The keto diet is a popular eating plan that involves drastically cutting carbohydrates while increasing the intake of heart-healthy fats. By depriving your body of carbohydrates – your main source of energy – you are forced to start burning fat instead. The keto diet has been shown to benefit cholesterol levels, blood sugar control, weight loss and brain health. That said, you may be wondering if this diet affects other aspects of your health, including digestion and gut health. This article examines how the keto diet affects gut health.
Is the Keto Diet Good for Gut Health?
A new study published in Cell on May 20, 2020, suggests that low-carb diets like the keto diet can have a significant effect on improving gut health. The University of California, San Francisco study found that ketone bodies affected the gut microbiome in a way that reduced inflammation.
The findings suggest that ketone bodies may be a potential way to treat autoimmune diseases that affect the gut, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The researchers also found that mice fed normal amounts of carbohydrates experienced microbial changes with the addition of ketone bodies.
“As someone new to the ketone body field, I had assumed that once your carbohydrate intake reached low enough levels, producing ketone bodies was an all-or-nothing effect. But this suggests you may soon get some of the effects of ketosis,” said Dr. Peter Turnbaugh, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at UCSF, a member of the UCSF Benioff Center for Microbiome Medicine and a researcher at the Chan Zuckerberg Biological Center.” This is a very fascinating finding because it suggests that the effects of a keto diet on the microbiome are not just about the diet itself, but how the diet alters the body’s metabolism, which then has downstream effects on the microbiome.”
In short, the keto diet appears to be good for gut health, even if you’re not strict about it. Simply increasing the level of ketone bodies in your body may have benefits for digestive health.
Adverse Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on the Gut Microbiome
Increase in gut inflammation
A high-fat diet increases Vibrio desulfuricans in the intestine, a bacterium with the ability to produce hydrogen sulfide. This compound damages the mucosal barrier of the intestine, leading to colitis or inflammation of the colon.
May reduce gut microbial diversity.
Think of diversity and abundance as the legs of a table. The more species you have in your gut, the more stable and functional your gut will be. When we leave the gut without its preferred food sources (i.e., fiber and carbohydrates), we essentially “cut off the legs of the table” and destabilize our gut microbiome.
In a 6-month trial involving children with epilepsy, researchers found that while the keto diet significantly improved the incidence of seizures, this diet also significantly reduced the richness and diversity of the gut microbiome.
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 Desulfovibrio.
Deficiency of beneficial bacteria is also associated with increased incidence of colorectal cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, and necrotizing small bowel colitis.
Summary – Whether Keto Diet is Good for Gut Health?
As stated above, there are both benefits and side effects of keto diet for gut health. Though the benefits surpass the side effects, it’s better for you to consult your doctors before you take keto diet for gut health.