Does Eating Low Carb Make You Constipated
Going low carb, in and of itself, will not make you constipated. A low-carb diet can still provide enough fiber, fluids, and probiotics that help with normal bowel movements and the maintenance of healthy gut flora.
The problem with eating low carb is that it makes meeting fiber needs more difficult as it excludes many fiber-rich foods like whole grains, legumes, and starchy fruits and vegetables. Low-carb diets that are high in fat such as keto can also lead to an imbalanced gut flora duet to higher fat intake. And as already explained, going low-carb leads to the keto flu that lists constipation as a leading symptom.
Here’s How To Fight The Poop Problems Many Endure While Adjusting To Keto
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last six months, you’re well aware that the ketogenic diet is all the rage right now. While people are game to talk about the benefits of the trendy eating plan, its risks, and whether it’s a smart option for vegans, there’s one topic that still feels taboo: poo.
Before I tried the keto diet myself, I read everything I could about different keto food options, how to work out on keto, even common mistakes people make. I thought I was going into my month-long journey of ketosis with eyes wide open. But after the first few daysand while battling a mild case of the keto fluI realized something pretty major: I had yet to experience a bowel movement.
For more on digestive conditions, check out our Digestive Health Condition Center
As someone who’s pretty, uh, regular in that department, I was concerned. I mean, nobody wants to experience any serious GI discomfort. So, like any millennial would, I did a quick Google search to see if keto constipation is a thing. Turns out it totally is.
If this über-trendy diet is supposed to be so good for you, then why does it back you up? Is there any way to avoid it, or are all keto-goers doomed to be constipated?
What Should My Poop Smell Like
Earth. Think about the soft earth in your garden. Pick up some dirt and smell it. Unless you live in a very dry region, you’ll notice the mild smell of poo, like animal poo. The earth in a healthy garden is teeming with life. This life is eating, digesting, and defecating and you can smell it all just by putting your nose to a clump of earth.
Your own waste should smell something like that. The leave-the-room in haste type smells that so often send people running from bathrooms is not healthy. If you cant even stand the smell of your own or other people ask for a gas mask before entering the bathroom after youve done your business, you probably dont have optimal gut health.
My brother often described his newborn babys poo smell like baked bread. She was breastfed and her parents ate organic natural foods. Her microbiome is bulletproofed. As a result, her poo was almost pleasant to smell.
From my own experiences, eating a keto diet has changed the general smell of the objects I leave in the toilet. Yep, I take a sniff. Its not icky. Its natural. The smell is of earth, most of the time. I eat fat, animal products and earthy green leafy veg. These are all natural products which decompose or can be digested. So why wouldnt my poo smell like that? The closer we get to nature and natural eating, the closer our waste products smell like natural products too.
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Keto Feeds Good Gut Bacteria
Your gut microbiome is filled with trillions of bacteria that influence your digestion, metabolism, and even mood and brain function.
There are thousands of different species of bacteria in your gut, and they change according to your diet and environment. Not all those bacteria are friendly, though. To keep your gut in good shape, you want to feed good bacteria and discourage damaging bacteria.
Keto is great for your good gut bacteria research has found that a ketogenic diet corrects gut imbalance in infants and rodents.
Plus, on a well-balanced keto diet, youre getting virtually all your carbs from vegetables. Veggies are a great source of prebiotic fiber, which serves as food for your good gut bacteria and helps them flourish.
Both dietary fat and prebiotic fiber also increase short-chain fatty acids in your gut, which decreases intestinal inflammation and protects your gut from damage.
How Do I Know If Im Constipated
If the regularity of your bowel movements has changed, but youre not actually experiencing pain or discomfort when going to the toilet, this might be completely normal and you might not need to do anything, in particular, to combat it.
Keto foods are dense and nutritious, and therefore lower in volume, so its natural that youll be producing less waste.
A well-formulated keto plan does not lack in fiber, but depending on what you were eating before, your bowels might have gotten used to a higher daily fiber amount.
Therefore, if youre used to pooping daily or twice a day, but now only need to go every second day and are not experiencing bloating, pain, hard stool and the like, this is just a normal sign of your body getting used to your new diet no need to stress about it.
Normal bowel activity is considered anything between three times a day to three times a week, so if youre within that range and have no other symptoms, just let your body find its new rhythm .
However, if you are experiencing discomfort and havent been able to poop for more than three days, or if you experience pain whenever you go, there are a few things you can do that will improve your symptoms.
Here are the most effective ways to deal with constipation on the keto diet:
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Keto Diet Can Lead To Issues Pooping
Us keto folks love what we get to eat because its tasty and delicious, I mean who doesnt love ribeye steaks and cheese?
But eating lots of these foods so rich in fat could lead to GI trouble. It is even more pronounced if youre going from a diet low in fat to high fat.
And believe me, this can happen with just about any diet, but weve found it to be more severe on the ketogenic diet, with people talking about everything from constipation on keto to diarrhea.
Heres How You Should Tackle Keto Constipation Problems
Since constipation results from cutting down on fiber, drinking less water, and getting fewer minerals into the system, just focus on replenishing what youve cut out. Drink more water and eat more low carb vegetables. Since veggies tend to be packed with water, loading up on dark green or colored vegetables can keep you properly hydrated.
You should also increase the fiber and mineral content of your meals. Try eating more vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard, kale, and fennel. Including berries such as strawberries, blackberries, and strawberries can help. Not only are these tasty low-carb alternatives, but they are also packed with nutrients.
Another solution to constipated keto poop is to take mineral supplements. If the problem persists, you should look into taking mineral supplements like magnesium citrate or glycinate, but make sure you dont overdo it. Taking excessive supplements can lead to purging.
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Increase Your Fiber Consumption
A keto diet eliminates most of the high-fiber foods as they are carbohydrate-rich. This may include most of the fruits and vegetables.
When you skip all the fruits and veggies from your regular diet, your digestion suffers because it is deprived of the fibers that form the significant chunk of your stools.
Hence, if you are not pooping on keto diet, reconsider your fiber consumption. You can include the fruits and vegetables that are high in fibers yet low in carbs. Some of them include:
Alternatively, you can also try consuming loads of low-carb natural sources of fibers like lettuce, spinach, and kale by making delicious salads!
The high-fiber content of these foods would ease your digestion and stimulate your bowel movements, thus preventing constipation.
At What Point Should I Be Concerned About This Side Effect
However, if you have a stubborn case of keto diarrhea, you should consider seeing your doctor. âIf you have diarrhea, especially multiple times per day, for over two to three days and if you’re experiencing any symptoms of dehydrationâdark colored urine, dry skin, headache, feeling dizzy or light-headed, etc.âthen you should see a doctor right away,â says Hultin. You might need more serious interventions to prevent serious dehydration and to rule out other potential causes of the diarrhea.
If keto diarrhea persists, itâs worth rethinking the eating plan, says Hultin. âIf the body is reacting to the high fat nature of the diet, that probably can’t be changed because there’s a certain ratio that must be met,â she says. No one eating plan is right for everyone, and your body might just not be cut out for high amounts of fat. Thankfully, there is a whole world of other healthy eating plans out there to discovered that don’t typically involve gastric distress. Mediterranean diet, anyone?
An earlier version of this story was written by Tehrene Firman on August 28, 2018. It was updated on March 11, 2020.
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Are There Any Remedies For Keto Diarrhea
Again, Hultin says that keto diarrhea is usually temporary. But in the meantime, if youâre committed to keto, here are some things you can do to help stave off the worst of the runs:
Eating More And Staying Hydrated
A lower calorie intake is necessary for weight loss, but you dont want to take it too far. A modest calorie reduction of 300-500 kcal/day is all you need to initiate fat burning on a keto diet.
While keto can make you lose your appetite, you need to ensure youre getting enough nutrients to maintain ketosis, good health, and, of course, normal bowel functioning. Try increasing your intake of low-carb, but high-fiber keto veggies, other keto-friendly food, and increase your fluid intake.
A good way to start is by planning your meals. Make sure all of your meals contain enough fiber when working on improving your bowel health. Diet apps can also help with this.
Also, drink different liquids throughout the day to get enough fluids. Water, tea, smoothies, and soups all contribute to your daily hydration levels. Its best to take liquids together with meals to improve digestion.
Gut Bacteria And Constipation
When cutting carbs on keto, carb-loving bacteria will likely die off, and when they do, theyll need to be replaced with fat-loving bacteria before normal digestive function can resume.
The reset in gut bacteria has been shown to be a good thing, resulting in reduced inflammation, and reductions in symptoms of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. 456
Yet during the transition, constipation can occur. To enhance the repopulation of healthy gut bacteria add in keto yogurt, and cultured cottage cheese.
Your Poop Could Smell Different
Anecdotally, Weinandy says some patients say their bowel movements are more, uh, pungent.
“I have quite a few patients who complain of it smelling worse,” she says. That’s because eating a lot of high fat foods makes stool move more slowly through the gastrointestinal track.
As a result, stool sits in your system for longer periods of time and can putrefy more easilyparticularly if you’re eating lots of protein.
How To Treat Constipation
Long-term constipation can lead to complications, including anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and abdominal pain. Thats why you do not want it to go unchecked for too long.
If youre new to the keto diet, you may find that your constipation only lasts a few days to a few weeks. As your body adjusts to digesting more fats and fewer carbs, your constipation may get better.
If your constipation continues to be an issue, try one of these home remedies:
- Drink more water.
- bowel training , a method where you pass stools at the same time every day.
If your constipation is not better after 3 weeks, be sure to make an appointment with a doctor. They can work with you to find the best treatment.
While over-the-counter stimulants may help, its best to talk with a doctor before taking any fiber supplements or laxatives. Some of these products are high in carbs, which can derail your efforts on the keto diet.
Keto Smoothie For Constipation
Make fiber-rich smoothies a part of your daily diet. Using avocado as a base ingredient boost the fiber content of keto smoothies, but you can also make them with spinach, kale, peanut butter, and other fiber-rich ingredients. Optionally, you can add MCT oil to help fight intestinal inflammation and balance out gut flora.
How Much Do I Need To Worry About Pooping On My Keto Diet
Perhaps you are experiencing diarrhea or constipation while on keto. If this is the case, dont worry about it. The body is just taking time to get used to this way of life. It will take some trial and error to figure out what is the best balance of fiber, protein, and fat for your unique situation.
Make sure you drink lots of water, eat your fibrous veggies, and use electrolyte supplements or digestive enzymes to keep your digestion regulated.
Pooping differently while first starting keto is temporary. However, if your digestive troubles last longer than a few weeks, keto might not be the right diet for your body.
If this is the case, dont worry. Start by adding a bit more fiber and a few more carbs, or try out a keto variant.
Everyone is different, so dont be afraid to try things out. Eventually, you will find what works for you, feel great and get the results you want.
What Causes Keto Constipation
Keto foods are usually low in fiber. Fiber is what adds bulk to ones food. Cutting down on bulk can lead to constipation because the stuff in the belly feels like being in a crowded room. Furthermore, the keto diet can cause you to reduce water intake and it flushed water out of the body. Another reason is that a keto diet reduces water intake. Less water in the system means tighter poop that finds it a struggle to get out.
Finally, another reason is that a low-carb diet expels a lot of electrolytes like magnesium, sodium, and potassium. These minerals, particularly magnesium, pull water into the intestines, making the feces soft and easy to expel. With reduced water, the bowels become dry and the excrement becomes harder.
Too Much Or Not Enough Fiber
Increasing fiber intake is the first-line treatment for constipation no matter what diet youre on.
Studies show that most adults following a typical Western diet are not meeting their daily needs for fiber 2. The recommended daily intake is around 25-30g a day, while the current average is below 20g a day.
Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate that gives stool bulk, which makes it easier to pass. It also stimulates bowel movements and feeds friendly gut bacteria all things important for normal bowel functioning.
But too much of it can also make you constipated according to some studies 3. So, if youve increased your fiber intake but are still constipated on your keto diet, make sure you are keeping fiber intake within the recommended daily limits.
Another important thing that many people fail to mention when talking about fiber is the importance of hydration. Soluble fiber absorbs water, forming a gel-like substance that helps with bowel movements. Without enough water, this type of fiber will not do much for your bowel health.
The Science Of Digestion
We can increase our understanding of pooping by learning about digestion.
The first thing to discuss is simple weight.
Lets say that you are transitioning from a high-carb diet to the ketogenic diet for weight loss, as most of us do.
Assume you were eating 2500 calories before, and you are going to eat 2000 calories on keto.
Consider that fat provides 9 calories per gram, while carbs & protein only provide 4 calories per gram.
The high-carb diet:
- TOTAL: 2500 Calories = 539 g
For the keto diet, the breakdown might be:
- 70% Fat = 156 g
- 10% Carbs = 50 g
- TOTAL: 2000 Calories = 306 g
This is a 20% reduction in calories, and a 43% reduction in food weight .
With the combination of eating fewer calories, plus eating more calories from fat, you eat a much lower volume of food on the ketogenic diet.
My super scientific theory is less volume of food in = less volume of poop out.
We can also think about how your body digests different types of food.
Breaking food down into the macronutrients, its known that simple carbs are digested the fastest, and thus spike your blood sugar within minutes. Complex carbs and proteins take a bit longer to digest. And fats take the longest to pass through your stomach!
Not only are you eating less food, but the food you eat on the keto diet will take longer to pass through your body.
This explains why people dont poop daily, or at least less often when they transition to keto.