By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
Is Keto Diet a Gut Friendly Diet?
There are so many diets out there. I am sure you have heard about these four:
And another one you may hear a lot of buzz about is the ketogenic diet, more commonly called just the keto diet.
The keto diet is a low carb, high fat diet. And when I say low carb, I mean low carb.
“It typically includes plenty of meats, eggs, processed meats, sausages, cheeses, fish, nuts, butter, oils, seeds, and fibrous vegetables,” reports Harvard Health.
This diet eliminates many foods such as root vegetables and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and turnips), most fruits (blueberries in moderation are an exception), grains and legumes.
A keto diet is not for everyone. It’s usually high in saturated fat and cholesterol, so it may not be best for someone who already has existing issues such as heart disease. On the other hand, it is very low in sugar. So some people are advocates of the diet for managing blood sugar levels and losing weight.
Many celebrities including Kourtney Kardashian and LeBron James reportedly swear by the keto diet for weight loss. And actress Halle Berry is a fan, as she says this diet helps with managing her diabetes.
You cannot go completely carb free.
A keto diet causes the body "to release ketones into the bloodstream," according to Harvard Health. "Most cells prefer to use blood sugar, which comes from carbohydrates, as the body’s main source of energy. In the absence of circulating blood sugar from food, we start breaking down stored fat into molecules called ketone bodies (the process is called ketosis). Once you reach ketosis, most cells will use ketone bodies to generate energy until we start eating carbohydrates again.”
I don't advocate eliminating whole nutrient groups like carbohydrates. It may not even be possible to go entirely carb-free because even keto-friendly foods such as kale and asparagus have small amounts of carbs, but the keto diet drastically cuts carbs. And carbohydrates are one of the six basic nutrients you need to live. The others are protein, water, fats, vitamins and minerals.
Every person is different, and a diet that may work for one person may not work for another. There are also pros and cons to every diet, so I think it’s extremely important to educate ourselves about all of these diets and then discuss with a competent healthcare professional which diet may be personally best for us.
And one thing that may be very beneficial about the keto diet is the potential effect it could have on the gut microbiome. According to a recent report about a study conducted by UC San Francisco, the keto diet may alter gut bugs in a way that helps strengthen the immune system and help fight inflammation.
The study involved 17 adult overweight or obese nondiabetic men. During the first four weeks of the study, participants were instructed to follow either a standard diet consisting of 50 percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 80 percent fat or a keto diet which consisted of five percent carbs, 15 percent protein and 80 percent fat. After four weeks, the groups switched diets so that the researchers could see how shifting between the two different diets altered gut microbiomes.
“The researchers focused in on a particular bacterial genus—the common probiotic Bifidobacteria—which showed the greatest decrease on the ketogenic diet,” according to the report.
“To better understand how microbial shifts on the ketogenic diet might impact health, the researchers exposed the mouse gut to different components of microbiomes of humans adhering to ketogenic diets, and showed that these altered microbial populations specifically reduce the numbers of Th17 immune cells—a type of T cell critical for fighting off infectious disease, but also known to promote inflammation in autoimmune diseases.”
This is a very specific and interesting finding and more research is needed (particularly on a larger scale study), but it shows that the ketogenic diet may be beneficial in fighting autoimmune diseases. As with any autoimmune condition, protecting the immune system and fighting inflammation with good nutrition is key.
But as always, it is good to speak with your doctor or a competent healthcare professional about whether the ketogenic diet is appropriate for you, especially if you have an autoimmune condition or any other existing health issues. And, of course, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with a competent healthcare professional.
Have you tried the ketogenic diet? Please share your experience with us.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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