Guest post by girlclimber

If you are suffering from digestive issues, such as bloating, gas or acid reflux, restricting your carbohydrate intake may be the answer to your problems, and for some could even be an instantaneous solution to symptoms.

The benefits and dangers of restricting carbohydrates in one’s diet have been debated for many years. It is no longer a subject for discussion that sugar is the arch-enemy of a healthy gut and a lean physique – we all know that if we want to be healthier and fitter, we need to walk past those jam doughnuts in the supermarket. Equally, most of us have heard that if losing some pounds is the goal, then we should probably avoid the pizzeria and the bakery.

However, most people don’t consider a vegetarian lasagne, a risotto or Asian veggie noodles to be a particularly unhealthy meal choice. In fact, most traditional recipes usually call for a relatively high proportion of simple carbohydrate, be it pasta, rice or bread. Healthier recipes will swap white bread and pasta for wholegrain and white rice for brown rice, as that makes it a more complex carbohydrate and therefore more beneficial for our overall health.

Such a diet may well work for many people, provided it is supported by a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and avoids heavily processed foods. But if you are suffering from digestive issues, it may be time to take a deeper look at what you are eating and try lowering your carb intake. Even whole-grain pasta and bread can be too heavy on a gut that is already riddled with imbalances.

For example, a recent study found more acid reflux symptoms in patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease who ate a high carbohydrate diet than those who consumed less carbohydrate[1]. Equally, resources such as the Primal Blueprint and the Whole30 diet hail the benefits of cutting out all grains and processed foods in favor of carbohydrates found in vegetables – both starchy ones, like potatoes and beetroot, and others such as leafy greens and courgettes.

For me, the unequivocal proof of this approach came when I watched my partner, who had struggled with daily acid reflux symptoms for a few months, become entirely symptom-free in just one day after cutting out simple and processed carbs from our meals. Pasta, bread and beer – which we were consuming more than usual during those months – all turned out to be culprits. Now we only have simple carbs as a treat on very rare occasions (sometimes we simply cannot resist that super-yummy looking Italian pizza!) – and if we don’t overdo it the symptoms can be kept at bay even on those cheat days.

But it’s important to make a distinction between a ketogenic diet, which has dominated both positive and negative headlines in the world of nutrition, and a diet low in simple and processed carbs. The benefits and dangers of a keto diet are worth another post in themselves, but cutting out all carbs in favor of fat is not at all necessary for regaining gut health.

In fact, Mark Sisson, who is behind the Primal Blueprint, advocates 100-150 grams of carbohydrate per day[2] as a healthy maintenance range for optimal fat burning and muscle development, provided you exercise on a regular basis. This should come from a wide range of vegetables and fruit, while grains and sugars should be avoided[3].

Only for those wanting to lose weight does Mark recommend lowering the carb intake to 50-100 grams a day until the target weight is reached, while lower daily carbohydrate consumption – at a level necessary to maintain ketosis – is not acceptable for more than a day or two of intermittent fasting, he says.

As ever though, this is a very individual thing, and the only way to figure out what does and doesn’t work for your body is to experiment. You can do this by requesting to join our 28-day Gut Reboot Challenge – it will help you reset your gut and figure out which foods are triggers for your specific health problems.