The Keto Diet Can Impact Your Gut Health In Not-So-Pretty Ways


We all know by now that it takes a pretty special (not to mention dedicated) person to embrace the keto lifestyle, right? It’s no easy task to constantly make sure your diet contains 80 percent fat, 15 percent protein and a measly 5 percent carbs (if not less) at all times. And while this setup could boast some big benefits in the way of cognitive function, we’re not so sure the same goes for a keto dieter’s gut health (AKA your microbiome).

In a recent post, we explored the roles that prebiotics and probiotics play in helping your average person maintain a healthy gut. And when we learned that a high-fat diet can encourage the bad bacteria in our digestive systems to flourish, our thoughts immediately jumped to one thing: the keto diet.

How does the keto diet impact your gut health?

There are several key factors at play here. The first, as we mentioned, is the fact that your diet is so incredibly high in fat, which then means that it’s very restrictive in carbohydrates. Yes, the fat fuels bad bacteria, but the lack of carbohydrates can end up starving the good bacteria as well, creating an even bigger problem.

Prebiotics, the dietary fiber that we consume from carbohydrate sources (both grains and vegetables alike) serve as food for the probiotics, or good bacteria, in your body. Without it, they cannot thrive and keep the number of bad bacteria in your gut in balance. So if you neglect these sources of fiber on a daily basis, you’re definitely not doing your gut health any factors.

This can explain why so many people, when switching to the keto diet, experience an array of uncomfortable digestive issues from severe constipation to leaky gut syndrome.

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So, can you be keto and still strike a healthy balance in your microbiome?

The short answer: yes, but with a lot of effort.

First and foremost, you have to maximize the nutritional value coming from that minuscule allotment of carbs each day, which means leaning into all of the dark leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) possible. And on days that this doesn’t happen, taking a prebiotic fiber supplement probably isn’t a such a bad idea.

Since many of the fermented food options that offer an abundance of probiotics are off limits to keto dieters (or can only be consumed in small quantities), a high-quality probiotic supplement could be incredibly helpful as well. After all, you have to keep both of these babies balanced to see your gut bacteria do what you want it to do.

As for the astronomical fat content of the keto diet encouraging the proliferation of bad bacteria, there isn’t much you can do other than battle it a bit with the prebiotics and probiotics we just mentioned. Science has yet to show how the state of ketosis itself impacts the health of the microbiome, so we just have to lean into what we know for now, which is that prebiotics and probiotics make for a happy tummy.

Now, who wants to add a big green salad to that slab of bacon?