The Keto Diet and Gut Health


The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet plan. Meals are often made up of 70 to 80 percent fat and about 5 to 10 percent carbs. Usually, the body breaks down the carbs and turns them into glucose which will fuel the brain. With a restriction on your carb intake, your body resorts to burning ketones instead. Ketones are from fats. They are produced when the body reaches a metabolic state known as ketosis. The keto diet compels the body to burn fat instead of glucose. This results in weight loss. The possible downside of the diet is that there’s limited information on the long-term effects of the diet. 


Potential benefits of the keto diet on digestive health


Some research suggests several potential benefits of the keto diet. This may reduce inflammation. Acute inflammation may protect the body from illness and infection while chronic inflammation may result in inflammatory disorders which include digestive conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Several studies suggest that the diet could help reduce inflammation. 


Furthermore, the keto diet has also been seen to benefit those who suffer from digestive disorders. A study was done on 13 people. It was reported that a low-carb diet improved the symptoms of IBS or irritable bowel syndrome which include issues like stomach cramps, diarrhea, and gas.


What is the gut microbiome?


Try to imagine your gut as a repository of millions of tiny bacteria, viruses, archaea, and other microbes. The gut microbiome is a term referring collectively to the microbes found in the digestive system. When these microbes are balanced properly, they can help with digestion and protect your immune system. By eating well, exercising often, and being stress-free, you will have a healthy gut microbiome. 


Gut health and the immune system


Gut health maintains the body’s homeostasis. It’s important to have a balance in the types and amounts of bacteria found in the gut. When there are too many bacteria and you’re not healthy, the microbes can overwhelm the system making you sick. On the reverse, when there are not enough bacteria, you might also get sick and experience autoimmune problems. When the gut microbiome is balanced and healthy, the body can digest food easily, absorb the nutrients from food, and this may also protect the body from harmful pathogens.


Gut health and weight


Scientists have linked compromised gut health to obesity. When you are overweight or consume too many unhealthy food items, this may lead to a damaged gut. A published study conducted in 2018 stated that a diet alteration that deals with gut health is one of the major targets for treating obesity. In general, lean people who have a healthy diet tend to have the right amount of microbes and bacteria found in their gut. This is important information if you’re trying to lose weight.


Keto and the gut microbiome


The food we consume affects our gut microbiome composition. It’s not surprising to know that a strict diet can affect the body’s resident bacteria. A published 2020 study involved the recruitment of 17 men who stayed for two months in a facility for their diet and activities to be closely monitored. The participants were given a keto diet for a certain period and a standard diet for another period. It was observed in the study that those who took the keto diet ​​showed a decrease in the Bifidobacteria species. This was attributed to the reduction in carbs and not fats. It may be associated with the lower consumption of fiber which feeds the gut bacteria that brought this change. In mice studies, it was seen that the reduced Bifidobacteria species led to reduced Th17 immune cells. The Th17 is a type of T cell that promotes inflammation in autoimmune conditions. The authors of the study believe that the microbiome changes brought by keto make it useful for weight loss and blood sugar control.


Keto and epilepsy


Based on studies, it appears that changes in the gut bacteria which are linked to the keto diet are crucial in producing anti-seizure benefits. In the study, researchers used special mice with no gut bacteria. They found out that the keto diet did not protect the germ-free mice against induced seizures. Another part of the study involved transplanting the gut microbiome of a mouse that followed the keto diet into one that had a standard diet. The gut bacteria also protected the second mouse against seizures. 


Keto-friendly foods for gut health


Being part of the keto diet, it is necessary to reduce your carb intake. But you can still enjoy gut-friendly foods that are keto-friendly too. Examples of these are avocados, coconut oil, butter, kimchi, and leafy greens. Avocados are loaded with fiber while leafy veggies are low in carbs and high in fiber. Coconut oil has been proven by studies to improve the gut microbiome. On the other hand, kimchi has a lot of beneficial bacteria that support gut health. Lastly, butter contains butyric acid which is known to improve digestive health.


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