Whenever you begin a new health kick, there are bound to be certain side effects that can occur.
Whenever you begin a new diet entirely, you are certainly going to experience something! Your body is attempting to get used to a new way of working, and when it come to the Keto Diet, you’re actually teaching it a completely new way to burn fuel for energy.
The Keto Diet forces your body into a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’. Whilst not dangerous when the rules are followed, ketosis does cause a transitional period of possible side effects.
One of the most commonly experienced side effect for new Keto followers is Keto constipation.
Keto constipation is nothing special.
It is literally constipation caused by the changes in your eating habits.
The idea is that once your body gets used to the new way of working, e.g. burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates (causing ketosis), then constipation should right itself and you will be back to your normal bowel habits once more. Having said that, constipation is not a pleasant effect to deal with in the interim.
Why Does The Keto Diet Cause Constipation?
- Why Does The Keto Diet Cause Constipation?
- Why Does Fiber Matter?
- Why is Hydration Important?
- Can Not Eating Enough Food Cause Constipation?
- Treating Keto Constipation
- Consider Taking a Probiotic
- Is Keto Constipation Dangerous?
We should point out that the Keto Diet doesn’t cause ongoing constipation, it might cause constipation in the first couple of weeks, i.e. when you first start the diet and you are in what is called the ‘transitional period’.
The Keto Diet is a great way to achieve a healthier lifestyle, lose weight, and have more energy overall, but you are also throwing your body into a completely different routine and it needs time to adjust.
Constipation is, of course, difficulty in passing stools, and not going to the toilet as often as you normally would.
Everybody has a different bowel habit routine; it is a myth that you need to go once every day otherwise that means you have constipation. Some people go twice a day, some every other day – it’s about what is normal to you.
When that ‘normal’ changes, and when infrequency and difficulty occurs, that is when you are constipated.
Of course, constipation causes uncomfortable symptoms, such as bloating, stomach ache, problems with passing gas, and can sometimes also cause haemorrhoids.
Constipation in general is caused by a major change in your diet, a lack of or too much fiber, dehydration, a disruption in the balance of the flora in your gut, a period of immobility, and also certain digestive system conditions, such as IBS.
Constipation can also be caused by a deficiency in vitamins and minerals. In terms of Keto constipation, it is likely to be the change in your diet and a possible nutrient deficiency.
Why Does Fiber Matter?
Most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diet, which is one reason why digestive problem run riot in today’s society.
If you have constipation, the first thing you should try is to increase your fiber intake.
This often sorts out the problem quite quickly.
In general, you should be aiming for around 25-30g of fiber every day, but many studies have shown that most people actually consume under 20g every day.
In order to understand why this matters, we need to know what fiber is. Fiber is a carbohydrate.
Before you panic, because on the Keto Diet you’re supposed to limit your carbs, fiber is a type of carb which is indigestible, so it doesn’t count as part of your daily net carb allowance.
Don’t be scared of fiber because it is classified as a type of carb!
Fiber makes stools bulkier, and much easier to pass as a result.
Fiber also gives you the feeling that you need to ‘go’, and helps to increase the amount of ‘good bacteria’ in your gut.
This is required for a healthy stomach environment and for your digestive system to run smoothly.
By that, you would think you should eat fiber uncontrollably, but not to.
Some studies have shown that if you eat too much fiber, it can actually cause constipation, or could go the other way and cause diarrhoea!
It’s a difficult balance to get right, but being savvy with your fiber intake can help reduce or even eradicate any constipation-related issues.
Why is Hydration Important?
We know that we should be drinking enough water every day, because it helps to keep our entire bodies running effectively, including our brains.
In addition, hydration is vital for ensuring your bowels run correctly, and to avoid constipation.
It really could be as simple as drinking enough water!
Fiber and water work hand in hand.
A certain type of fiber, called ‘soluble fiber’ actually absorbs the water that you drink and the overall consistency allows you to have an easier bowel movement.
If you don’t drink enough water, going to the toilet can be more difficult, and in some cases, more uncomfortable.
Check out this video for a visual explanation of soluble fiber, versus insoluble fiber.
Can Not Eating Enough Food Cause Constipation?
Yes! One reason why you might be suffering from Keto constipation is because you’re not eating enough.
The Keto Diet has really successful effects in terms of suppressing the appetite, so you don’t feel hungry. This is great for weight loss, but it can be a reason for constipation.
The Keto Diet surpasses your appetite because you’re eating foods which are higher in fat content; as a result, you’re more satisfied from your meals and you don’t crave the things you aren’t ‘supposed’ to eat on other low calorie diets.
Ketosis itself can also cause you to be less hungry, because your body is burning ketones all the time, and therefore giving you a constant source of energy.
Basically, not eating as much as you normally would is going to naturally reduce the number of times you go to the toilet.
Provided you’re not in any discomfort, this shouldn’t be an issue, but if you are struggling with bloating and other constipation symptoms, you should probably think about eating a little more and seeing if that makes a difference.
These are the main reasons that you might develop constipation on the Keto Diet, especially during the first part.
So, what can you do to help it and treat it?
Treating Keto Constipation
It helps if you can really put your finger on why you are constipated in the first place.
- Are you eating the right amount of fiber?
- Are you drinking enough water?
- Are you eating enough?
Ask yourself those questions.
It could also simply be a change in your diet which will pass very quickly. If it doesn’t pass however, you need to do something about it.
Eat The Right Amount of Fiber
Between 25-30g of fiber should be your aim, and opt for soluble fiber sources as much as you possibly can. Sources of soluble fiber include coconut flour, broccoli, peanut butter, stalks of celery, and almonds. Many other Keto foods include soluble fiber also.
Consider Taking a Probiotic
Probiotic supplements help to balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut.
The change in your diet could have caused an imbalance, which is what then causes your constipation.
The supplement could help to rectify this issue and therefore solve your constipation problem too.
If you don’t want to take a supplement, try natural sources of probiotics, such as live yogurt, kefir, miso soup, leafy greens, and sauerkraut, to name just a few.
Eat More Food
If you think you might not be eating enough, try upping your food intake, but staying within your Keto macros.
By ensuring that you stick to your net carb amount and don’t exceed it, you should be doing enough to remain in ketosis and be losing weight, so it might be that you simply need to chow down a little more!
Drink More Water
Hydration is never a bad thing, so simply try and drink more water and see if that has a beneficial effect on your bowel movements. If you can, drink with your meals, as this will help with general digestion.
Plan Your Meals
If you plan out your meals, you’re much more likely to make sure that you reach your macro goals, and you get enough fiber in your diet.
This gives you more control and also saves you time throughout the day.
You can plan ahead and do a weekly routine, or you can do it on a daily basis – whatever works for you.
This also makes it easier to stay hydrated, as you can utilise other things for hydration, such as soup, tea, smoothies, etc.
Become More Active
Exercising whilst you’re on the Keto Diet is a great idea, because it will boost your weight loss efforts and give you a whole host of other health benefits.
One of those benefits is improved digestive health and function, i.e. food will move throughout your digestive system more smoothly.
A constipation risk factor in adults is actually inactivity, because it slows down digestion as a result of reduced blood flow.
On the other hand, when you do some exercise, the opposite occurs. So, try some yoga, walk regularly, take the stairs instead of the lift – basically move more.
Check You’re Not Allergic to Anything
Do you have any food allergies or sensitivities?
Do you think you might have but they’re not diagnosed?
If so, head to see your doctor and have some tests done to identify the problem issue. It could very well be that an intolerance or sensitivity could be the cause of your constipation.
This is most likely to be the case if you have changed your diet and started eating a certain type of food a lot, which you never did before. Or, if your constipation is a long-standing problem.
Certain allergies can lead to your intestines becoming inflamed, e.g. milk.
The Transitional Period Itself
One major side effect of the Keto Diet in its first stage is something called the Keto Flu.
This is a condition which causes mild flu like symptoms, and occurs in the first two weeks of the diet itself.
Again, this is down to the transitional period, and should sort itself out, but one of the effects of Keto flu is constipation.
To treat this, make sure you are drinking enough water, rest as much as you need to, and consider taking supplements for electrolytes.
These measures should help to reduce and eradicate Keto constipation, but if it is a problem which persists after you have tried these, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor for a few tests.
It could be that you have a digestive issue, perhaps IBS, which is the major cause of the constipation.
IBS flare ups can be because of a dietary change, and that’s exactly what you’ve done when you start the Keto Diet.
If your constipation lasts for longer than one week, head off to see your doctor as a rule of thumb.
By this point, you’re likely to be feeling uncomfortable, and you could be at risk of further issues as a result.
Is Keto Constipation Dangerous?
Constipation of any type which goes on for a long period of time can be troublesome because it can cause further complications within the gut and overall digestive symptoms.
You’re also not going to be feeling great, extremely bloated and full.
As we just mentioned, anything over a week and you should go and see your doctor.
Keto constipation per se shouldn’t be considered dangerous because it shouldn’t last.
By trying the measures above, and being careful with the amount of fiber and hydration you have, you should be able to eradicate the issue, and even prevent it if you plan out your meals very carefully to begin with.
Pre-empting the issue is a great idea.
Just as needing to pee more often is a very common side effect of the initial stages of the Keto Diet, so is constipation.
Get ahead of the game and up your hydration and fiber, and you stand a better chance of avoiding it altogether.