Constipation: it can be painful and embarrassing, but it cannot be ignored. If you’re on the keto diet for weight loss, you may have prepared yourself for some of the early temporary side effects of transitioning into ketosis like keto headache, some fatigue, or even keto breath, but if you’re experiencing constipation on keto what should you do to get the bowels rolling again?
The ketogenic diet has a lot of positive aspects: you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, and even increase your mental focus as ketone bodies (derived from fats) cross the blood-brain barrier. However, in the early days of keto you may experience the unwelcome side effects of “keto flu,” and as your diet changes, your digestive functioning may be altered too. For some that means bloating or diarrhea, but for others the biggest complaint is constipation on keto. Here are some of the factors that may be at play.
Most Americans and people in the Western world eat a very carb-heavy diet, and switching to a high-fat diet suddenly can distress your digestive system. Your body is a creature of habit, and any radical change can upset the normal movement of your waste, whether you switch to a high-protein diet or replace all the pasta you’re used to eating with avocados and coconut oil.
If your body is unaccustomed to processing high amounts of fat, it may take a little getting used to for it to thoroughly break down your food for comfortable passage through the bowel. Moreover, the type of fat you’re consuming may also be the issue, as diets high in saturated fats have been linked to significantly higher rates of constipation, especially in those with diabetes.
Largely removing carbohydrates and high-carb foods from your diet may have the unintended side effect of removing a lot of fiber from your diet as well. Fiber is needed to add bulk to your stool, and while some constipation is caused by too much fiber without enough water or moisture, you may be constipated because there is not enough fiber for your intestinal tract to hold onto, meaning your body can’t gently move along your waste.
Fiber is found in may carb-heavy foods, like whole grains and certain fruits and veggies (bananas, yams, corn, etc.). By minimizing these sorts of foods in your diet, you may not be getting the fiber you need for regular bowel movements.
Keto calls for a low-carb diet, not a no-carb diet. That means you should eat some carbs every day, but the carbs you choose could make a real difference when it comes to keto constipation. If your carb allotment is where you like to splurge on comfort foods like sugary snacks or refined breads with very little dietary fiber, it might help to eat more nutritious carbs.
Try including whole foods like fruits, leafy greens like kale and spinach, and sprinkling chia and flaxseeds into your meals or snacks or eating grains that have a high-fiber content. These sorts of carbs can help your digestion along.
Whatever the cause, if you’re constipated now, you just want to poop.
Constipation is defined as having three or fewer bowel movements each week, and the longer your stool is in your body, the more impacted it can get and the harder it becomes to pass. Having hard, large stool formations could lead to even more serious issues like abdominal pain, hemorrhoids, or anal fissures resulting from straining. That means that time’s a-ticking, so what can you do to help your constipation today, like ASAP? Here are three scientifically backed suggestions.
Many people with digestive issues are actually prescribed a cup of coffee every morning. Why is that? Because coffee, with or without caffeine, can help stimulate bowel movements. Add some MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides derived from coconut oil) to your morning cup of java to help your bowel movements increase in regularity. This type of keto coffee also helps boost your morning energy on keto, and can help tide you over if you’re utilizing intermittent fasting.
Other natural food items that can encourage your bowel movements include prune juice, probiotic foods like Greek yogurt or kefir, and legumes that boost your body’s production of butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid known for helping to alleviate constipation and other defecation disorders.
This two-punch dietary team is what’s needed to create stool that’s bulky enough for your digestive tract to grab onto, but moist enough so that it can glide smoothly to the end of its journey. Not only can drinking enough water help with feelings of satiety (especially if you drink a glass before each meal), but it also keeps your skin hydrated and glowing and your waste moving comfortably through your body.
Likewise fiber helps your bowel movements and feeds your healthy gut bacteria, creating a robust microbiome in your digestive system, which is one of the frontlines for immune protection. The stronger your gut bacteria, the more capable they are at neutralizing stomach bugs and other opportunistic germs that find their way into your body. Moreover, the more friendly gut bacteria you have, the better absorption rates you’re likely to get for all the good nutrients you eat.
Upping your fiber and water intake with each meal could be the solution to your constipation problem and more.
No joke: walking, especially after a meal, can help shake down your digestive system and get the process moving.
The rumbling that people associate with hunger is the sensation of your stomach emptying, and when you add more food to your stomach for digestion, it starts moving the older food out. Like an assembly line, when more items are added to one end, other items need to be taken off the back end so that there isn’t buildup or blockage that shuts the whole operation down.
The more regular your bowel movements are, the less likely you are to experience constipation, and going for a walk after a meal can help.
Sticking to a low-carbohydrate diet should make you feel great. If you are suffering from chronic constipation even after you reach ketosis and have tried all the natural remedies you can think of, it may be time to seek medical advice to search for underlying causes or to be prescribed the fiber supplements or laxatives you may need. However, if you can allow your body time to adjust and provide it with the nutrients it requires to keep you digesting properly, you may be able to cancel constipation naturally.