Part 1 of 2…
A funny thing happened when I decided to switch from a primal diet to a keto-paleo diet.
The 2pm bloat stopped.
Instantly. Suddenly. And, I hope permanently.
You see, I have IBS-C. It took an insane amount of specialists to determine this. Not because they kept finding things wrong with me–but because they couldn’t find anything wrong at all, in the end. You see, IBS is a diagnosis that comes from ruling everything else out. First, I had too much stomach acid. Enter 20+ years of taking zantac (and only in recent years did they discover that taking acid-lowering drugs could permanently effect acid levels in the stomach, and that often acid reflux is caused by UNDER-production acid, not over-production) So then, I had too little. I had GERD. Within 6 months of quitting taking zantac, I was diagnosed with dysbiosis and leaky gut. Perhaps too much acid-supplementation just ‘blew’ my gut. I have gluten intolerance and lactose intolerance. I have FODMAP sensitivities. Maybe I just have a crummy duodenum. I’ve had duodenal ulcers—twice—that have bled. And I’ve been fully treated and am ulcer-free. It’s not actually my stomach—my stomach works great–fast, in fact. But after that?… Everything slows right down after it leaves the stomach.
When I took gluten out of my diet, things improved for a while. And then the issues returned. Same thing with removing FODMAP foods. Problems went away, but then, eventually, kept coming back.
It is true that I had a long-time addiction to laxatives, diuretics, and enemas. Kind-of a combination of eating disorder and an attempt at relieving my chronic discomfort. It is unknown whether all of these things caused my stomach issues, or were a reaction to said stomach issues. Nature/nurture.
No amount of restriction would permanently rid me of The Bloat. Making me look pregnant, making me so uncomfortable that every pair of pants I own now have an elastic waist. Making me say to my husband, every day, stay away from me–there’s no room for that kind of thing today.
And then it happened. In a completely random, unrelated attempt to lose those 5-7 pounds that have crept on since my leaky gut issue, the switch to a low-carb diet brought…silence. Peace.
There has been a learning curve. Some mistakes. If you have a sensitive stomach, I still don’t recommend eating an egg-and-flax wrap the same day as you eat a giant salad. Don’t eat egg-and-flax for one meal, then egg-and-psyllium husk the next. In fact, save the flax and psyllium for occasional high-fibre treats only. Maybe on those hormonal weeks that everything just seems to be moving…slower. Trust me, even though some claim a low-carb diet can be constipating, I have found that the bowels adjust within a couple of weeks and return to ‘regular’ bowel function. Which, for me, was once-a-day before keto, and is once-a-day again now. (Sure, there are cases out there where people experience diarrhea, but it usually caused by poor choice of fats or the absence of a gallbladder )
Perhaps, my IBS was simply being caused by eating too many ‘good for you’ vegetables. Something I am naturally doing a lot less of now. It is so totally possible to eat too many vegetables which can lead to bloating and discomfort.
It is too often the case that IBS-sufferers are told to ‘eat more fibre’, when in fact their damaged guts could stand to have a whole lot less fibre, both of the vegetable kind, and especially the kind that don’t break down in the gut and act to ‘squeegee’ everything out, scraping their way through the entire digestive tract (ie; grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and bulking agents like psyllium).
There is a lot of internet chatter out there about how ‘keto healed my IBS’. I’m not going to add those links—it’s a lot of poop talk—but you can find them easy enough through Dr Google. There really isn’t enough info out there about how keto affects the gut. About WHY it improves digestive issues so consistently. Or about whether or not these improvements last.
Everything, and I do mean everything, points to bacteria and microbes in the gut. Your micro-biome. This is a crazy hot topic with researchers right now, and the micro-biome is being blamed for everything from autism and Alzheimers to food cravings and obesity.
I did find this article by Chris Kresser very interesting. It points to 5 things your doctor may not look for when diagnosing and treating IBS—many of which are controlled with a very low-carb diet. His list includes SIBO and dysbiosis—both of which translate into ‘gut bacteria’. Oh, the internet chatter about keto and gut bacteria!! (Check out the comments at the bottom of his article!)
A healthy balance of gut microbes means healthy digestion. And bad digestion almost always leads to a diagnosis of unbalanced gut microbes, AKA SIBO and dysbiosis. So how do you get healthy microbes? You eat foods that feed the good microbes. And you avoid foods that feed the bad microbes. Microbes feed on carbohydrates. Different microbes eat different carbohydrates. A low-carb diet is therefore, obviously, low in microbe-feeding foods. But is that such a bad thing? In the case microbe foods—is this diet low in ALL microbe-feeding foods, or just bad-microbe-feeding foods (because this diet is still rich in leafy green veggies)?
In the case of SIBO, would a low-carb diet not help to starve out the over-abundance of bad microbes? When microbes feed, they produce methane gas (AKA, the 2pm bloat). So, if you don’t feed the microbes that love simple sugar, gluten, grains, even FODMAP-consuming microbes, then they starve and die AND YOU STOP GETTING METHANE-GAS BELLY. And then you DO feed the microbes that thrive on the fore-mentioned leafy greens, low-carb veggies and occasional carrots, pumpkin, and squash—then those are going to be the microbes that now have room to populate your gut and multiply, then this is a good thing, right?
This, inevitably, brings up the age-old question of ‘do you need to take probiotics while eating a low-carb diet?
That’s a question for Part 2, next week….
**Feature photo courtesy of The Functional Gut Clinic