The keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet that brings your body into ketosis, allowing you to lose weight and improve your health. But, the diet also has numerous side effects, like its effect on gut health. I had to learn that the hard way when the diet ruined my gut health in frightening ways.
When I first heard of keto, a friend of mine could not stop singing its praises. She would post about it on social media, revealing her unbelievable weight loss, increased energy levels, and improved mood. Of course, I was intrigued and started researching the benefits which, besides what she had mentioned, would improve heart health and enhance the quality of sleep. As a years-long insomnia sufferer and someone with a genetic history of heart issues, these benefits, in addition to others, convinced me to give the keto diet a try.
At the beginning of my keto journey, I decided to try it for a few days to see how my body would respond. But, three days in and the first signs of keto gut health started to emerge. I was severely constipated. However, my friend assured me that my body was entering ketosis, and by staying hydrated, the feeling should go away in a week or two. She also warned me that these symptoms could last for one month and that Keto-Flu, as it is called, is very common. Okay, no problems there, I could wait it out.
Four months in, however, and the symptoms had not subsided. I was blocked, figuratively and literally. My intestines were often blocked by hard stool even though I was drinking plenty of water. By now, I had unintentionally lost weight, was bloated, and was experiencing brain fog like nobody’s business. So much for the Keto-Flu lasting one month. Things were only getting worse, not better.
With no end in sight, I decided to research how I could resolve these issues.
How I Fixed My Keto Gut Health
While I was experiencing these issues, I didn’t realize that it was Keto affecting my gut health. So, I was trying to find superficial solutions to fix these problems. I researched how to stop being constipated on the keto diet, how much time after I stopped the keto diet would my body return to normal, and so on.
It was while researching this that I discovered that Keto is known to harm your gut microbiome.
In case you were unaware, there are bacteria in your gut that make up your gut microbiome. This bacteria does not infect you with diseases but helps your body function. It is responsible for digestion, especially the digestion of fiber, your brain health and mental health. However, there can also be “bad” bacteria living in your gut. When the bad bacteria outweighs the good, you start experiencing symptoms.
The keto diet throws these microbes out of sync, leading to brain fog, flu, and constipation.
Essentially, the Keto diet affects your gut health in two ways:
- Using of Artificial Sweeteners
Using artificial sweeteners like stevia, erythritol, and so on, which is common when you’re on Keto, can disrupt the gut microbes. But most keto diet followers use these sweeteners to reduce their carb intake – myself included. However, studies have revealed that just 1 milligram per millimeter of artificial sweetener can make your entire digestive system toxic, leading to a host of health problems.
- Eating a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet
Although research into the effect of the low-carb, high-fat diet yields mixed results, there is evidence to support the fact that the LCHF diet is low in fiber. Whole Grains and Fruit (both restricted by the keto diet) are high in fiber and help you digest food. Meat and poultry, in addition to the veggies allowed on the diet, have no – or low – fiber content. Fiber is crucial to gut health.
My Personal Solution: Focusing on Fixing my Gut Microbiome
By now, you may think I gave up on Keto. But, the diet did have benefits. So, to ensure I could still get the benefits of the Keto diet without the downsides, I started incorporating foods that would improve my gut health.
The foods I incorporated into my diet helped balance the bacteria in my gut instead of multiplying the toxic bacteria. These foods I selected were high in the good bacteria necessary to support your gut.
Kimchi, Kefir, Sauerkraut, and Yoghurt were some of my staples. These foods have probiotics that add good bacteria to your gut and are responsible for regulating the microbiota of your gut.
However, you’re probably wondering how I could include yoghurt and kefir in my diet since they’re full of sugar, which I can’t eat as I’m on Keto. Instead of purchasing regular yoghurt, I use yoghurt and kefir made with monk fruit extract instead of sugar.
Studies supported the use of monk fruit extract in not only helping the gut but also being an excellent substitute for other sweeteners, so I felt confident this would help me.
Research conducted in 2020 also revealed that yoghurt made with monk fruit extract helped improve the gut health in mice. The study revealed that compared to regular yoghurt, the yoghurt made with monk fruit extract ameliorated kidney and liver damage in the rats.
Why Monk Fruit Extract is the Best Sugar Substitute for Keto Diet
Until I discovered research regarding monk fruit extract, I hadn’t heard much about it.
But this is a superfood like no other. Native to Southern China and Northern Thailand, the fruit has been touted as preventing cancer, promoting heart health, and balancing hormones.
The fruit contains no calories and is nearly 200 times sweeter than sugar.
Because it has antimicrobial properties, monk fruit extract acts as a natural microbial agent, inhibiting the growth of toxic microbes. The result is good gut health. The difference between monk fruit and other artificial sweeteners is that the fruit does not feed unfriendly pathogenic bacteria. Instead, it promotes the growth of beneficial Lactobacillus species like L. Casei, Bifidum Bifidus (B.), L’Salivarius and lactic acidophilus which help improve your gut microbiome.
How I use Monk Fruit in my Daily Diet for Microbiome Health
When I started incorporating monk fruit into my diet, I decided to use monk fruit extract. It still has all the benefits of the fruit but is far easier to add to meals and drinks.
For breakfast, I add monk fruit extract to my keto protein shake.
When I’m in the mood for a treat, I also add monk fruit to my keto-friendly desserts.
Throughout the day, I try to consume one teaspoon of monk fruit extract, which is enough to enjoy the fruit’s many benefits.
My go-to monk fruit extract is Munchwiser’s extract. The powder form is easy to add to any recipe in place of sugar, as it dissolves easily. When using it, I also don’t need to use that much as a little goes a long way because it’s nearly 20 times sweeter than sugar. Unlike other monk fruit extract suppliers, Munchwiser’s extract is unadulterated. They do not include dextrose or other sweeteners but use pure monk fruit extract.
They also have a measuring spoon which ensures I’m not overdoing my measurements and making my recipes too sweet.
Since discovering Munchwiser’s monk fruit extract, I’ve also begun making my own monk fruit kefir and can safely say my gut has improved. I can now have the benefits of the Keto diet without any of the downsides. And, I also get all the benefits of monk fruit.