So you jumped on board the ketogenic diet, and things are going great! You calculated your macros, purchased your electrolytes and stocked up on Lily’s Chocolates. And just when you thought you’d escaped the dreaded keto flu, you realize there’s a situation with the plumbing.
What do you do when you’re constipated on keto?
Generally you’re advised to:
- Drink more water
- Add in electrolytes
- Cut out dairy
- Eat more fiber
The problem is, oftentimes these suggestions just aren’t enough to unclog the pipes. Which leaves you with a dose of Mirolax, a butt-clenching sprint, and a quick prayer that you’ve got the bathroom all to yourself amirite?!
Unfortunately, I happen to be one of the most qualified to speak on the topic of constipation. Not because I’m a doctor or a GI specialist, simply because I’ve been there— many, MANY times— so I feel your pain.
What you should ACTUALLY do when you’re constipated on keto:
1. Drink more water
There’s no denying that hydration plays a major role in promoting healthy bowel movements. Water is an important component of digestion. It helps escort food through the intestines and also aids in their lubrication and flexibility (1). Maintaining proper hydration levels is step one in preventing and relieving constipation.
2. Add in electrolytes
Sometimes adequate hydration just isn’t enough to get the party started. In which case, you may be suffering from an electrolyte imbalance. Electrolytes are essential minerals—like sodium, calcium, and potassium. These minerals serve to regulate adequate hydration throughout the body (2). The ketogenic diet is especially demanding of these minerals— often resulting in an imbalance. And an imbalance of electrolytes may lead to constipation.
3. Cut out dairy
There’s a great deal of research suggesting that dairy contributes to constipation (3). In my experience, this is especially true of low-grade dairy products such as processed milk and cheese. As it turns out, I’m not the only one pointing the finger at dairy. Many people report that dairy products often make them constipated. Regardless of whether these ill-effects are due to lactose OR the unnatural treatment of conventional dairy cows, it’s wise to avoid products such as milk, cheese, and butter when constipated.
4. Eat LESS fiber
Yup! You read that right.
Eating too much fiber is the number one reason you’re constipated on keto. Are you shocked? ☺️
Now I get it, when errbody is telling you that eating fiber helps you go number two, why would you think otherwise? I didn’t. Admittedly, for years I promoted a high-fiber diet to clients suffering from chronic constipation (4) (mah bad)! It wasn’t until I began experimenting with carnivore that I realized this whole fiber thing is complete bullshit!
What is the Carnivore Diet?
The carnivore diet is pretty much as straightforward as it sounds. It involves eating all the animal parts. No fruits, vegetables or carbs— but all the steak and eggs you can stomach (5). Being prone to constipation, I was downright terrified of a fiber-free diet. Regardless of my apprehension, I gave it a go.
Interestingly enough, I’ve never been more regular in my life. No bloating, gas, or explosive diarrhea (guess that’s a thing on carnivore). And certainly no constipation. In fact, my digestive system never felt better!
This seriously blew my mind. All this time I had been psycho about my water and fiber intake in order to stay regular. And as it turns out, all that fiber may have actually been contributing to my constipation.
Let’s Talk Science
For decades, we’ve been told by our doctors and health officials that fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet. The supposed benefits of a high-fiber diet have been linked to a lowered risk of diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and cancer, particularly colon cancer. (5) Yet many of these health claims are not actually backed by research. (6) (7)
In fact, quite the opposite. Many studies suggest that excessive fiber intake may actually be harmful, particularly for gut health. (8)
FIBER: IS IT NECESSARY FOR A HEALTHY GUT?
Insoluble fiber is the stuff we’re told to eat in order to “keep stuff movin’.” Interestingly enough, insoluble fiber passes through our digestive tract virtually untouched. Not even the bacteria in our gut flora can easily digest it. It’s said to be good for us because it can “bulk up our stool,” but there’s mounting evidence to support that it can actually be detrimental to digestive health (9). Rather than aiding our bowels, it can elongate and irritate them. What’s more, studies have shown that reducing fiber consumption actually reduces constipation (10).
Are we designed to eat fiber?
When it comes to optimal health, natural design is an important consideration. Eating in alignment with our anatomy promotes health and longevity. As Maria Emmerich claims, “The digestive tract can be a good indicator of what an animal is designed to eat (11).”
As compared to other omnivores such as primates, humans have a much smaller colon. The colon is responsible for breaking down fibrous fruits, leaves, stems, and stalks. Which means, the larger the colon, the greater its ability to digest fiber (12). What’s more, humans also have a much smaller cecum. The cecum is responsible for fermenting plant matter (cellulose or fiber) and turning it into energy (fatty acids). The human cecum is too small to perform this— which is why fiber goes right through us (13).
If our digestive tract has anything to say, it’s telling us there’s no need for fiber.
The 2 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making on Keto (Regarding Fiber)
1. Counting Net Carbs Rather Than Total Carbs
The issue of net carbs vs. total carbs seems to be an ongoing debate in the ketogenic community. While some experts, such as Dr. Berg suggest counting net carbs others, such as Dr. Phinney discourage this practice. However, when it comes to constipation, counting net carbs could be getting you into trouble.
WHAT ARE NET CARBS?
Net carbs are the digestible carbohydrates in food that can be used for energy. For the most part, carbohydrates are composed of sugars and starches— both of which are digestible. Most other types of carbohydrates, such as fiber and some sugar alcohols (erythritol, xylitol, mannitol, lactitol) have no energy value or impact on your blood sugar. Therefore, fiber and (some) sugar alcohols are not factored into net carb counts (14).
The problem with counting net carbs is that you end up consuming a whole lotta fiber. And as we’ve discussed, more fiber means more constipation.
2. Eating “Keto-Approved” Processed Food Products
With keto catching on like wildfire there’s a slew of “keto-approved” food products cropping up on the market. On one hand this is great because it’s making keto more convenient. On the other hand, these companies aren’t exactly doing us any favors.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure as hell thankful for the occasional indulgence without feeling like a heroin addict in serious relapse. The problem is— keto or not, most of these processed food products are not exactly healthy. For one thing, much like fiber, sugar alcohols aren’t really digested. For many, their inability to digest can cause gas, bloating, constipation, and other GI issues (15).
Beyond that, most processed keto food products are loaded with fiber. Sure, they may claim two grams net carbs but how many grams of fiber are we talking about?
The Bottom Line
The truth is, fiber is not a necessary component of a healthy diet (20). And we certainly don’t need to eat fiber in order to have healthy bowel movements. Look at babies— their diets are 100% fiber-free for the first 4-6 months of life and they’re not strugglin’ to poo. What’s more, if fiber is responsible for “bulking our stool” than why on earth would we promote the stuff to alleviate constipation?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here for an all-out fiber bash. I’m just encouraging you to, one, derive your dietary fiber from whole food sources such as cauliflower, leafy greens, and avocados. And two, lay off the fiber when you’re feeling backed up.
Ready to “go-keto,” but have no idea how to begin?
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- What to eat on a CLEAN ketogenic diet
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Whether you’re well-versed or brand spankin’ new to keto life and looking for some help, you should check out Katie’s coaching program. Coach Katie lives keto all day, erryday. She keeps up to date on the latest science, so you don’t have to. But more importantly, she addresses your specific goals to help you achieve ultimate success on your keto journey. And it’s always better to have someone in your corner, guiding you along. So if you’re ready for total life transformation and ultimate keto success, schedule your FREE initial keto consultation today!
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Katie Rodriguez nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.