How does this popular weight loss diet affect your gut bacteria and gut health?
What Keto’s Missing
Keto and Your Gut Structure
Your gut is a long, hollow, twisty tube that runs from your mouth to your anus. Whatever enters this pipeline is meant to be kept segregated from the rest of your body, except for the nutrients your digestive system carefully collects and delivers to your bloodstream to nourish you.
Not All Fats Are the Same
Why You Need Healthy Gut Bacteria
A healthy population of microbes is good for your gut and for your overall health.
- Support your immune system, by producing the chemical messengers it uses to facilitate communication among your white blood cells.
- Keep inflammation from getting out of control, by helping balance the immune response.
- Stop harmful bacteria from colonizing your gut, by crowding them out.
- Help your gut and your brain “talk” to each other through the gut-brain axis.
- Enhance your cognition and boost your mood, by making neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
- Regulate bodily processes, by churning out hormones — including digestive hormones and sex hormones.
How to Keep Your Gut Bacteria Happy
Your gut bacteria do a lot for you — they want just a few things in return. These are good gut health tips for everyone, but they’re especially crucial if you’re following the keto diet.
- Feast on Fermented Foods: Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria, so eating them is a great way to repopulate your gut with the good guys. Most studies have been conducted on yogurt and other cultured dairy products, but sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, tempeh, miso, and kombucha are also fermented. Certain cheeses also contain probiotics, including cottage cheese, Gouda, some cheddars, and Parmesan. The friendly bacteria in Parmesan have been shown to survive digestion and colonize the gut.
- Pass the Prebiotics: If you want beneficial bacteria in your gut, make sure to serve them snacks. Prebiotics are supplements of fiber and/or polyphenols that bacteria like to eat. (Everyone knows folks stay at a party longer if there are good eats.)
- Pile Your Plate with Plant Protein: Trying to get more of your protein from plants may be a good way to protect your gut health. Several studies show that plant protein — like mung beans and peas — may improve the ratio of good guys to bad guys in your gut. That could hold true for other types of plant protein, such as tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, and black beans.
- Optimize Your Omega-3/6 Ratio: Most people eat too many omega-6s and not enough omega-3s. You can rebalance your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio by avoiding vegetable oils (and the processed foods that contain a lot of them); getting your omega-6s from healthful sources such as poultry, eggs, almonds, and whole grains; and eating omega-3-rich fatty fish or walnuts frequently. Like plant protein, omega-3s seem to be gut bacteria-friendly.
- Avoid Artificial Sweeteners: There’s increasing evidence that artificial sweeteners, such as Ace-K and sucralose, are bad news for good bacteria. Stevia, a more natural alternative, may be a safer choice; however, more research is needed to be sure.
- The keto diet isn’t for everyone. A lot of people find it hard to stick to such a strict eating plan for the long term. But other folks swear by it. So if you’re intrigued and you want to give it a try, do it right by taking steps to care for your gut microbiota. If you keep them happy, they’ll return the favor.