The keto (ketogenic) diet has become increasingly popular over the past few years. This diet promotes the intake of fat instead of carbohydrates, which allows your body to go into a ketogenic state. Ketosis is when your body is forced to use an alternative energy source when it has been depleted of glucose.
To achieve ketosis, your diet needs to contain less than 50g of carbohydrates a day – a tiny amount if you consider that you need at least 25g of fibre per day, which is largely contained in your carbohydrate intake.
A lack of fibre is one of the main causes of constipation.
Why the ketogenic diet causes constipation
If you’re eating fewer carbohydrates than you’re used to, you’re probably also skimping on the insoluble fibre found in fruit, vegetables and whole-grain foods – the kind that adds bulk to your digestive tract and keeps things running smoothly. “When you cut out carbs, it’s hard to consume 25g of fibre a day – the amount you need for healthy bowel functioning,” says dietitian Bethany Doerfler.
Combat the constipation
If you decide to stick to a ketogenic diet, you should consult your doctor or nutritionist to discuss how you will obtain your daily amount of vital fibre. There are also a number of things you can do to avoid keto-related constipation.
1. Make sure you eat all the fibre you can
The ketogenic diet is extremely low in carbohydrates because you eliminate fibre-rich grains and limit your fruit and vegetable intake. Make sure you eat the fresh produce you're allowed, as this will provide you with some fibre.
2. Stay hydrated
Make sure that you drink plenty of water to aid your digestion and keep everything moving.
3. Choose your oils wisely
Adjust your diet to include a medium-chain triglyceride oil as MCTs are are more easily absorbed, metabolised and used for energy than long-chain triglycerides. Triglycerides are the main molecules present in dietary fats.
Coconut oil and palm kernel oil are the best sources of MCTs, and dairy is also a natural source, provided you don't buy low-fat products. However, MTCs have a natural laxative effect and can upset your stomach when taken in high doses; it is therefore best to go slowly and first discuss their use with your nutritionist or medical professional.
4. Take a magnesium supplement
Magnesium citrate is an osmotic laxative, which relaxes your bowels and draws water into your intestines. It's an important mineral to help your organs function. Magnesium is obtained from green vegetables, nuts and whole-grain products. It's important to eat as many green vegetables and nuts as you are allowed to as your intake of whole-grain foods on the ketogenic diet will be severely limited.
5. Talk to a medical expert if your constipation is ongoing
Be sure to get professional help if you follow any new diet and continue to experience constipation, as this can cause complications. You can also consult a nutritionist so that they can assess whether you are eating the correct amount of fibre for your needs.
Disclaimer: Always consult a medical professional or nutritionist before embarking on a weight-loss plan that involves the restriction of a large variety of foods.
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