The ketogenic diet, commonly called keto, is the next big fad to lose weight by lowering carbs. It is quite like the Atkin Diet, substituting the calories from carbohydrates with calories from proteins and fat. Keto involves cutting back on easy-to-digest carbs, such as white bread, pastries, sugar and soda and allowing the body to produce ketones as an alternative fuel when blood sugar levels dip. The question is, how healthy is the keto diet for your health and gut?

To understand this, it’s important to first understand how the keto diet works.

  • Your body needs fuel (blood sugar) to boost energy.
  • When you eat less than 50 gms of carbs a day, blood sugar is quickly used up.
  • Proteins and stored fat in the body are then used to boost energy.
  • This state is called ketosis, and it can make you lose weight.
  • It takes about three to four days for the body to get into the state of ketosis.
  • The diet is focused on short-term weight loss rather than for long-term health.
  • The keto diet can boost weight loss in the first three to six months faster than some other diets because it takes more calories to convert fat into energy than convert carbs into energy.

Health Effects of a Keto Diet

Despite its high fat and protein intake, a keto diet has been seen to raise good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol, though it is not clear why. Low carbs produce lower levels of insulin that stops the body from producing more cholesterol. As a result, you’re less likely to have high blood pressure, cardiac problems or hardened arteries.

It’s not clear whether the effects are long lasting though. What is clear is that ketones produced in the body as a result of the diet can adversely affect those with diabetes, especially Type 1. Low-carb diets can lead to kidney stones or increase the production of acids in the body called acidosis. Some suffer from mild symptoms such as constipation, low blood sugar, indigestion or “keto flu” that includes headache, fatigue, irritability and bad breath. A keto diet can also be hard on your kidneys.

How Does the Keto Diet Alter the Gut Microbiome?

Gut microbiome are the microorganisms in your digestive tract that play a key role in digestion, immune function, mental health and prevention of many diseases. Some studies say that the keto diet could damage the composition and concentration of gut bacteria. A high fat rigorous diet can also lead to other gut changes, such as increased inflammation and a decrease in good fatty acids.

On the bright side, keto reduces concentrations of harmful proteobacteria, that is dangerous gut bacteria such as Escherichia, Salmonella, and Vibrio. A low-carb diet also improves symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome commonly called IBC, that combines gas, stomach cramps and diarrhea.

Keto-Friendly Foods for Gut Health

There are several gut-friendly foods that are a part of a healthy keto diet. These are commonly foods that are low in carbs but high in gut-boosting benefits, such as avocados, leafy green vegetables, coconut oil, butter, and kimchi, among others.

Allwell Pharmacy, Mississauga/Brampton

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