While the keto diet is not designed specifically with gut health in mind, it does include many elements that make your microbes happy. There are many benefits to having a healthy and thriving gut biome. There is a growing body of research showing that the ketogenic diet improves your gut health, as well as the link that shows a healthy gut can improve or cure anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.
READ PART ONE: How healing your gut may cure your anxiety and depression
The Basics of Low Carb/High Fat Diets
There are three main categories of low carb, high fat diets – Paleo, Keto and Carnivore.
All of these diets have many nuances and sub-cultures of fans, which is why there are some debates on how to define them. Small differences aside, all of these diets are high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs.
The reduction in carbs on these diets gives your body a break (because there’s less sugar to deal with), and helps your body relearn to process sugar appropriately, normalizing your blood glucose levels––but there are also a few key differences.
What Is a Paleo Diet?
The paleo diet focuses on eating the way our ancestors did and avoiding those things they wouldn’t have had access to, like processed sugar, most grains and legumes, vegetable oils, and anything made with artificial ingredients.
Natural sugars like honey, maple syrup and fruit are still included but limited.
Basically, if the food was developed after the agricultural revolution, it’s probably off the menu.
What Is a Keto Diet?
The ketogenic diet is similar, but puts even more of an emphasis on eating high fat/low carb.
In keto you should get a mix of about 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs on this diet, which means that people on a keto diet have to be careful about fruits and starchy vegetables in a way that those on a paleo diet don’t.
The main point of a ketogenic diet is to put your body in a state called ketosis, where it burns fat for fuel instead of carbs.
What is a Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet is also known as Zero Carb and it is based on solely eating foods from animal sources, meat, cheese, butter and eggs. And salt and water. That is all. Purists say meat, salt and water only.
The Benefits of Paleo, Ketogenic and Carnivore Diets
Following a low carb, high fat diet can be really beneficial for your health in general. Many people find that it helps them maintain good energy levels, find their optimal weight, or resolve longstanding inflammatory based health issues.
By avoiding carbs and sugar, the body can reverse type two diabetes, and insulin resistance.
What’s more, ketogenic diets can actually change the way your body creates energy for the better.
While most of us think that our body has to run on glucose, it can actually also run on fat and the ketones you body makes from them ––and this is great for your overall health.
Fats burn much more cleanly and efficiently than carb-based sugars, which means that you not only get more energetic bang for your buck, your metabolismalso starts to adapt, and you feel fuller longer.
How the Ketogenic diet helps your gut
When it comes to your gut health specifically, eating keto can:
1. Make it easier to feed your microbiome.
The leafy greens that that you eat on the ketogenic diet is full of pre-biotic fibres.
This allows the good bacteria to out-populate the bad.
2. Starve out the bad bacteria and yeasts.
While prebiotic fiber is your good guys’ favorite food, the not-so-good guys really go for refined sugar and processed foods
Even worse, certain types of sweeteners and processed foods actually harm your beneficial bacteria, which tips the scales even further in the bad guys’ favor.
3. Keto protects your gut lining.
While the majority of bacteria in your gut are beneficial, lots of other substances move through your gastrointestinal system every day, and they’re not all as friendly.
If your gut is healthy, this is okay, because your gut barrier keeps everything in your gastrointestinal system, which can process it and eliminate it safely.
Two of the main foods associated with a weak gut barrier are grains and beans. Keto removes these from your diet.
Also the good fats you get on these diets can encourage your intestinal cells to release a protein that reduces temporary bouts of inflammation that can damage your gut lining, and they can also promote the growth of bacteria that strengthen the tight junctions between the cells of your gut barrier.
4. The Keto diet encourages microbial diversity.
One of the big differences between the keto diet and the modern Western diet is the amount and types of fat involved.
While the very mislead, mainstream diet focuses on being as low in fat as possible, the Keto diet is much higher in healthy fats, and encourage people to get specific types of dietary fats from ghee, non-processed plant oils, oily fish, and organic meat.
Eating this way means you get way more omega-3 fatty acids than omega-6 fatty acids, which is important because omega-3s are closely correlated with microbial diversity.
5. The keto diet removes some of the most common threats to your microbiome.
Unfortunately, many common factors in our modern Western way of living and eating are extremely damaging to the gut microbiome.
Exposure to pesticides, GMO foods, or antibiotics in food or medication can quickly devastate the balance of your gut bacteria, but ketogenic often means that you naturally end up avoiding many of these gut-unfriendly substances.
Whether or not you decide to go full keto, there are clearly huge benefits to shifting your dietary balance more in favor of fats and proteins and less in favor of carbs from grains, legumes, and sugar, so it’s well worth giving this style of eating a try.
Anxiety and depression are plaguing our nation. Is it possible something as simple as changing our dietary guidelines may save at least 50% of sufferers without any medication?
Yes. Are you struggling? Would you like to try something for 6-8 weeks of your life to see if you can turn around your moods, your gut health and your energy levels?
Surely for a couple of months you can give this a try, you may well find that it is absolutely life changing. And if it doesn’t work for you, what have you lost? Nothing.
The best way to start a revolutionary diet change like this is to:
1) Read as much as you can on the topic. Start here