that we detoxify our toxins and infuse our bodies with essential nutrients. In turn, it can improve our gut health and reduce the chances of health risks. The keto diet is one way to go through the body’s detoxification process. The secret is that the keto diet involves low to zero calories, which forces our bodies to use fat as fuel to keep us energized and moving. During this operation, there are several harsh toxins burning and finding their way out of our body. It functions quite similarly to dietary supplements that assist in weight management and body detoxification. They use specific nutrients that promote the elimination of unwanted bacteria. At the end of your keto diet journey, your body will once again feel refreshed and free of toxins. In other words, consider this a different version of intermittent fasting.
Adverse Effects of Keto Diet on Gut Microbiome
Although there are several health benefits of keto diet on gut microbiome, the side effects cannot be ingnored. Following are some reverse effects thereof.
Decrease gut microbiome diversity and richness
The keto diet reduces the species of bacteria involved in the digestion and metabolism of high-fat nutrients, such as E. coli spp., E. coli, and B. mucilaginosa. This diet also reduces species associated with the digestion of complex carbohydrates, such as E. faecalis spp., Bifidobacterium, E. recti, and Defensoria.
This reduces the overall diversity and richness of the microbiome because the diet is low in complex carbohydrates, which are necessary for energy production by microorganisms.
Increase in pathogenic bacteria and disease in the gut
There is also a decrease in beneficial bacteria, which play a preventive role against pathogens and chronic diseases in the gut. The decrease in diversity has led to an increase in the relative abundance of pathogenic bacteria, such as E. coli and Vibrio desulfuricans. Deficiency of beneficial bacteria is also associated with increased incidence of colorectal cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and necrotizing small bowel colitis.
So, is Keto a Good Idea for Your Gut Health?
Before adopting a keto diet, you should fully consider all of the positive and negative consequences associated with it. Doing so is important not only for your overall health, but also for the health and diversity of your gut microbiome.
If you decide that adopting a keto diet is a path you want to venture into, it is crucial to be proactive in taking care of your microbiome throughout the process.
Many people have found success in strengthening their microbiome by consuming keto foods high in fiber, prebiotics and probiotics. These foods include low-carb vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fermented foods.