Keto and Constipation

Introduction

The Keto diet is loaded with benefits, and as long as you follow the proper guidelines and pay attention to the nutrients you eat you probably won’t have any problems.  But what if you develop constipation as a side effect of your Keto?  The good news is, this uncomfortable situation can be avoided and treated easily.  The following article will help you to keep your digestion running smoothly so you can avoid the discomfort of constipation.

What is constipation?

Constipation is when you have difficulty making a bowel movement or when they happen less frequently than they should.  If you’re having 3 or fewer bowel movements a week this is constipation, even if you don’t have difficulty going when you do go.  Having to push or having painful, hard bowel movements is also a sign that you may be suffering from constipation.  

It’s not always easy to tell if you’re constipated but even mild constipation can cause you discomfort so it’s important to listen to your body.  If you’ve finished going and you feel like there was more to come out then you’re probably constipated.  Bloating in your abdomen can also be a sign of constipation.  

Constipation is a common condition and chances are it’ll happen to you several times throughout your life.  By itself, it’s not usually serious unless you go for an extremely long time without passing stool.  Constipation is usually a sign that something needs to be changed in your lifestyle because your body isn’t happy.  Chances are, although it’s not serious, if you’re experiencing constipation, you’re probably uncomfortable and you’ll feel a lot better when you return your digestive system to a healthy state.

Causes of constipation on Keto 

Constipation is one of the most common side effects and complaints from people on Keto, especially those that have just begun following this diet.  There are a variety of reasons that you might experience constipation on Keto and knowing the cause can help you come up with a solution.

The Keto Flu

The biggest reason that people experience constipation on Keto is that they’re experiencing the Keto flu.  The Keto flu happens when you switch from a different eating style to Keto.  It takes your body some time to adjust to using ketones as its primary source of energy instead of glucose and this switch can cause some temporary discomfort.  Some people don’t experience the Keto flu at all, but for others it can last between 1-2 weeks.  During this time, you might feel tired and achy, nauseous, and yes, constipated. 

The switch from carbs to fat can cause some confusion in your digestive tract at first.  Your digestive system is extremely sensitive to changes in your diet.  If it’s used to digesting a large amount of fibre filled grains and carbohydrates, then the switch to a mostly fat fueled diet may cause it to bind up temporarily.  The good news is, this usually resolves itself quickly and afterwards you’ll most likely feel better than you did before Keto!

Lack of fibre

If you’re past the first few months of Keto and constipation strikes then you might need to re-examine your diet and see if you’re eating enough fibre.  A lot of the foods that you may have eaten to get your fibre fix are not allowed on Keto.  All of the whole grains, bread, pasta, and fibre filled veggies are too high in carbohydrates to be a part of your Keto-meal plan.  This lack of fibre can cause your digestive system to slow down to a crawl, leading to constipation.  

Not enough exercise

Believe it or not, exercise plays a role in your digestive system.  The bacteria that fill your GI tract are very sensitive and moving your body can actually cause them to be happier which soothes indigestion and helps food to move through your digestive tract smoothly.  If the switch to Keto has caused you to stop exercising it’s possible that this might be the cause of your constipation.  You might find yourself experiencing constipation on Keto even if your exercise levels haven’t changed because your body might have been using the fibre in your old diet to make up for your lack of movement.

Not enough water

Not drinking enough water is a huge contributing factor to constipation on Keto.  Your body needs water in order to soften the stools in your digestive tract.  Without water, your stools become hard and they’re more difficult to move through your intestines and also more difficult (and sometimes painful!) to pass.  If you’re struggling with constipation on Keto and you know you’re getting enough fibre you might want to look at your water consumption and make sure you’re getting your 8-10 glasses a day.

Treating Keto constipation

Although constipation is a common side effect on Keto, it doesn’t have to be a permanent nuisance.  It’s easy to get your GI tract back on track so you can start having healthy bowel movements once more.

The first thing you need to do is pinpoint the cause of your constipation.  If you’re in the beginning stages of Keto you can relax knowing that this is completely normal, and you’ll start to feel better in a week or two after your body adjusts to the large amount of fat you’re consuming.  

If you’ve been on Keto for a while, start tracking your meals (you should be doing this anyway).  After you’ve recorded what you’re eating take a step back and examine it for its fibre content.  If you find yourself lacking this vital nutrient try adding some fibre-rich foods such as kale, artichokes, olive or collard greens.  It’s possible to get enough fibre on Keto without going over your carb budget.

If you’ve looked at your diet and your fibre is good then ask yourself, are you drinking enough water and are you getting enough exercise?  Try drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning when you get up in order to kick start your digestion.  If you feel like you’re not getting enough exercise, then try adding a gentle walk after dinner.  Walking is one of the best exercises you can do for your digestion and the best part is, the gentle movement can be enjoyed by the majority of us!

Another thing you can do to relieve your constipation is add some probiotics into your diet.  Probiotics help boost the levels of healthy bacteria in your digestive system.  Your GI tract is a living organism and the healthier the bacteria is, the less digestive discomfort you experience.  You can get probiotic supplements, but the probiotics that come from food are far superior.  Try adding some sauerkraut, yogurt, pickles, olives or tempeh into your diet for a low-carb probiotic boost.

Although water is king, there’s another drink that you can add to your diet on Keto that might help move a sluggish digestive system.  Coffee is Keto-friendly (especially if you make it bullet-proof coffee by adding in health fats) and it can help you kick-start your digestive system. Obviously, it’s not good to rely on coffee for your bowel movements if you’re not getting enough fibre, exercise or water; however, if you’ve fixed these and you still need some help then coffee is a tasty addition. 

Preventing constipation on Keto

A lot of the things that you can do to treat constipation on Keto are the same things that you should do to prevent it.  Make sure that you’re getting enough fibre in your Keto diet to keep things moving smoothly.  Add in some probiotics and coffee, drink enough water and move your body to help prevent constipation.

If you haven’t begun the Keto diet yet then there are a few additional things that you can do to try and prevent the constipation that comes with Keto.  For starters, you can ease into the Keto diet slowly.  Keto constipation at the very beginning often comes from the shock your system goes through with the change in foods.  By gradually decreasing the number of carbs you eat while gradually increasing the amount of fat you eat you can make the transition less of a shock on your body and you might reduce your risk of developing constipation.  

The other big thing that you can do to prevent constipation on Keto is to examine where you’re getting your fats, protein and carbs from.  Processed foods tend to do a number on our guts whereas whole foods are designed to be digested by our bodies.  If you’re worried about constipation try to incorporate as many whole foods into your diet as possible.  This might look like more leafy greens such as kale for your fibre and maybe some olives or avocado as a source of your fat.  These foods are all 100% natural and they have only one ingredient on their food label.  The more ingredients you see, the further your food is from nature and the harder time your body will have digesting it.

Conclusion

Constipation is one of the most common side effects on Keto; however, it doesn’t have to be a permanent condition.  As long as you ensure your foods are coming from natural sources, drink plenty of water, get exercise and fill your diet with Keto-friendly fibre than you’re less likely to come up against this uncomfortable side effect.  

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