why keto is great for your gut
You may have noticed that the discussion of gut health 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 gut health. We want to assist you in choosing food that fuels your body and will help you be successful in creating a healthy gut environment. We will learn about what contributes to a healthy gut and why keto is great for your gut.
the gastrointestinal tract also known as the "gut"
The gut is a common term for the gastrointestinal tract. The gastrointestinal tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach and intestine. The stomach and intestines are likely what come to mind first for most people when they hear the word “gut”. It is the largest immune system organ. This statement may seem odd to you as most people do not think of their immune system when they think of the body’s digestive system. It is true though, that this space is where the bacteria in your body and your immune system connect.
We also must understand how the intestines work in the body. They are part of the digestive system which is responsible for breaking down the food you eat, absorbing nutrients and water to provide nourishment, and removing waste products from the body. The intestines serve as a barrier between the gut and the rest of the body. There are small gaps or tight junctions in the intestines to allow food and nutrients to move into the bloodstream
Hippocrates stated that “all disease begins in the gut.” This is, for the most part, a pretty true statement. Many chronic illnesses begin in the gut. This has to do with your gut bacteria and 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.
We will first need to explain what leaky gut is. What happens when the gaps in your intestines loosen or get larger? Simply put, leaky gut occurs. If this occurs your body is considered to have increased intestinal permeability. As these gaps increase in size, substances can leak into the blood stream that are not supposed to be there such as toxins, bacteria and larger food particles. Generally, these things should move through the intestines and either be processed or excreted. They should not move into other parts of your body. Think of how a filter works, it should only let certain things pass through. If the holes in the filter get larger, more things pass through them. These larger things then pass into the bloodstream and can maneuver their way to every part of your body.
Symptoms of leaky gut include aches, pains, cramps, gas, migraines and bloating. It is hard to assign these symptoms to a specific cause, as they can be caused attributed to many other health ailments. Tests often cannot decipher whether leaky gut is the culprit or not. Inconclusive tests can leave a person undiagnosed and untreated. If you experience any of these symptoms, be aware that the cause could be coming from your intestines. You will want to make sure you discuss this possibility with your doctor.
It is not entirely clear what causes leaky gut. There is a protein responsible for tight junctions called zonulin. Studies show that increased intestinal permeability and loose junctions could be caused by higher levels of zonulin. Zonulin production can be activate by both gluten and unhealthy gut bacteria. These unhealthy bacteria can be encouraged by diets that include processed foods and contain artificial sweeteners. You will want to avoid both things to aid your body in growing healthy gut bacteria.
We know that there are several different bacteria that live in your gut. Some are good and promote healthy digestion and others can cause problems and make your gut unhealthy. There is a substance, referred to as endotoxins, that is created by some bacteria. It is possible for these endotoxins to move into the bloodstream with dietary fat. They can also move into the body as part of the leaky gut issue we already discussed. Either way, once they leave the intestines, they can create an immune response within the body.
Studies have shown that increased endotoxins in the body can lead to rapid onset of insulin resistance and increase in inflammatory markers in the blood activating an inflammatory response. Both are problematic reactions for your body and can contribute to other health concerns.
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. Studies show that endotoxin producing bacteria can increase when refined carbohydrates are present. These carbohydrates also attribute to the quality of intestinal permeability, so the likelihood of endotoxin exposure goes up. Having a healthy diet plays a big role in minimizing endotoxin production.
How can you balance your gut bacteria to avoid these issues? With this plethora of information, you might be asking yourself, why keto is great for your gut? What things should I eat? Or perhaps, more importantly, what should I avoid eating? Next, we will explore both the foods that should be added to your diet and those that should be avoided.
why keto is great for your gut
Based on research, the best diet for a healthy gut should avoid gluten and improve your healthy gut bacteria. You should eliminate foods that are highly processed and those that contain artificial ingredients. A diet that focuses on natural ingredients and whole foods is best to create a balanced environment within your body.
It is also advised to avoid foods that can cause or increase inflammation in the body. Did you know that over 75 percent of people are suffering with chronic inflammation and many don’t even know it? You could have inflammation in your digestive tract, your joints, or you may have allergies, food sensitivities, or any other chronic inflammation issue. It is important to minimize instigators of inflammation. Here are some common foods that cause inflammation: sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, and processed meat. It is wise to watch consumption of these products not only to avoid inflammation but also to promote healthy gut bacteria growth. In order to promote a healthy gut, you will want to eliminate these things:
- Unhealthy diet
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Poor gut flora
- Zinc deficiency
Your body creates fuel, also known as energy, from the food you eat. The goal with keto is to eliminate the carbohydrates that our bodies are used to burning first when we need energy. In doing so, your body then burns fat for fuel. When your body becomes efficient at this, you are in a state known as ketosis. It is a metabolic process where your body uses fat for energy because it does not have carbohydrates to burn. To sum this up a keto diet plan consists of healthy fats, very little carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of protein.
Inflammation and Healthy Gut Bacteria
Due to this nature of the ketogenic diet, most of the foods that cause inflammation will be reduced or removed altogether. This is just one reason why keto is great for your gut. Without the presence of these foods, you will naturally experience a decrease in inflammation in your body. The following foods are recommended to improve your gut health, they are also on the suggested food list when following a keto diet:
- Broccoli, arugula, kale, eggplant, Swiss chard, spinach, zucchini.
- Kimchi, sauerkraut.
- 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.
- Bone broth, teas, kombucha, water.
- Pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts.
If you have a healthy gut, there will likely be less inflammation in your body. With that being said, there are foods that can negatively impact the healthy bacteria in your body. They include wheat-based products, grains with gluten, baked goods, junk food (chips, candy, fast food, etc.), and artificial sweeteners. If following a keto diet, these foods will naturally be reduced, and you will, therefore, promote healthy bacteria in your intestines.
Be Aware of Lectin
Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are found in all plants and animals. They are important to some of the functions in our bodies such as cell growth and function of the immune system. They are known to cause problems with our digestive tract, so we don’t want to consume in excess. They are hard to digest and can even pass through the stomach without any breakdown. Because they are binding, this means they are “sticky” and can attach to the walls of the intestines. This creates issues as the body tries to maintain and repair its cells. They can also pose a problem in the absorption of nutrients as they create a barrier when stuck to the walls of the intestines.If lectins are consistently present in the intestines, damage can occur to the walls. As discussed above, damage to the joints and gaps in the intestines can result in leaky gut. This, of course, means that lectin can leak out into the bloodstream as well which can be a problem for the immune system.
Lectins can be found in red kidney beans, soybeans, wheat, barley, quinoa, rice, peanuts, tomatoes, and potatoes. Again, many of these foods will be reduced if you are following a keto diet so the risk of any potential lectin problems decreases. If you are not following a keto diet, research has shown that it is possible to minimize the lectin content if you thoroughly cook the foods that are high in lectin. You can also sprout or ferment them in order to lessen the lectin content.
healthy lifestyle tips
Your body is up against many negative things externally that are beyond your control. For this reason, it is imperative to remove things that can negatively impact your health, if possible. It is important to encourage good health. Stress can take a huge toll on the body so do what you can to reduce it. We also suggest that you allow enough time for sleep. This is the time that your body rests and repairs itself. Make sure that you are getting the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals if you struggle to get this in with your diet talk with your doctor about supplements. Probiotics are important when it comes to gut health, they are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your digestive system. You can find them in foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt. There are also supplements available that can give you a probiotic boost.
Lastly, exercising is an important part of good health. Sedentary lifestyles can lead to a plethora of problems. A study with 18 lean and 14 obese sedentary participants has shown that regular exercise can impact your gut biome outside of any connections in a diet. The composition of the participant’s gut biomes changed throughout this study. Each individual did 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercises just three times a week over the course of six weeks. There were positive changes exhibited in the gut biome as they continued exercising. When these individuals stopped exercise, the gut reverted. Because of this, scientists believe that consistent exercise can aid in overall gut health.
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. We know that the benefits to finding a healthy, balanced diet are great and that the decision is one that needs to be made based on your health history, overall goals and in consultation with your primary care physician. Our goal here is to address why keto is great for your gut 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.