Can Low-Carb Diets Cause Gut Problems in Some People?

Wok filled with Chicken Fajitas with Bell Peppers and Onions
Can a low-carb diet cause health problems
for some people?

I've been reading some disturbing things on the internet about low-carb diets.

While that isn't a new phenomenon, I'm a bit shocked by the reaction of the low-carb community to the possibility that low-carb diets starve beneficial bacteria in the colon.

Defending theory and hypothesis isn't helping to spread their cause. It's just making it more difficult to get to the truth.

Your life is literally in your hands.

What you chose to do yesterday has determined who and what you are today. What you choose to do today will determine who and what you become tomorrow.

There is no getting out of it.

Life isn't stagnant. It is always moving and flowing and evolving.

In fact, your environment literally mirrors what is going on inside your mind. Where you place your attention and what you choose to focus on determines what will happen to you.

Your thought process, beliefs, the way you interpret and evaluate what is really going on around you doesn't just contribute to your reality. It literally determines your reality. IS your reality.

Perception is everything.

What you think literally comes into being, so the mind and your belief system is the first place to look if you want to change your destiny.

I Thought Low-Carb Would Save Me

For a long time, I didn't understand that.

I thought self-improvement programs were the answer to all of my problems.

I thought that if I could just lose those extra pounds, if I could change my physical reality into what it should be, then everything would be right with the world. I'd be thin and happy and life would be perfect.

But it didn't work out that way.

Yes, I lost a bunch of weight by tweaking the Atkins Diet to make it work better for me, but the ultimate goal -- true thinness -- was always just outside of my reach.

My body would only let me get so thin, and then it would slam on the brakes.

When that happened, I did what others in my situation have always done. I turned to more and more restrictive diets. I thought that if I just whittled enough food choices out of my life, lowered my dietary fat, and dropped my calories, then low-carb magic would suddenly knock on my door.

The weight would start falling off of me, and I'd be happy -- just like all of those low-carb books promised.

Brain and Heart on a Teeter-Totter with Brain too Heavy
Which is in charge of your inner state?
Your brain or your heart?

That worked for a while. I lost over 100 pounds following low-calorie, low-carb diets, but eventually, my body had enough of that nonsense. Eventually, it started to rebel against me.

Or maybe it was my mind. I don't know.

I've traveled quite a distance since the day I decided to kick my low-carb diet to the curb and give up dieting altogether.

I admit I was angry that day.

I had gained over 30 pounds following a low-carb nutritional ketosis program that promised me the miracle I was seeking after. It promised me it would change my life; and yeah -- it did that.

Just not in the way I thought it would.

Plus, I didn't expect others within the low-carb and paleo communities to react as they did.

Thoughts on Nutritional Ketosis (Or, What I Thought was Nutritional Ketosis)

Fried Bacon Ends in a Skillet
Fried bacon ends is a Nutritional Ketosis treat
that many Keto dieters snack on.

Looking back now, I can see that I was doomed from the start. I was doing the same thing I had always done, even trying a diet that I had gained weight with before, and yet I had expected different results.

I swallowed the current idea being preached within the low-carb community that eating too much protein was my problem.
Many people told me that I just needed to eat more fat and stay on board, and give Nutritional Ketosis more time to work.

But, that's the definition of insanity I've been told, (Albert Einstein, to be exact!) to keep doing the same thing over and over again expecting things to be different this time around.

I don't know if that's true.

It sounds more like our mechanical programming to me, but maybe there really isn't any difference between the two. Maybe I deserved to be ridiculed for believing in that insanity again, and maybe not.

I definitely didn't understand how the subconscious mind worked, and I didn't understand the degree to which our childhood conditioning has its hands wrapped around our throats -- squeezing the very life breath right out of us.

Like most of humanity, I was sound asleep spiritually.

Girl Sleeping on a Park Bench, Head Resting on Her Suitcase
To keep repeating what doesn't work
you are sleepwalking in broad daylight.

Life for me over the past couple of years has been quite complex.

When I first started this blog, I was angry at low-carb diets and needed a place to voice that anger, but I never really did that. I simply moved away from what Dr. Atkins taught, moved into maintenance mode, and went on with life.

From time to time, I returned to several different low-carb diet schemes because that was what I knew best.

Although, the Old Weight Watchers Exchange Program worked well for me when I was younger, it wasn't as ingrained in my psyche as the Atkins Diet was. Trying to return to it several months ago only made me feel guilty.

After all, low-carb theory (but not science) says that carbohydrates are poison and cause insulin resistance. Meat with lots of fat and a handful of veggies will save me from the metabolic damage that carbohydrates caused.

That's what people keep saying today, even though the last scientific study funded by Gary Taubes and his colleagues found no such thing.

Every time I try to eat a low-carb diet, my Graves' disease gets worse. The neuropathy starts bothering me again. I start having asthma attacks, and my blood glucose levels soar up into diabetic territory. I lose weight for a while, and then everything goes crazy.

I start to re-pile on the pounds.

In fact, I've regained almost all of the 100 pounds I lost.

So what's going on?

Low Carb and Gut Health

Smoker with Pork Butt on the Grill
Is smoked pork butt good for gut health?
Or does a low-carb diet starve the beneficial bacteria?

I have been reading some disturbing things on the internet lately regarding gut health that I'm not quite sure what to do with. It's a bit frightening, especially since the current low-carb experts are rejecting the ideas as hogwash without even making an effort to check out the validity of those ideas for themselves.

Although, I've been aware of the problems that can occur with T4 to T3 conversion once you have been low carbing for awhile, I have hyperthyroid issues. I don't have any trouble converting T4 to Free T3. In fact, my Free T3 is way too high. I have the opposite problem. I convert way too much.

However, this was the first time I'd ever heard someone talk about gut health in terms of a low-carb diet.

A healthy gut requires lots and lots of fiber, and in particular, a hefty amount of resistant starches to feed the good bacteria in the colon. A low-carb diet, and some paleo diets, actually starve the good bacteria because it doesn't offer them much to eat. When bacteria isn't fed, it starts to feed on the body instead.

This is a scary notion, if you ask me, especially when you consider the fact that my health never improved as promised during all of the years I was following Dr. Atkins' advice.

My health got worse.

My autoimmune issues multiplied because low carbing never put out the fire. Ever. How could it?

Reducing your carbs creates stress and raises your cortisol levels in the blood, and cortisol causes all sorts of havoc in the body. Some of the havoc includes encouraging the liver to dump its glycogen into the bloodstream.

It's no wonder that over time, my blood glucose rose to the same extent that my carbs went down. The lower in carbs I went, the higher my post-meal blood sugars got.

But is that because of the carbs?

Or because of the high cortisol and missing bacteria in the gut?

Is it due to the Grave's disease and celiac inflammation of the gut?

No one actually knows.

And that is what's frustrating me. There are thousands of people doing low-carb diets, but no one knows how healthy they actually are long term. And instead of allowing those who found this gut starvation to study them, the low-carb gurus and low-carb community at large has simply pegged the science to be a lie.

Why are they afraid of being studied?

I don't think I want to know the answer to that one.


  1. "I have been reading some disturbing things on the internet lately that I'm not quite sure what to do with." With one small modification, you've perfectly summed up my feelings. I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in May and was told that diabetes could be managed if I was willing to make some life-style changes along with losing some weight (~70 lbs heavier than I was in college 30 years ago).

    Since then, I've been eating a lower carb diet. I don't count carb grams and don't pee on 'stix. I have concentrated on finding low carb recipes that taste good and are easy to fix. In spite of not following any specific diet plan, I have lost 30 pounds since that initial doctor visit (without any real exercise). But I don't have any idea what I'm going to do if/when the weight stops dropping off...or starts going up.

    I just found your blog(s) today and also enjoyed your post on purpose and goals. Maybe it's time to switch my reading/focus from weight loss to diabetes control. I am reading Dr Bernstein's Diabetes Solution and while I haven't finished it, it certainly appears to be promoting a controlled carb approach. I have to wonder if there might be some insight into long-term effects of low-carb diets by looking in the diabetes research literature.


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