Whenever you read about diets and exercise routines that break with the norm, you’re guaranteed to find staunch objections and even ridicule.
The Keto diet is not immune to this, and if you search for “keto diet dangers”, you’d be led to believe that it poses long-term health risks for everything from your brain to your digestive health.
However, a lot of these opinions are misguided at best, and in many cases just outright wrong.
So, we decided to address some of the digestion related concerns that are out there.
When it comes to keto diets, all the naysayers seem to grasp onto the side effects that are common during the induction phase. There’s no denying these exist, and for some people, they can last several weeks.
But just because your body goes through an adjustment phase, doesn’t mean this is a permanent state. Of all the people I have encountered that struggled with the keto-flu for more than a week, it always came down to simple mistakes being made.
The most common complaints I hear about digestive issues on the keto diet usually revolve around constipation or diarrhea. Certainly not pleasant experiences and quite literally a pain in the butt, however, are they really that common or even permanent effects?
This is actually quite a common experience for newcomers to any form of low-carb diet. The reason is simple: some of the most fiber-rich foods are also high in carbs. And because you’re cutting those out completely, you can quickly end up with a diet that is not sufficient in fiber.
The solution is rather simple though in that you need to add more low-carb high-fiber food to your diet. Things like almonds, avocado, chia seeds, cabbage, and eggplant are just some of the healthy options for solving the problem.
Another problem can be unnoticed dehydration. This is especially common in the early stages before you enter full ketosis. At this stage, your body will metabolize glycogen which binds to about 3 parts water. So, always make sure you drink enough water.
The most common reason for the rather unpleasant runs is that you’re taking in the wrong types of fat. Many people who blindly start the keto diet will overload on trans-fats, rather than increasing their healthy fat intake.
The more complex trans-fats you consume, the less your body can process them, and the more likely you will have that uncomfortable feeling of not wanting to be too far from a toilet.
Again, this is something that can be easily fixed with dietary adjustments.
So, let’s take a look at how the keto diet will actually promote a healthy gut.
Keeping the good bacteria cultures in your stomach happy goes far beyond a healthy digestive system. Gut bacteria also have a huge impact on your hormonal levels, which in turn influence practically every body function and your mental health.
So, how does keto fare when it comes to feeding the good guys?
Very well actually! See, the non-starchy food sources that you need to increase for keto are loaded with prebiotic fiber. And prebiotics are an essential nutrient to feed probiotics in your gut.
The happier your probiotic bacteria are, the better your digestive system will work.
While not all carbs are bad for you, the highly processed ones including sugar don’t just result in those unwanted love handles.
Most people these days consume way too much sugar, and often don’t even know they’re doing it. From your morning cereal to the sandwich you pick up at the deli at lunchtime, the majority of processed food is laced with sugar.
And sugar is the perfect food for the majority of unwanted bacteria in your gut. By feeding these bacteria, you can cause significant imbalances in your microbiome, often causing a constant feeling of sickness.
With the keto diet, you will be removing practically all sugar and processed food, meaning this won’t become a problem.
Gut lining is one part of the digestive system that rarely gets enough attention. Its main function is to create a barrier that stops harmful materials from entering your bloodstream.
No matter how careful you are with the food you eat, there will always be some harmful elements, and it’s the job of your gut lining to keep everything within your gastrointestinal system.
As long as harmful substances remain there, your digestive system will process and get rid of them. However, if your gut lining is damaged then everything from microparticles, toxins, and bacteria can leak into your blood.
Keto can help your gut lining in two ways. Firstly, the healthy fats that you should be loading up on help release proteins that reduce inflammation which otherwise would be very damaging to your gut lining.
Secondly, even if you don’t suffer from celiac disease (gluten intolerance), large amounts of grains and beans will significantly increase the amount of gluten your body has to process.
And increased amounts of gluten will result in increased amounts of a protein called zonulin, which has negative effects on the connective tissue of intestinal walls.
The good news is that a keto-friendly diet will remove practically all grains and beans, so you will significantly reduce this risk.
Making the keto diet work and remaining in ketosis is not an easy task. It requires self-discipline, careful planning and a willingness to break with commonly held dietary beliefs.
But the results for health, weight loss, and mental clarity are nothing short of spectacular and well published, it’s the lesser known facts like those above, that can really put dieters’ minds at ease.
While the ideal approach is to adapt your diet through food intake only, there are some natural supplements that can help you with the initial common side effects, as well as remain in ketosis.
Giving your body that little extra boost of hard to find nutrients will make a huge difference.
If you follow the guidelines above and you are still having digestive issues, then it is probably not your diet that is the cause. To find out the underlying cause of your digestion problems I would recommend doing the G.I Map stool test to find out if it is pathogenic bacteria, parasites or yeast that are giving you grief.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions.
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