Could Going Keto Be
Killing Your Gut?
The low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet is one of the hottest new crazes on the ever-growing market of diets. It’s been said to help you lose weight, burn fat, and get fitter faster.
It’s a runaway train of unending promises of health and happiness. But should we be ready to apply the brakes?
What is Keto?
In simple terms, a strict ketogenic diet is a diet that consists of mostly fats (80%), a little protein (15%), and a very low carbohydrate intake (often under 50 grams per day!). This puts your body in a state of ‘ketosis’, where it produces molecules known as ketone bodies (from fat) to use as energy.
The Dreaded ‘Keto Flu’
Anybody that has tried keto will be sure to tell you about the ‘keto flu’, a series of symptoms that occur when you make the change to the ketogenic diet. This often includes a series of nasty gut complaints, such as:
What Could Cause These Problems?
- Constipation Concerns (lack of fibre): Fibre intake is often lower in keto diets, due to lower fruit and veg consumption. While some greens and berries are allowed, the fibre obtained from these may not be enough. In ketogenic lab conditions fibre consumption is as little as 12 grams daily. The UK guideline is 30 grams of daily fibre minimum, so there can indeed be a deficit when going keto. Soluble fibre in particular is low, which smooths the transition of our stools (poo!).
- Diarrhoea Disaster: Many keto dieters consume MCTs as part of their routine, sometimes even added to their morning coffee. MCT stands for 'medium chain triglycerides', which are naturally found in coconut and palm oils. The problem is that MCT intake doesn’t allow your body to release bile (which helps digest fats) properly. This can lead to diarrhoea.
- Detrimental Dehydration: Because few carbs are being consumed, insulin levels fall in your body. Insulin is important for the body to hold sodium (that’s salt to you and me!). Losing sodium also means losing water… This can cause diarrhoea and also cause the cells of your gut lining to work less efficiently!
- Bacterial Imbalance: High fat intakes can change your gut bacteria. Unwanted changes may increase the risk of gastrointestinal damage and disease. We also know of different individuals having different enterotypes - that is, different predominant bacterial colonies. Some may be able to tolerate high-fat better than others, but this is not the case for all of us. In particular if high-fat intake doesn't go well with your system.
- Impending Inflammation: Studies have shown that certain groups of bacteria can be promoted by high fat diets that could cause inflammation, which may lead to gut damage.
- FODMAP troubles: Many of the vegetables allowed on the keto diet are FODMAPs. FODMAPs are sugar alcohols and short-chain carbs that are poorly absorbed by the body. This, in turn, can cause bloating and flatulence when broken down by our gut bacteria. Restricting the types of fruit and veg you consume can be a big problem when going keto.
These are just 6 of the many ways that you could be negatively affected when going keto. But there’s one more key consideration. We’re all unique individuals, which means that some people may respond far more negatively than others to this kind of diet, maybe even with vomiting, fatigue, and other unwanted symptoms!
The Bottom Line
The ketogenic diet was designed as a medical diet and could be harmful to implement yourself. That’s why knowing the dangers is vital...
And personalisation is key!
Here at The Health Sciences Academy, our team of scientists and our nutrition graduates understand the importance of reducing the risk of harm...
And when it comes to going keto, just know that it's not completely 'risk free' and that it's important to be aware of its side effects and contraindications. That’s why we’ll continue to extensively research the ketogenic diet in order to help you make informed decisions for yourself.
In the meantime, check out some of our Continuing Education trainings below in relation to ketosis, appetite, and brain performance.
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