While the keto diet has worked wonders for many people when it comes to weight loss, energy levels and auto-immune issues, there are also several diet side effects too. All of them are usually temporary and nothing to worry about, and most usually occur in the first few weeks of transitioning to the diet.
Unfortunately this can cause some people to give up on keto completely, but usually they require nothing more than a few tweaks or a week or two for your body to adjust.
One of these “side effects” is experiencing some level of constpiation.
Why does the keto diet make you feel backed up?
Usually it’s nothing to do with the diet itself. Your digestive system needs to adapt any time you change diet, whether it’s a keto related change or not.
You will likely be eating foods you haven’t eaten for some time, and in much larger amounts too.
If this sounds like something you’re dealing with right now, try these 10 fixes and see if they help:
Eat more fibre
An obvious solution, but it’s not as simple as you think.
Just downing two or three shakes packed with psyllium husk isn’t necessarily going to work wonders.
Again, your body needs time to adjust, and giving it more fibre than it’s used to might even make things worse.
Instead, aim to take in the same amount of fibre as you did on your previous diet. If you were eating lots of grains and oats and starches, you will need to replace this fibre with something keto friendly.
Some good options are broccoli, cauliflower, avocado, chia seeds and courgettes. You could also take a fibre supplement, although we are partial to getting fibre from whole food sources.
Use your carbs wisely
On the keto diet you’re usually allowed between 20-50g of carbs per day, depending on your exercise level.
If you eat low fibre carbs, like sugars and white bread, this is going to do nothing to help your bowels. Instead, try and use your daily carb allowance on fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables, grains and oats.
This low carb bread recipe with psyllium husk is a favourite of ours.
Drink more water
Dehydration is often a cause of constipation on keto.
Get lots of warm fluids during the day, and make sure you’re hydrated during exercise sessions. Hot lemon tea is an ideal choice. It’s also a good idea to get some caffeine in via tea or coffee in the mornings, as this is known to stimulate a bowel movement.
Drinking more water is especially important when you increase your fibre intake, because fibre without water can actually clog your bowels up even further! It’s the water intake that forms that fibre into a stool and helps it pass through your digestive system.
Your body tends to dump salts on a low carb diet, so it’s important to replace these with electrolyte supplements, or even just with a pinch of salt in your water.
Magnesium is also known to help with constipation, and magnesium levels can get lower on keto as your body tends to flush it out of your system much faster than usual.
Magnesium rich foods such as dark chocolate, spinach, seeds and almonds are good choices.
Get more probiotics
As you’re changing the foods you eat, it can be helpful to keep your microbiome loaded up with beneficial bacteria. This will help your digestive system break down foods and pass them through your system, especially things your body is not used to seeing.
Probiotics has also been shown to be effective at alleviating constipation as well as diarrhea – an indication that it’s a fantastic addition to your digestive system in all scenarios.
The easiest way to get more probiotics into your system is to take a daily supplement, but you can also utilise food sources such as kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt and kombucha.
Looking at the body holistically, constipation can be a combination of factors.
In fact, one of the reasons squatting tends to make passing bowel movements easier is because it stretches out your lower back, lengthens the torso and thus removes kinks in the colon you may have while sitting down normally.
Of course, you don’t need to be on the toilet to stretch. Even a short 10 minute yoga session each morning can loosen the joints in your body and help everything work better. There is nothing a cramped up body loves more than a good long stretch to make room for everything to flow better!
Eat more fats
One mistake people make on the keto diet is eating too much protein and not enough fat. This is understandable – after being told fat is the enemy for so many years, it can be quite difficult to come to terms with suddenly getting 70-80% of your calories from fat.
However, too much protein is often a cause of constipation, and healthy fats can help to get things moving much smoother.
This doesn’t mean you need to load up on fatty steaks and pork belly – there are plenty of foods like full fat yogurt, avocados, chia pudding and cottage cheese that feel a lot lighter and will still help you hit your fat macros.
Berries are a great source of fibre while also being low in carbohydrates. It also helps that they’re hydrating and contain lots of nutrients that your body needs, especially since you can’t eat a lot of other fruits on keto.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and boysenberries are all fantastic choices for someone new to keto. Buy them frozen so you can store them in the freezer and they’re always on hand. They make a perfect addition to a bowl of full fat yogurt or chia pudding, or a sweetener for your smoothies.
Still not working?
If you still have constipation issues after trying all of the above, it may be due to an issue unrelated to your diet.
Constipation can happen on keto, but it generally doesn’t last past the transition phase, and many people have been eating keto successfully for years with easy and regular bowel movements.
Make sure to give yourself a couple of weeks to adjust, and if the problem persists, consider seeing your doctor to see if you have any underlying conditions.