Wellness gurus, fitness bloggers and Instagram celebs sure have a lot of positive things to say about the keto diet. And if you believe everything you read – it’s the magic bullet for weight loss and can apparently also fight cancer, prevent heart disease and even help you sleep better… *eyeroll*
But even the biggest of fans are starting to realise there’s a few unpleasant symptoms that come with it. In particular, I’m talking about keto constipation.
What causes keto constipation?
Let’s rewind for just a sec. Constipation is the uncomfortable condition in which a person struggles to get things moving (if you know what I mean…). You might feel pain or the urge to strain when going to the toilet, or experience frequent cramps and bloating.
While there are a few causes of constipation, one of the main culprits is lack of fibre in the diet. In case you aren’t aware, fibre is the indigestible component of food that plays a key role in gut health. There’s a few different types (soluble fibre, insoluble fibre and resistant starch), each of which have their own unique role. Soluble fibre, for example, absorbs water in the bowel and helps with blood sugar and cholesterol management. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, is what helps to keep you regular.
So, if you’re feeling constipated, just eat more fibre, right? In many cases, that assumption stands true. Loading up on wholegrains, legumes, fruit and vegetables is a great idea – but if you’ve gone down the keto path, you’ll know that most of these foods are not keto-friendly.
The very fact that your body isn’t functioning it’s best is reason enough for me to say I don’t think the keto diet is a good idea for most people. What’s more, eating enough fibre has a raft of benefits beyond the bowels, like supporting your ticker and reducing your risk of certain diseases. So if you’ve gone keto, chances are you’re not just feeling constipated, but you’re missing out on many other health benefits, too.
Nonetheless, if you insist on following the keto diet, you may as well do it as healthily as possible. So, without further ado, here’s my top tips on beating keto constipation.
Focus on fruit and veg
While foods like legumes, potatoes and bananas contain some of those ‘dreaded’ carbs that you’re not allowed to eat if you’re on the keto diet, there’s plenty of other varieties that can be included: for example, foods like broccoli, spinach and berries. I’d suggest eating as much of the ‘allowed’ fruit and veg you can each and every day – remember, your target is two and at least five, respectively.
Include plenty of nuts and seeds
Apart from their heart-healthy fats and plant-based protein, nuts and seeds can contribute a decent dose of fibre. Chia seeds and linseeds are by far the stand out, with just one tablespoon of chia seeds (20 grams) containing almost 7 grams of fibre. FYI, that’s about one quarter of a woman’s daily recommended fibre intake.
Consider a supplement if necessary
Although real food is always my number one strategy, sometimes it’s just not enough – especially when you’re limiting so much of your food intake. In this case, a fibre supplement may be necessary, so be sure to have a chat to your GP or dietitian to find what will work best for you.
And there you have it! My top tips on upping your fibre intake when you’re on a low carb diet. Remember, drinking enough water is key when increasing the fibre in your diet, so make sure you hit your two litre target every day.
Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.