The keto diet is fantastic for a variety of benefits to your health and for improving your weight loss results. But there are some unpleasant side effects from switching to the keto diet. If you’re thinking of beginning keto and you’re worried about constipation or if you’ve already begun keto and you’re experiencing constipation there are some questions that you need answers to. Why does keto cause constipation? What can you do to relieve constipation on the keto diet?
Read on to find the answers to these questions and more so that you can happily enjoy keto without this unpleasant side effect
Keto is a diet that changes the way your body creates fuel out of your food. The body’s preferred method of finding fuel is by creating glucose out of the carbohydrates you eat. This is a very quick way for your body to get fuel. Any leftover carbs that aren’t used right away are stored away for later use by the body in the form of fat. The majority of diets today support this method of fueling your body. However, those who practice keto have chosen a different path.
When you’re on keto you avoid carbohydrates and limit them to under 20 net grams per day. This slows the availability of carbohydrates for your body. When there are not enough carbs in the body to produce glucose the body switches to a different method of fueling itself. The fat that it stored earlier is now available to use as an energy source and the liver starts producing an energy source called ketones from the stored fat effectively burning the fat away. This is a great way to lose weight and there are many other health benefits as well including increased energy, less brain fog and lower risk of developing diabetes and heart problems.
Constipation and Keto
Keto is a fantastic and healthy diet for many people. However, there can be some side effects. People new to keto might find themselves developing what’s known as the “keto flu” where they get nausea, headaches, fatigue, muscle soreness, insomnia and constipation. Now the majority of these symptoms go away after a few weeks to a month. However, one side effect that tends to stick around is constipation.
What is constipation
Constipation is when your body has trouble passing stools. It may be painful, the stool might be hard or filled with uncomfortable lumps and there may be a period where you don’t go for a day or two. If you’re only passing stools 3 times a week then you’re constipated. This is often caused by a lack of fiber in your diet; however, if your fiber intake is fine then there might be another reason for your constipation and you should talk to a doctor. Constipation can lead to health problems if you don’t treat it so it’s best to try to relieve it as soon as you notice it occurring.
Why does it happen on the keto diet
The keto diet is known for causing constipation and it’s one of the side effects that lingers. This is due to the diet that keto puts you on and the types of foods it allows compared to the ones that it restricts. Fiber is most often found in carb-rich foods. Whole grains, beans and legumes, fruits and vegetables are all high in fiber.
The problem is that on keto, a lot of these foods are restricted due to their high carb content. Any type of grain is off limits on keto along with the legume family. They’re just too high in carbs and will throw your body out of ketosis if you consume them.
Vegetables and fruit are allowed on the keto diet; however, the ones that are highest in fiber tend to be the ones highest in sugar as well such as bananas, apples and oranges. One banana has 2.6 grams of dietary fiber out of the recommended 25 grams per day for a healthy adult. However, a banana also has 23 grams of carbs which means that even one banana would throw your body out of ketosis.
In addition to a lot of fiber-rich foods being off-limits, keto also encourages constipation due to its inclusion of high-fat foods. When you eat a diet that’s high in fats it slows down your digestion. When your digestive tract is acting sluggish and food takes a while to move through it you end up having fewer stools and this causes constipation.
What can you do to avoid constipation on keto?
So if the foods that you’re allowed on keto don’t contain a lot of fiber and you’re not allowed to eat fiber-rich foods because of the carb content then how are you supposed to get your daily fiber needs on keto? Don’t worry, although the majority of fiber-rich foods are too high in carbs for keto there are still plenty that are allowed that you can work into your diet to see constipation relief on the keto diet.
Foods to eat on keto for fiber
Fill up with plenty of these fiber-rich foods in order to avoid or get rid of your keto constipation
- Avocado-this superfood is high in fat and only has 4 net carbs so it’s a great option on the keto diet. However, it also has 13.5 grams of fiber. That’s almost half of your daily fiber requirement in one avocado!
- Chia Seeds-with only 2 net carbs in a one-ounce serving chia seeds are very keto-friendly. They also are high in fiber. One ounce of chia seeds has 10 grams of fiber. Chia seeds are easy to slip into a shake, some yogurt or even mixed with water for a jelly chia seed “shot”.
- Nuts-nuts are high in fat which makes them great for the keto diet. Pecans, in particular, have 1 net carb and 3 grams of fiber in a one-ounce serving. Almonds are also a great low-carb high-fiber option with 3.5 grams of fiber and only 2.5 net carbs in a one-ounce serving.
- Flax Seed-like CHia seeds, flax seeds are also a great keto option for fiber. They should be ground up before you eat them. The great news is that a tablespoon serving of ground flax seeds has no carbs whatsoever, but it does have 2 grams of carbs! Now you’d have to eat quite a few tablespoons of ground flax seeds to make up your fiber requirement for the day but they don’t have any carbs so they’re a great way to gain a couple of grams of fiber without sacrificing any of your net carbs.
- Vegetables-although a lot of veggies are off-limits due to their high carb content, some non-starchy vegetables such as collard greens and cauliflower are actually low carb options that are high in fiber. One cup of cook collard greens has 8 grams of fiber with only 3 net carbs. They’re a great way to add some fiber to your keto diet. Cauliflower, on the other hand, has 2 grams of fiber with 3 net carbs per 1 cup serving. The great thing about cauliflower is that it can be used to replace carbs in a variety of situations such as a cauliflower pizza crust or instead of mashed potatoes.
Fiber supplements on keto
If you’ve been trying to incorporate fiber into your diet and you’re still having trouble meeting the 25 grams that you need or if constipation is still troubling you then you might want to think about adding in a fiber supplement. Metamucil makes a sugar free blend that can add fiber to your diet along with a Premium blend. Both of these blends are keto-friendly and will help you with your keto constipation.
Other methods of reducing constipation on keto
There are other, non-diet-related things that you can do to help relieve your constipation while on the keto diet. First of all, make sure that you’re consuming enough water. Your body needs water to push foods through the digestive tract. When it doesn’t get enough water in the day it pulls the water from your colon. A dehydrated colon can lead to constipation so make sure your body is getting the water it needs. Constipation can often be relieved by adding a glass or two more water into your day.
Another good thing to add in is exercise. When you exercise you speed up your foods passage through your large intestine. If your food doesn’t stick around the large intestine then it will keep more of its water content and your stools will remain soft. The longer it takes to move through the large intestine the more water will be removed, the harder your stool will be and the more difficulty you’ll have passing it.
Constipation on keto can be a major frustration. If left untreated constipation can lead to major health problems down the road so it’s best to deal with it quickly. The good news is if you follow the above tips you should be able to safely and effectively combat your keto constipation using keto-friendly foods, a little bit of exercise and some water. If you’re still having trouble remember to talk to a health care professional who can point you in the right direction.