Low Carb Diets: Could it be hurting your gut health?

The New Year is the time to set goals and resolutions for the year. Being in the dietetics field, this can be a hard time for dietitians to defend an overall healthful diet. Fad diet advertisements run rampant around this time, giving hope by providing that quick fix to those struggling with their weight and […]

The New Year is the time to set goals and resolutions for the year. Being in the dietetics field, this can be a hard time for dietitians to defend an overall healthful diet. Fad diet advertisements run rampant around this time, giving hope by providing that quick fix to those struggling with their weight and other health concerns.

When scrolling the internet and hearing talk of dieting, there is usually one type of diet that sticks out; low carb. This can be in the form of paleo, keto, weight watchers, and the list goes on.

Low carbohydrate diets are currently a major subject of debate. On one hand, there can be advantages to some of low carbohydrate diets, including weight loss, increased insulin sensitivity, and decreased risk of metabolic syndrome.

However, on the other hand, new research is showing negative effects on gut health and your gut microbiome with long term use of these diets.

What is Gut Microbiome?

The gut microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that reside in your gut. Some of these viruses and bacteria can be associated with disease but others are one of the main components to improved immune system, mental health, heart, and gut inflammation. Gut microbiome is vital for human survival.

As we get older, our microbiome diversifies. Essentially, the higher the diversity in your microbiome, they healthier you are. Luckily, the foods we eat (probiotics, fiber, and prebotics) can play a role in diversifying our gut microbiome.

How does low carbohydrate diets effect our gut health?

Low carbohydrate diets could be harming our digestive tract/gut in the following ways.

Lacking in Fiber

Low carbohydrate diets eliminate foods such as most fruits, starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes. Many of these foods that are removed from the diet are also high in dietary fiber, an essential nutrient in digestion. Fiber slowly passes through our bodies, undigested, helping maintain bowel regularity.

Lacking in Prebiotics

Because low carbohydrate diets are lacking in dietary fiber, they are also deficient in prebiotics. These indigestible fibers travel through our small intestine and is fermented once they reach the large intestine. This fermentation process feeds beneficial bacteria colonies (and probiotics) and helps to increase the diversity of out microbiomes.

Imbalance of healthy and unhealthy microbes

Studies have linked low carb diets to less total bacteria and fewer of the bacteria found in the guts of healthy people. This microbial imbalance—termed dysbiosis— can cause many diseases, from autoimmunity, to metabolic and GI-tract disorders, to anxiety and depression.

Reduced production of short-chain fatty acids

When gut bacteria ferments or metabolizes carbohydrates, they release short-chain fatty acids. The production of short-chain fatty acids are linked to reducing inflammation and colon cancer risks. Studies show that low-carb diets reduce the production of short-chain fatty acids and antioxidants.

Conclusion

While some eating plans or diets may have their advantages, it is so important to pay attention to your overall health. Given the wide range of advantages a healthy gut has on our body, it is of the utmost importance to consume the necessary nutrients (high fiber carbohydrates, fiber) in order to maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

If you are looking for help to improve you diet in a healthy way, apply to work with me!