The Ketogenic Diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

January 15, 2020 , ,

Do you have irritable bowel syndrome, and have you heard that the ketogenic diet could help? I invite you to continue reading this article.

Meal Plans from SOSCuisine for a solution to IBS

In the case of an irritable bowel, the most often recommended diet is the low FODMAP diet*. This acronym includes the families of fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for the symptoms in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). There is a great deal of scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of this diet, which enables people with IBS to identify problem food groups and thereby better manage their symptoms.

Could the ketogenic diet help reduce IBS symptoms?

By adopting a keto diet, which is very low in carbohydrates, we eliminate grain products, legumes, the majority of fruits as well as many vegetables. As a result, the total load of fermentable carbohydrates consumed is reduced.

In this way, the exclusion of certain FODMAP families would permit one to temporarily reduce the various intestinal problems encountered in people with IBS such as gas, bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea or constipation.

However, the keto diet does not eliminate all of the FODMAP families. In effect, there are fructans with garlic and onion, sorbitol with avocado, mannitol with cauliflower, galacto-oligosaccharides with certain nuts and seeds, and lactose with cream, Greek yogurt and cheeses. Given the lack of variety in this diet, the same vegetables and dairy products will repeat themselves over the course of the week. So, if you have a hard time tolerating a FODMAP family, the consumption frequency of these foods can have a negative impact on your symptoms.

Additionally, since the keto diet is high in fat, it could actually exacerbate IBS symptoms because:

  • Eating a large amount of fat slows down gastric emptying, creating abdominal pain, gas retention and abdominal distension.
  • This type of diet accelerates the gastrocolic reflex resulting in the urge to have a bowel movement shortly after eating. This is far from desirable if you have IBS with predominant diarrhea.
  • With a diet high in fat and low in carbohydrates it is difficult to reach the daily recommendations of fiber ranging from 25 to 35 grams per day depending on one’s gender. This lack of fiber can worsen your constipation, which is not desirable especially if you have IBS with predominant constipation.

In addition to these effects which could aggravate an irritable bowel, a keto diet can also cause nutritional deficiencies, particularly with the B group of vitamins, beta carotene, vitamin C and calcium. And, depending on how you follow the diet, you may consume too much saturated fat.

*FODMAPs are fermentable carbohydrates that are partly responsible for causing symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more info, read this article.

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Jennifer Morzier
Jennifer is a Registered Dietitian graduated from the University of Montreal in December 2018 and is a member of the Ordre professionnel des diététistes du Québec (OPDQ). She believes that the quality of our food choices has a direct impact on our health and energy level. Her goal? To help people improve the quality of what they put in their plates, for their better well-being and greater pleasure.

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