The ketogenic diet is a rapidly growing trend for those looking to drop some weight and ditch the carbs! But does it really make you poop more? I’ve done some research and here’s what I learned!
According to MedicalNewsToday, some people may experience looser stools when starting the ketogenic diet as a result of the gut bacteria changing and adapting to increased fat intake. That said, others have reported experiencing constipation which may be due to a sudden decrease in their intake of fiber.
Keep reading to learn more about the effects the keto diet has on your bowel movements, as well as how you can prevent and treat constipation and diarrhea as a result of keto!
How Often Should You Poop When On Keto?
According to MedicalNewsToday, it is not uncommon to experience fewer bowel movements (less than 3 per week) in the beginning stages of the keto diet, and this can extend to mild constipation that lasts a few days or a few weeks.
If you’re new to the keto diet and experience any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from mild constipation, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases:
- Less than three bowel movements per week
- Dry, lumpy, and hard stools
- Feeling pain or experiencing difficulty when passing stools
- Incomplete evacuation of stools
You’re probably wondering exactly why the ketogenic diet results in constipation, so keep reading to find out why and what you can do about it!
Why Does Keto Cause Constipation & How To Prevent It?
Transitioning too quickly
Drastic changes to your diet, such as the keto diet, can have a negative impact on your digestive system that can include symptoms such as nausea and constipation.
Solution: Your body simply needs time to adjust to your new way of eating, and gradually changing to a low carbohydrate diet over a period of a few weeks may be the best way to prevent negative digestive effects.
You can start off with a daily carbohydrate intake of about 50 grams, and then slowly reduce your intake of carbs as your digestive system becomes more used to it.
While this method may take a bit longer for you to reach a state of ketosis, it’s totally worth it if you’re preventing negative side effects! This also means you’re far more likely to stick to your diet.
Not eating enough fiber
This is one of the biggest culprits behind people experiencing constipation as a result of the keto diet. People following the keto diet typically consume 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day, which is much lower than the recommended daily intake of 300 grams.
Although people may benefit from restricting their intake of simple carbohydrates and processed foods, keto diets heavily restrict all kinds of carbohydrates, and this includes fruits high in fiber as well as vegetables and grains which are needed for healthy, regular bowel movements.
Our digestive systems cannot break down fiber, so it remains in the GI tract and adds bulk to stools by absorbing more water into the intestines. This bulk and water help to keep stools soft and regulate bowel movements. Without fiber to promote these processes, constipaion is highly likely.
Solution: Eat a diet high in keto-friendly foods such as:
- Broccoli (non-starchy vegetable)
- Collard greens
Additional Tips To Prevent Constipation On The Keto Diet
Stay Hydrated & Exercise
Making sure that you are adequately hydrated at all times! In fact, keeping hydrated is the key to preventing and managing constipation. According to The Institute of Medicine, women should be drinking 91 oz of fluid in foods and beverages per day and men should be drinking 125 oz.
Additionally, keeping active can also help to stimulate healthy, regular bowel movements. Even 30 minutes a day of walking, swimming, or cycling can make the biggest difference!
Eat More Whole Foods
Another great way to prevent constipation when following the keto diet is to ensure that the fats and proteins you are consuming are coming from whole foods. Eating lots of processed foods can place extra strain on your GI system.
Processed foods typically do not provide nutritional value and are low in fiber which your gut really needs to function properly.
Eat More Fermented Foods
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut (1 cup contains 4 g of fiber and 2 g net carbs) and kimchi (1 cup contains 2.5 g of fiber and 1 g net carbs) contain natural probiotics that your body requires to support gut health. They are also ideal if you are on a restricted diet, as they contain very few carbohydrates and a healthy dose of fiber.
Try a Fiber Supplement
If you are struggling to get enough fiber into your system while following the keto diet, then it may be a good idea to consider trying a fiber supplement. Just don’t rely entirely on this, you should still try and incorporate fiber-rich foods into your diet.
Try a Short-Term Laxative
If nothing seems to be working for you, it may be a good idea to speak to your doctor and consider using a short-term laxative. You can opt for either a stool softener or a stimulant laxative to get things temporarily moving while you start your keto journey.
Don’t Rely On Coffee & Probiotics
Many people think that simply popping an OTC probiotic will sort out their constipation woes, but this isn’t’ true. There’s very little evidence to suggest that commercial probiotics help alleviate constipation, and some do nothing at all. Rather stick with fiber as your go-to!
Coffee may also not be your best option. While coffee may help some people to go to the bathroom, it isn’t something you can solely rely on, especially if your constipation is severe.
If your constipation has not resolved within three weeks, be sure to chat with your doctor to find out what the best method of treatment is.
Why Does Keto Give You Diarrhea? (Plus How To Resolve It)
For some, their stomach problems are on the opposite side of the spectrum—diarrhea! According to Barbie Boules, R.D.N., founder of Nyoutrition, this may because the body struggles to digest the high levels of fat they are consuming.
Many keto-friendly foods contain sweeteners and sugar alcohols which are notorious for causing diarrhea, with sorbitol being the biggest culprit, as well as the following:
1. Low Digestive Enzymes
Your liver produces bile and digestive enzymes which emulsify fat and digest it. However, when you begin to consume more fat than your body is accustomed to, your liver may take a little longer to catch up with its bile and digestive enzyme production.
Until it adjusts fully to the new high-fat diet, you can end up with diarrhea due to all that undigested fat!
Solution: If you’re just starting keto and you have diarrhea, you can take lipase, which is an enzyme that breaks down fats in your first week of following the keto diet. Lipase will help you to metabolize extra fat. Your digestion should return to normal on its own by the end of the first week.
2. Low Fiber Intake
Ironically, a low fiber diet can result in both diarrhea and constipation! A lack of fiber can lead to a slowed digestion, and the food will simply go straight through you.
Solution: If you are suffering from diarrhea, your best option is to incorporate more vegetables that are reasonably low in carbohydrates to promote healthy digestion.
3. Too Many MCTs
A lot of keto followers utilize medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) to feel more energized and experience a boost in their ketone levels. MCTs are essentially great for you, but they can cause diarrhea if you consume too much.
Solution: If you find MCTs give you diarrhea, limit yourself to one teaspoon od MCTs at a time when you initially begin. You can then slowly increase your dosage to two tablespoons over the period of a week or two.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to prevent constipation and diarrhea during your keto journey. Once your body adjusts to your new way of eating, it’s highly unlikely that you will experience any digestive problems in the future. Good luck!