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I'm A Keto Neuroscientist: This Is How Going Keto Affects Your Gut Microbiome

Image by Ina Peters / Stocksy
August 12, 2021

When it comes to the biggest buzzwords of the well-being space, keto and the gut microbiome rank pretty high on the list. So let's combine them into one big buzzword sandwich (keto-friendly, of course): How does going keto affect your gut microbiome? 

It's a question the king of keto Dom D'Agostino, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of South Florida who focuses on neuropharmacology, medical biochemistry, physiology, and neuroscience, receives all the time from his students. While the connection between keto and the microbiome is not formally taught yet (the scientific literature is almost there, he tells us on the mindbodygreen podcast, but not quite), D'Agostino does have some thoughts about how the eating plan can affect your gut.

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Some food for thought, below. 

How going keto can affect your gut microbiome.

According to D'Agostino, how keto affects your microbiome really depends on the types of foods you eat. See, the keto diet falls on a spectrum of sorts—some follow a super strict eating plan to remain in ketosis, while others find success with a more relaxed approach. As a general rule: The more plants you cut out, the less diverse your gut microbiome may be. If you're someone who was perhaps used to eating lots of higher-carb fruits and whole grains (which aren't necessarily keto-friendly), you might experience a shift in your microbiome after you cut those out. 

"[Keto] does restrict plants and fruits to a certain degree that it could be impacting the diversity of the gut microbiome," D'Agostino explains, especially if you're only beginning to dip your toes into the keto waters. "Under some conditions, you might want to use probiotics," he adds, if you really want to elevate your gut microbiome.* mindbodygreen's probiotic+, for example, contains a unique combination of four bacterial strains to ease bloating, aid digestion, and help reset your gut.*

Some, however, may find that embarking on a keto diet actually enhances the microbial diversity in their gut: "I actually eat more plants on a ketogenic diet than I did growing up eating a high carb diet," says D'Agostino. "Now, I have a lot of gut-healthy salads, vegetables, nuts, artichokes, and greens." So even though the diet does exclude some foods, you might find that you're eating a larger variety of plants than you had before—and, thus, you may have a more diverse microbiome. It all depends on the person, and it's important to listen to what your own body is trying to tell you. 

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The takeaway.

So how does keto affect the diversity of your gut microbiome? It all depends on the foods you choose to add or limit in your diet. That being said, eating nothing but butter and bacon isn't so good for your microbiome—or your general well-being, for that matter. But if you eat a wide array of plants (perhaps more than you had before going keto!), the diet could support a diverse gut.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.