As an IBS sufferer you will be keen to try ANYTHING which could help you gain some sort of symptom control. So, you will be wondering whether the claims that the ketogenic diet can help IBS are real or not?
Unlike the low FODMAP diet, you will likely be thinking that this diet looks a lot easier. You will be tempted to try it – why not? Well, just read my article first so you have ALL the info and then you can make a choice as to what is best for you.
Table of Contents
What Is the Ketogenic Diet?
The ketogenic diet is a very low carbohydrate, high fat, high protein diet.
The diet was originally invented for those who have epilepsy. It was found that this diet was able to switch the body to using ketones as a fuel source – a product of breaking down fats. This then helped manage epileptic fits.
What is Ketosis?
When ketones are present in your body, this is said to be a state of ketosis. Ketosis can be tested through urine, blood and breath samples.
Please note that ketosis is not the same as ketoacidosis which happens in uncontrolled diabetes.
Can The Ketogenic Diet Help IBS?
There is currently no research into the ketogenic diet and IBS. So, it is impossible to know if ketosis would help your symptoms or not.
What we do have is a study looking at a diet which is low carbohydrate (20g / day) (1). The study did show an improvement for those with IBS-D.
BUT (sorry there is too many ‘buts’ I know!) ….the study only had 13 people in it and by reducing overall carbohydrate intake, they would have also reduced their FODMAP intake. So, we do not know if their symptom improvement came from the low FODMAP diet or a total carbohydrate reduction.
The other interesting area of research we do have is looking at the Ketogenic Diet effect on gut bacteria. There are a few small studies done in people with epilepsy that suggest the ketogenic diet reduces both the amount and the diversity of our gut bacteria (2,3, 4).
Again, these studies have limitations so we can not go demonising the ketogenic diet either. The studies are small and not done in people who have IBS.
The ketogenic diet is good for IBS symptoms, but only due to the reduction in FODMAPs. I know at this point it can be tempting to just go for it and I know how awful it is living with gut symptoms every day – having to plan each meal around what may or may not happen.
But, I would highly recommend against this diet as there is absolutely no evidence that it works and we do not know what damage it could be doing long term.
Instead, I would advise you do the low FODMAP process under the guidance of dietitian. This way you will not end up on a long-term fad diet, scared to come off it as you have zero idea of what is causing your symptoms. And, all the while doing further damage to your gut.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.