While on keto, your body burns fat instead of glucose (usually from carbs) for energy. While the keto may help you burn fat, there can also be side effects, and many of these side effects are related to your gastrointestinal (GI) tract reacting to the absence of carbs.
One of the side effects of the body burning fat while on keto is constipation. This means that you have three or fewer bowel movements per week. This can also result in your stool is hard and lumpy and difficulty passing the stool.
Some of the major reasons for constipation during keto include the body’s adjustment to fewer carbs and more fat and the absence of enough fiber in the body system. Since the body is designed to digest three macronutrients: carbs, fats, and protein.
Although eating too many carbs is not recommended while trying to lose weight, cutting back too quickly on how many carbs you take can put your gastrointestinal tract into a stressed state. Your body has to adjust from digesting a heavy load of carbs to digesting a lot of fat when you switch to keto, and it can take a while for your gut to get used to breaking down more fat than it has been used to.
Also, since you have decided to follow a keto diet, you definitely have to only eat 20 – 50 grams of carbs each day, and it is far less than the recommended dietary guideline of 225 – 325 grams of carbs, based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Also, when you cut back on food that is healthy in carbs, (fruits and whole grains), you are no longer getting the normal amount in your diet that you need to keep your bowel movements regular. If you only eat low fiber carbs, like white bread, white rice, or sugary foods, you most probably would not be getting the fiber you need to move food through your gastrointestinal tract.
Bloating, discomfort, or pain when passing stool, are more common indicators of constipation on keto.
Keto Constipation Magnesium
Some supplements can improve the effectiveness of the keto diet, while others prevent nutrient deficiencies or ease the side effect of the diet. Although if you eat a variety of healthy whole food on a keto diet, even if there will be any nutritional deficiency, it will be very few.
However, Magnesium as a supplement can help with some of the discomforts that can occur as your body adjusts to a keto diet.
Magnesium is a mineral and electrolyte that is abundant in the body. The body needs magnesium for many different processes, including food metabolism, the transmission of nerve signals, the balance of fluids, maintenance of bone and muscle health, and more.
It is absolutely true that some keto-friendly foods, such as nuts and spinach, have a high magnesium deposit, the keto diet is low on other magnesium-rich foods which include whole grains, fruit, beans, and dairy products.
So if you are not getting adequate magnesium from foods while on a keto diet, you may need a supplement. A supplement of magnesium is very beneficial if you are experiencing constipation.
There are different forms of magnesium supplements, but studies suggest that the body may absorb some form more than the other. A high dose of magnesium can cause diarrhea. Therefore, it should be started with the lowest dose on the package which may be 100 – 200 milligrams (mg) per day. But diarrhea does not occur, you may gradually increase the dose, although you should not take more than 400 mg per day unless a higher dose is advised or recommended by a doctor.
Causes Of Keto Constipation
When you decide to go on a keto diet, your body is bound to adjust to the new system you are introducing it to. Going on a keto diet is a major lifestyle change for many people and there is bound to be an adjustment period and you will definitely have to make some tweaks to feel your best and achieve your goal. The following factors are responsible for constipation during a keto diet;
A Change In Fiber Intake: fiber intake has always been the most responsible factor for constipation at the beginning of a keto diet. This is not because you are consuming too much or too little fiber, but because of the sudden change, you have made in your fiber intake.
Your body takes a while to adjust to the new fiber amount you are feeding it, so it is better that you slowly change the amount of fiber in your diet rather than making a sudden change.
Poor Hydration: one of the early things you will notice while on the keto diet is that you urinate more than normal and this is very common when first starting a keto diet. This is because Glycogen holds on to a lot of water in the body, so when you reduce the sugar stored in your body, you let go of a lot of fluid, which can lead to dehydration and potentially, constipation.
Electrolyte Imbalance: The importance of electrolytes on a keto diet cannot be overemphasized. As the body holds onto less water, you should pay closer attention to your magnesium, sodium, and potassium level, as these nutrients which are very essential to the body tend to be deficient in the course of trying to stick to a proper keto diet.
Magnesium plays a very important role when it comes to good digestion.
Dairy Intolerance: A lot of people end up consuming a lot of dairy than they would have consumed regularly since the keto diet can include full-fat dairy and because it provides an easy, tasty source of healthy fat.
When your body has trouble digesting the natural sugars in dairy (lactose) while on the keto diet, then you know that you are lactose intolerant. It has been revealed that 65%of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, so it might be a factor contributing to your constipation.
Lack of Exercise: Exercise speeds up the digestion process. The large intestines respond to physical activity and speed up the digestive process during exercise. The quicker the stool moves through the colon, the less time the body has to absorb all the stool’s fluid, and this makes it easier to pass.
Lack of Enough Fat: When you are not eating enough high-fat foods, you may start to experience digestive issues and this is always the simplest reason for it. When you eat more fat, it will help your body to push waste through your digestive tract faster.
How To Prevent Constipation On Keto
It is best to introduce the keto gradually in a bit to prevent constipation while on the keto diet. This is to allow the body enough time to process and get used to the changes you are introducing, especially to the digestive tract and system.
For example, you can start with a daily carb intake on the higher end, around 50 grams, and then gradually or slowly reduce your carb intake as your digestive system adjusts. Although this approach may cause you to be a bit longer to reach ketosis, you may be more likely to stick with the diet if you have fewer side effects.
Another clear way to prevent constipation from the keto diet is to make sure that the fats and proteins you eat are from whole food. Eating a lot of processed meals and fast foods can put extra stress on your gastrointestinal system.
Processed foods mostly do not provide much nutritional value. They are also typically low in fiber, which you need to keep your gut in good working order. And you must make sure to drink enough water.
Treating Constipation On Keto
It is worthy of note to know that long-term constipation can lead to complications, which include anal fissures, hemorrhoids, and abdominal pain. So for this reason, you must go for a check immediately when you feel constipated.
If you are just starting a keto diet, you may get to find out that your constipation only lasts a few days or a few weeks. Your constipation might actually get better as your body adjusts to digesting more fats and fewer carbs. But if your constipation continues to be an issue, you can try any of the underlisted home remedies;
- Increase fat intake, especially quick-digesting fats like MCT oil and coconut oil.
- Supplement with magnesium.
- Stay hydrated by increasing your water intake, make sure you take much more water as this will help to aid digestion. And avoid too much alcohol as it will have the opposite effect. Caffeine can also help you to keep moving.
- You can temporarily add more foods that are rich in fiber into your diet. foods such as legumes, whole grains, and berries are very much rich in fibers.
- Go for a brisk walk after a meal or get yourself involved in a regular mild exercise.
- Try bowel training. Bowel training is a method where you pass stools at the same time every day.
- Give your body time to adjust to the new level of fiber in the diet. Without all the grains and cereals in your bowels, your body will need time to adjust.
If after trying the above listed or any other known home remedy for keto constipation, the constipation is not getting better, be sure to make an appointment to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can work with you to find the best treatment.
Although over-the-counter stimulants may work well too, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any fiber supplement or laxatives. This is because some of the products are so high in carbs that they can sabotage your efforts on your keto diet goal.
Natural Laxative For Keto Constipation
You may choose to quickly move things along in a natural way when you are having constipation during keto. You can explore the following natural laxative if you are experiencing keto constipation:
- Coffee: it stimulates the muscles in your colon and may have a natural laxative effect.
- Magnesium Citrate: it increases the amount of water in the digestive tract, which will cause a bowel movement.
- MCT or Coconut oil: you can add a tablespoonful of this to your meals.
Constipation on Keto can be caused by several factors, especially the sudden change in your diet. Do not panic, rather try to find ways to relieve yourself.