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How Insufficient Carbohydrates Can Affect the Gut Microbiota

Oct 20, 2018


The low-carbohydrate diet craze is making a comeback and raising concerns among doctors and dietitians at medical centers in Suffolk County, NY, including Peconic Bay Medical Center. According to new research by a team of scientists led by Richard Agans, of Wright State University's Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, low-carb and no-carb diets can disrupt the balance of microbes in your digestive tract. Keep reading to learn more about maintaining the balance in your body while promoting healthy eating habits.

The Low-Carb Craze

A decade ago, the Atkins diet was the most popular diet in the weight-loss industry. This fad has faded in and out of popularity over the years, but due to a resurgence in low-carb dieting, it’s gained a considerable following in the last two years. The Ketogenic, or Keto, diet is the latest low-carb plan that's almost identical to the Atkins diet. The Keto diet encourages participants to reduce their carbohydrate intake to less than 20 grams per day. That’s the equivalent of a half a bagel, one piece of toast, 10 croutons, or 1 ounce of whole grain pasta. Like Atkins, Keto also promotes the increased consumption of high-quality fats and proteins like salmon, organic beef, almonds, and olive oil.


Carbs and Gut Flora

While there are some benefits to decreasing your daily intake of carbohydrates, drastically reducing or eliminating carbs altogether can disrupt the microbiota in your digestive system. Inside your digestive tract is a plethora of microbes and bacteria that help break down food for absorption. Some of these bacteria are specially designed to break down carbohydrates. When you reduce your carbohydrate intake, these bacteria essentially starve, and the balance of microbes is disrupted. If you have a cheat day and eat that entire bagel for breakfast, chances are you’re going to feel sluggish for the rest of the day because your body simply doesn’t have the means to process carbs like it once did. When your body can’t process carbohydrates quickly and effectively, your insulin levels are also thrown off-balance. For people who already have problems with insulin, this can cause a drastic drop in blood sugar levels as well as serious health complications.

Maintaining the Balance

As the old saying goes, “all good things in moderation.” Low to moderate carbohydrate intake is generally considered healthy, but your recommended intake may differ depending on your level of exercise and any pre-existing medical conditions. As always, before starting any diet or exercise plan, you should consult your doctor. While low-carb diets have helped many people lose weight, you shouldn’t jump into a plan like Keto immediately. Acclimate your body to your new intake levels slowly, over the course of several weeks, or you could throw your gut flora and insulin levels out of balance. To build a workout and diet plan that works for your body type and weight loss goals, schedule a visit with your doctor at Peconic Bay Medical Center, your local medical care center in Suffolk County, NY.