Keto Diet Leads to Diarrhea
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Yes, the popular diet can lead to some unfortunate GI symptoms.
The low-carb, high-fat eating plan, which consists of less than 5 percent carbs, 10-30 percent protein, and 65-90 percent fat, works by sending your body into ketosis — the metabolic state in which you burn fat instead of glucose for energy.
It’s helped many people shed stubborn fat, but for others, it’s been — quite literally — a pain in the butt.
Going keto, it appears, is giving tons of dieters frequent bouts of diarrhea.
According to health experts, your gastrointestinal (GI) system can take quite the hit when you switch up how you eat.
“Whenever you cut out certain food groups in your diet, an imbalance will occur,” Callie Exas, a licensed nutritionist and co-owner of The Wellthy Plate, told Healthline. “Our gut microbiome feeds off short chain fatty acids found in grains, fruits, and vegetables, which are limited on the keto diet.”
Others, however, continue to suffer from tummy troubles throughout the diet.
Their bodies aren’t able to make use of all the fat they’re eating, so they try to expel of it. Hence, the runs.
“When you consume too much fat, the body can’t keep up with the breakdown and absorption. When unabsorbed fat gets into the small intestines and colon, more water will be pulled in to help its passage, resulting in watery diarrhea,” Exas explained.
Artificial sweeteners — such as sorbitol, maltitol, and xylitol — may also be to blame, some dietitians say.
Many people participating in the keto diet opt for these non-nutritive sugars in an attempt to limit carbs, but because sugar alcohols aren’t effectively absorbed in the gut, they often reach the large intestine undigested.
When this occurs, they tend to have an unpleasant laxative effect.
“One of the single biggest challenges for many people on the ketogenic diet is constipation. Without adequate fiber, the GI tract can come to a screeching halt,” said Suzanne Dixon, a registered dietitian with The Mesothelioma Center in Portland, Oregon.
If you’re feeling backed up, you might assume a fiber supplement will balance things out, but many nutritionists advise against them.
“Many fiber supplements contain too many grams of carbohydrates. If you don’t carefully account for these extra carbohydrates in fiber supplements, it can prevent the person from reaching and maintaining full ketosis, which is the goal of the diet,” Dixon explained.
Rather, increase your fiber intake with nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and cruciferous veggies.
Be mindful of how much dairy you’re consuming. Dairy is known to cause GI upset, so try removing cream and cheese from your diet to see if that does the trick.
Additionally, while laxatives and anti-diarrheal medications may calm your bowels for a bit, they won’t ultimately resolve the issue at hand. They might even disrupt your gut microbiome and digestive system, causing further inflammation and GI issues.
Chronic diarrhea can lead to heath complications, such as vitamin deficiencies, muscle deterioration, and electrolyte imbalance.
“If someone experiences keto diarrhea that doesn’t resolve with time as their body ‘adjusts’ to the diet, I would advise them to stop the diet. It’s simply not worth the risk to short- and long-term health,” Dixon advised.
In general, it’s smart to check in with your doctor whenever you change up your eating habits.
They can identify any underlying health issues, food intolerances, or allergies and help you figure out a meal plan that works best for you and your stomach.