Bathroom habits can be a taboo topic for many people — so your friends, family, and coworkers who swear by keto might have glossed over this detail, even if they experienced it.
If you’re following the keto diet — or thinking about it — here’s what you need to know about this uncomfortable side effect.
What is Keto Constipation?
Constipation — whether it’s connected to keto or not — is a condition that causes difficult or infrequent bowel movements. Proper hydration can help to keep you regular, but diet plays a major role too — and certain rules of the keto diet can be a recipe for constipation.
The keto diet recommends getting 60 to 75 percent of your total calories from fat, 15 to 30 percent from protein, and 5 to 10 percent from carbohydrates. To hit those macronutrient goals, keto followers have a strict list of foods they can and can’t eat. Unfortunately, many foods on the “do” list can contribute to constipation — and many foods that could help to prevent or relieve constipation are on the “don’t” list.
What Causes Keto Constipation?
There are a few inherent aspects of the keto diet that can lead to so-called “keto constipation.” If you’re following the keto diet and feeling backed up, here’s what could be triggering this discomfort.
1. Too Many High-Fat Meats
Keto followers often rely on high-fat foods like fatty steaks, pork ribs, and cheese to hit their dietary fat intake goals for the day. But high-fat meats and dairy products can contribute to constipation.
2. Not Enough Fiber
The best way to stay regular: Drink plenty of water and eat a high-fiber diet to improve digestion.
But because fiber is a carbohydrate, many of the best sources of fiber for preventing constipation — like potatoes, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and whole grains — are very limited or completely off-limits on the keto diet. Fruits and veggies can also be helpful for constipation, but the keto diet restricts those too.
When someone is following an extremely low-carb diet like keto, they’re most likely not consuming enough fiber, says Andrea N. Giancoli, MPH, RD and Openfit Nutrition Manager.”Dietary fiber is critical to gastrointestinal health and moving food through the digestive system,” Giancoli says. “Not getting enough fiber can spell trouble for the gastrointestinal system, and not surprisingly may lead to temporary constipation.”
3. Not Enough “Good Bugs”
Researchers are still studying how the ketogenic diet affects the microbiome in your gut. But studies suggest that probiotics may be helpful for constipation, and certain probiotic-rich foods — like yogurt and kombucha — don’t fit with the diet. Even vegetable-based probiotic foods like kimchi and sauerkraut can only be consumed in small doses. Additionally, many of the foods that help support probiotics — known as prebiotic foods — are restricted on the keto diet, like bananas, apples, onions, wheat bran, sunchokes, and oats.
Starting a restrictive diet can be stressful. Many of your favorite foods are suddenly forbidden, you have to overhaul your grocery shopping habits, and you have to constantly monitor what you’re eating — even when you’re out with friends — to make sure you’re sticking to your macro percentages.And there’s some evidence that stress can mess with your bathroom habits — for example, stress may worsen symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including constipation.
How to Get Rid of Keto Constipation
If you’re following the keto diet, be sure to drink plenty of water and eat as many keto-approved veggies as you can. But if you experience keto constipation, your best bet may be to look for a less restrictive diet. Carbs are an essential nutrient for a healthy diet, and there are plenty of healthy eating plans out there with a little more wiggle room, so you can get the fiber you need and avoid any tummy turmoil.