The Health Corner Vol. 32 – High-Fat, Low-Carb Diet II

Today, I would like to talk about gastrointestinal disorders in relation to high carbohydrate diets.

It is very interesting to note that among the gastrointestinal problems like, for instance GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disorder), gastritis, dyspepsia, irritable bowel, constipation, diarrhea, Crohns disease, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and Celiac Disease all can be related to the imbalance in the diet weighted on a high carbohydrate load. This is a big pill to swallow. But if the evidence is looked at objectively, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that a high carbohydrate diet definitely is a major contributing cause to every single one of these dysfunctions.

Let’s start first of all with the stomach. Things like reflux disorder, dyspepsia, or upset stomach, gastritis, and ulcers. These are all associated with stomach problems. The stomach is designed basically to handle the digestion of protein, and the proteins are first handled in the stomach. On the other hand, the initial digestive process for carbohydrates is initiated in the mouth with the saliva. Then, once the carbohydrates are received in the small intestine, the hydrolytic enzymes further handle the digestion of the shorter chain carbohydrates.

However, with a high carbohydrate load, the protein digestion is interfered with in the stomach and essentially one can say that it is practically shut down and therefore undigested protein is moved into the small intestine where further protein digestion is supposed to occur.  But one valuable step has been missed in the process. Another problem with the stomach has to do with the acidity of the stomach and a high carbohydrate diet interferes with the production of the hydrochloric acid necessary in order to break down the protein. This is largely associated with the anabolic side of the equation because sugar elevating the insulin levels then causes a reduction in the growth hormone and sex hormones, and also many of the digestive enzymes, and gastric hormones like gastrin and secretin are suppressed.

One has to understand this entire metabolic balance as discussed a couple of articles earlier to understand how hyperinsulinemia will cause a tremendous shift not only in the catabolic and anabolic hormones but the digestive hormones as well. The solution to most stomach problems comes back to the fact that reducing carbohydrate consumption is going to help reduce the likelihood of this occurring and ease the maldigestive process over time.

The whole ulcer problem has been related to a bacterium and yet what happens here is very simple from what happens from the metabolic balancing act, the suppression of growth factor with high insulin levels from a high carbohydrate diet then suppresses the ability of the mucosa of the stomach to protect and repair and rebuild itself. Once the insulin levels are lowered, then this repair process can return to normal function and operation.

When there is overstimulation of the pancreas, as with a high carbohydrate consumption, the pancreas not only is responsible for the secretion of the sugar hormone regulators, insulin, and glucagon, but also pancreatic enzymes and the hormones gastrin and serotonin, and these have an effect of over stimulating the stomach acid production in the stomach, and also for serotonin, the creation of hot flashes and headaches which often occur after a meal.

In the area of colon disorders, constipation and diarrhea are both symptoms of a high carbohydrate diet. In the first, in the former, the high carbohydrate diet causes a weakness in the muscles of the G.I. tract and therefore they lose their ability to contract and move stool through the gut. We might think of this as a lazy bowel syndrome.

Diarrhea is often the result of a chronic irritation to the gut which occurs with a high carbohydrate diet over time. It should be emphasized that, as has been in the past that the body is not designed to handle a high carbohydrate, especially the high refined carbohydrate diet that we are subjected to in the United States and as a result, chronic irritations of the bowel are likely to manifest themselves.

Another issue with the digestive tract is a condition called diberticulosis, which is a non-inflammatory irregularity in the large intestine that can flare up and become inflamed, which is called diberticulitis. Now, one of the things that’s touted in the treatment of diberticulosis is the use of the high fiber diet. I will submit to you that the evidence is not real strong supporting this argument, however it has been purported and promoted so that everybody equates a high fiber diet with a clear digestive tract. However, it is interesting to note that fiber is contained in high carbohydrate foods. Although the fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate, which makes it fiber giving it that sweeping effect, the broom cleaning out the colon type of thing, but the fiber is found in foods that also contain high amounts of digestible carbohydrate, which promote the adverse carbohydrate influence on the G.I. tract. There’re many evidences and studies that show that actually a low carbohydrate–high fat diet will help in the treatment of diberticulosis and clear it up.

Chron’s disease is an inflammatory disease in the small intestine, as opposed to diberticulitis which is in the large intestine. I can personally speak of success with medically diagnosed chron’s disease, where the prognosis was very grim, and within two months on a high fat–low carbohydrate diet, the patient completely recovered and continues to do fine well after a year of treatment.

Ulcerative colitis is another inflammatory condition of the G.I. tract and there’s evidence to support the idea that a low carbohydrate–high fat diet improves people with this condition as well.

Bottom line: the first phase of attack for any kind of digestive problem might be the implementation of a low carbohydrate–high fat diet which will help to balance the endocrine system.  It will lower the insulin levels which will have an effect on lowering the hormones that are secreted: gastrin, serotonin and secretin in the G.I. tract. It will promote the proper eicosonoid balance of the prostaglandins which reduce the inflammatory effect. Overall, it certainly is well worth a try.

In the next article, we’ll look at the effects of a high fat–low carbohydrate diet in the area of weight control.