Can your Gut Flora improve with a Ketogenic Diet

You may have noticed that the discussion of healthy gut flora has increased in recent years. How does your gut health impact the rest of your body? Have you tried to understand how changes in your diet might improve your gut health? Or maybe you are worried that what you are eating is hindering it and causing other problems? Perhaps, more specifically, you wonder how the ketogenic (often referred to as “keto”) plays a role in healthy gut flora. We will explore the fact that the bacteria that reside in your gut are impacted by the foods you eat. One of our goals is to assist you in choosing food that not only fuels your body but also helps you find success in creating a healthy gut environment. We will learn about what contributes to a healthy gut and look at ketogenic diet gut flora.

The "GUT"

The “gut” is a common term used for the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The gastrointestinal tract is made up of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Many people think of their abdomen (the stomach and the intestines) when they hear the word “gut”. The GI tract is the largest immune system organ. Most people don’t associate their digestive system with their immune system, but the GI tract is where the bacteria and immune system connect.

Intestines

In order to understand gut flora, we must have some comprehension of how the intestines work in the body. The intestines are the part of the digestive system which are responsible for breaking down the food you eat, absorbing nutrients and water to provide nourishment, and removing waste products from the body. The gut and the rest of the body are separated by the intestines. In a healthy digestive system, one would find small gaps or tight junctions in the intestines to allow food and nutrients to move into the bloodstream and provide the nourishment to the body.

Gut Flora

There are trillions of bacteria that reside within your body. The microbiome within the intestines is where several different bacteria live. Some of these bacteria are good and promote healthy digestion and others can cause problems and make your gut unhealthy. There are studies that show a diet high in fruits and vegetables can prohibit the growth of some disease-causing bacteria. There are also beneficial bacteria particularly, Bifidobacteria, that help inhibit intestinal inflammation and improve gut health. Having enough fiber in your diet will help these favorable bacteria grow. The more species of bacteria there are, the higher the probability of them making a positive impact on your health.

Gut Health

Having a healthy gut and gut flora can impact your overall health in many ways. It aids in digestion, boosts your immune system, body weight, skin, aids in problems with mood and mental health, and controlling blood sugar. Let’s look these in a little more detail:

  1. Digestion – with well-balanced gut flora (ideally 80% good, 20% bad), your digestive system will work optimally. A greater presence of bad bacteria will disrupt digestion and cause things such as irritable bowel syndrome.
  2. Immunity – as mentioned, your gut health has a lot to do with your immune system. 80% of your immune system is present in the gut. Again, a balance in good and bad gut flora will impact your well-being by preventing illness.
  3. Body weight – if the good bacteria are taken over by the bad, something called dysbiosis can occur. It is shown that this condition can lead to weight gain.
  4. Skin – gut flora can also impact your skin. Think of all the other things we’ve mentioned so far; the skin is the largest organ of the body and is therefore impacted by the health of what’s inside.
  5. Mood and Mental Health – have you heard anyone refer to the gut as the second brain? This is because of the many neurons lining the intestinal walls. A mood regulating hormone called serotonin is produced here. A studyalso showed less anxiety and better mood in connection to healthy gut flora.
  6. Blood Sugarresearch shows that healthy gut flora can impact the risk of type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

You may have heard people say that “all disease begins in the gut.” Hippocrates is credited for this statement and it is, for the most part, a pretty true statement. The gut is the origin of many chronic illnesses. This has to do with your gut flora as well as the quality of the lining in the gut. It is important for you to recognize common issues that stem from gut health. You should also recognize how your diet plays a role in it.

The "GUT"

A diet that focuses on natural ingredients and whole foods is best to create a balanced environment within your body. Avoiding inflammation and promoting healthy gut bacteria growth will improve your overall well-being. It is essential to be aware of what contributes to healthy gut flora and to be proactive if you are having issues.

Here is an overview of the ketogenic (“keto”) diet. This type of eating is fueled on ketones instead of glucose. This diet is focused on decreasing carb intake, increasing your fat intake, and moderating your protein intake. The liver produces ketones which causes your body to burn fat as an energy source, rather than just burning up the glucose (carbohydrates and sugars). Your body runs on glucose when you are not on the keto diet. When glucose is being used for energy, fats are not needed, and become stored. On the keto diet, lowering the consumption of glucose sources makes your body use the fat as fuel, burning it naturally.

It is important to remember that what you eat nourishes all the cells and organs in your body and plays a large part in having a healthy gut. How can you balance your gut bacteria to avoid these issues? With this plethora of information, you might be wondering about ketogenic diet gut flora. Next, we will explore both the foods that should be added to your diet and those that should be avoided.

The Good

You will want to have foods in your diet known to create a healthy gut environment. Remember that inflammation and a healthy gut are connected. If you have a healthy gut, there will likely be less inflammation in your body. The following foods are recommended to improve your gut flora, they are also on the suggested food list when following a ketogenic diet: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, eggs, broccoli, arugula, kale, eggplant, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini sauerkraut, kimchi, teas, kombucha, bone broth, macadamia nuts, walnuts, pecans.

The Bad

With that being said, there are also many foods that can negatively impact the healthy gut flora in your body. They include:

  • wheat based products
  • grains with gluten
  • baked goods
  • junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.)
  • artificial sweeteners.

Most of these foods will also be removed or dramatically cut if you are following a ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet gut flora promotes healthy bacteria in your intestines. Reducing inflammation and encouraging this healthy bacteria growth will lessen your risk of leaky gut.

other recommendations to boost healthy gut flora

  • Reduce stress – stress can trigger many negative responses in the body, thus creating poor health. When it comes to gut health, studies show that stress can cause a reduction in the diversity of gut flora but also increase harmful bacteria and reduce beneficial bacteria.
  • Exercise – physical activity is beneficial to the body in so many ways. Particularly when it comes to gut flora, studies show that being active encourages the growth of two beneficial gut bacteria Bifidobacteriumand
  • Increase prebiotic consumption – this is a type of fiber that does not break down in the digestive process and encourages growth and activity of gut friendly bacteria. Some foods that you can find prebiotics in include:
    • Lentils, chickpeas and beans
    • Oats
    • Bananas
    • Jerusalem artichokes
    • Asparagus
    • Garlic
    • Leeks
    • Onions
    • Nuts

Some of these foods are not recommended on a keto diet, so be mindful and consume the ones that fit within that plan.

  • Avoid smoking – cigarette smoking is an environmental factor that can decrease the gut flora diversity as well as trigger inflammation.
  • Sleep more – sleep deprivation contributes to many diseases. Your body needs time to rest and repair. When it doesn’t have this, it becomes more susceptible to infections and disease.
  • Limit alcohol intake – alcohol can be harmful to gut health. An exception is red wine, which contains polyphenols known to improve gut health.
  • Be mindful of using antibiotics – they are a treatment used to kill or slow down the replication of unhealthy bacteria that cause various illnesses. The problem is that antibiotics cannot tell the difference between good and bad bacteria. As a result, good bacteria can be harmed by the presence of antibiotics.
  • Eat diverse foods – recall that what we eat gives us the nutrients that encourage bacteria growth. Eating diverse foods will result in different types of bacteria because of the variety of nutrients. The result of this is more diversity in the gut flora.
  • Probiotic supplements – probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are helpful bacteria that can help keep your gut healthy.

All these things can all improve the health of your body and gut flora which then lowers the risk of having an unhealthy digestive system and problems with your gut.

common problems associated with gut flora

Leaky Gut

Leaky gut occurs if the gaps in your intestines loosen or get larger which is also known as increased intestinal permeability. As these gaps get bigger, substances can leak into the blood stream that are not supposed to be there such as toxins, unhealthy bacteria and larger food particles. In a healthy body, these things move through the intestines and either be processed or excreted. When these larger things pass into the bloodstream, they can maneuver their way to every part of your body and create problems.

Symptoms of leaky gut include aches, pains, cramps, gas, migraines and bloating. If you experience any of these symptoms, be aware that your intestines could be the cause. You will want to make sure you discuss this possibility with your doctor.

Endotoxemia

We know that good bacteria promote healthy digestion and bad bacteria cause problems and make your gut unhealthy. A substance referred to as endotoxins can be made by some species of bacteria. It is possible for these endotoxins to move into the bloodstream with dietary fat. They can also move into the body via leaky gut as we discussed above. Either way, once they leave the intestines, they can create an immune response within the body. You will want to be proactive in boosting the growth of healthy gut flora within your body to avoid the possibility of unhealthy bacteria leaking into your bloodstream.

bottomline

Our focus with this article is to provide you with information to help you make an educated decision regarding your health journey. Your decision regarding your nutrition is one that should be made based on your health history, health goals and in consultation with your doctor. Despite the research and information available to us today, not everyone will have the same results even if they are following the exact same plans. Everyone’s body will respond differently, and it is up to you to make changes until you find the plan that works the best for you.  Focusing on good health habits and understanding your diet will improve your overall well-being. Our goal here is to address ketogenic gut flora so that you can make a well-informed decision regarding your health. In knowing how to encourage a healthy environment in your body, you can take steps to avoid the most common issues people face with gut health.

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2019-05-15T23:24:41-04:00