Physician Outlook

The Potential Effects Of Dieting On The Microbiome

A Nutritionist’s Perspective

Let’s all agree on one thing - food is never the enemy, it is however a primordial need for our survival and well being.

Our diet, the type, quality and origin of our food help shape our gut microbes and affect their composition and function.

A healthy balance of the microbes in our gut can be disrupted by significant lifestyle changes, constant yo-yo dieting, stress and antibiotics, leading to the development of various chronic diseases with underlying inflammatory conditions like IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, allergies, and autoimmune diseases.

During the past several decades the adoption of modern dietary habits has become a growing global health concern. It is strongly associated with obesity, diabetes and other related metabolic diseases, promoting not only inflammation but also both structural and behavioural changes in gut microbiota.

Current trends suggest that the keto diet may reduce inflammation and help treat some digestive orders, like the ones previously mentioned, although more research is needed.

The ketogenic diet is a rapidly growing dietary trend for weight loss and was initially designed in the US in the 1920’s for treatment of refractory epilepsy.

Meeting the keto diet’s requirements means cutting out nutrient rich fruits, veggies and grains, making it difficult to meet your body’s micronutrient needs.

When the body is in ketosis it causes three specific ketones to be released. One of the ketones released, beta-hydroxybutyrate, which monitors ketosis levels, is said to block immune system receptors linked to inflammation.

On the other hand the keto diet may harm your gut bacteria that could then lead to various digestive issues.

One study conducted by Turnbaugh of UCST states -

“To better understand how microbial shifts on the ketogenic diet might impact health, researchers exposed the gut of mice to different components of microbiomes of humans adhering to ketogenic diets. The results showed that these altered microbial populations had reduced numbers of intestinal proinflammatory Th17 immune cells - a type of T cell critical for fighting off infectious disease, but also known to promote inflammation in autoimmune diseases.”

To maintain the health of your brain, muscle, bone, nerves, skin, blood circulation and immune system your body requires a steady supply of raw materials of macronutrients - proteins, fats and carbohydrates and a small number of micronutrients - vitamins and minerals.

So how can you make sure you’re fulfilling your nutritional needs to help build and maintain a healthy gut?

Ideally the best way is to fuel your body with a well rounded diet of foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean sources of protein like eggs, chicken, fish, turkey, greek yogurt along with healthy fats such as nuts, nut butters, seeds, avocados and olive oil.

If the end result is that we all want to be healthier, happier, humans living our best life, then we have to ditch the idea of a quick fix and change our mindset when it comes to how we feed and move our bodies because after all, it is our most priceless possession. 

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