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What Laxative Can I Take On Keto Diet? Should You Use Or Avoid In 2023?
Constipation can be a major issue for keto dieters. As an extremely low-carb diet, a ketogenic diet frequently lacks adequate fiber intake.
By eliminating foods with soluble and insoluble fiber such as oats and grains, as well as resistant starches like bananas and potatoes, many people living the keto lifestyle find that they experience difficulty maintaining regular bowel movements.
If you’re experiencing constipation on keto, you’re not alone! If you’re wondering, “What laxative can I take on keto diet,” incorporating a natural laxative or two into your diet may help alleviate constipation!
What Laxative Can I Take On Keto Diet?
Dietary fiber and resistant starches are key components to maintaining digestive tract health and regulating bowel movements. Unfortunately, some popular home remedies like prune juice are off the table for a keto diet.
If you’re experiencing keto constipation, you can try:
- Magnesium Supplements
- Staying Hydrated
- Increasing Your Dietary Fiber Intake
- Adding A Fiber Supplement
- Exercising Regularly
- Eating Prebiotic Foods
- Natural Laxatives
What Is A Keto Diet?
The keto diet was originally designed to help control symptoms of drug-resistant epilepsy in children. Over time, some physicians recommended a ketogenic diet as a treatment for obesity, and eventually as a possible way to control blood sugar in people with diabetes.
The keto diet has recently become popular as a lifestyle, along with other low-carb diets. However, the keto diet isn’t generally recommended as a long-term strategy by most dieticians because it lacks many key nutrients.
One of the major deficiencies of the keto diet is that many of the main sources of fiber are not considered “keto-friendly.” Specifically, resistant starches, which are essential for maintaining a healthy gut biome, don’t have a place in the keto diet.
Other low-carb diets such as the Mediterranean diet may give you similar benefits to the keto diet with a more balanced approach, helping you avoid uncomfortable symptoms of the keto flu including constipation on keto.
You can also use a keto diet to achieve your initial results and then transition to a less extreme low-carb diet for maintenance once your wellness goals have been reached!
Is Constipation A Ketosis Sign?
Constipation is not a sign of ketosis, but many people struggle with fewer bowel movements as a side-effect of ketogenic diets. Carbohydrates–specifically fiber and resistant starches–are a key component of digestive health.
Your GI tract may react to the absence of these foods when you start keto. However, there are foods that can stimulate digestion while you maintain ketosis.
Causes Of Keto Constipation
If your digestive system is struggling on a ketogenic diet, there could be several factors beyond your reduced carbohydrate intake.
You Don’t Drink Enough Water
Most of us don’t drink enough water, regardless of whether we’re adapting to a low-carb lifestyle or not. However, eating fewer carbs can directly impact your body’s ability to absorb and utilize water.
Carbohydrates are one of the main electrolytes our body uses in maintaining hydration. By cutting them out almost completely, dehydration is one of the most commonly reported symptoms of “keto flu”.
You Don’t Eat Enough High-Fat Foods
If you’re struggling with constipation on keto, you may need to take a look at what kinds of healthy fats foods you’re eating. Diets heavy with large servings of red or processed meats can cause constipation.
You may also experience constipation temporarily as your body adjusts to processing fat as a fuel source rather than carbs. Increasing healthy fats may help alleviate constipation while you transition.
You’re Not Eating Enough Fiber
Before starting a ketogenic diet, most of your fiber sources are probably higher-carb foods like whole grains. Keto constipation frequently happens when people cut out those great fiber sources without replacing them.
How To Prevent Constipation While On Keto?
Take Magnesium Supplements
Hand in hand with good hydration, magnesium is an essential mineral involved in many processes of the body from sleep to nerve function. Magnesium also increases water in the bowels, helping move things along and improve infrequent bowel movements.
Soaking in an Epsom salt bath is another great way to get more magnesium, as it absorbs easily through the skin. It can also alleviate muscle aches!
Drink Plenty Of Water
Be sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water! Good hydration plays a key role in keeping the digestive tract moving, so if you’re experiencing keto constipation, try to increase your water intake. But don’t neglect those electrolytes, especially if you’re sweating a lot!
Include High-Fiber Foods In Your Diet
Fiber in all its forms enhances gut motility as well as weight loss. It adds needed bulk to the stools and supports healthy digestion. Good sources of fiber include:
- Nuts such as walnuts, Brazil nuts, and almonds
- Seeds such as chia seeds, flax seeds, and quinoa
- Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini
- Leafy greens
Support Your Gut Flora With Prebiotic Foods
Your gut microbiome is the cornerstone of wellness in many facets. Not least of which is your digestion! There are two ways to support a healthy gut microbiome: probiotics and prebiotics.
Probiotics add beneficial bacteria to the system, and prebiotics feed those bacteria. Taking a probiotic supplement can’t hurt, but giving your gut flora the food they need is the best way to ensure your gut microbiome is as healthy and functional as possible.
Prebiotic foods include nutrients that aren’t broken down higher in the gut. Fiber is one such nutrient, but resistant starches are the most important food for your gut bacteria.
Great keto-friendly prebiotics include mushrooms, garlic, onions, asparagus, flaxseed, and leek. Fermented foods like kefir and sauerkraut are potent ways to support your microbiome. Artichoke is a particularly great keto-friendly food because it has probiotic and prebiotic benefits!
Increase Physical Activity
Increasing your physical activity can boost your weight loss benefits while helping alleviate keto constipation. The more you move your body, the better it stimulates your intestines to move waste while strengthening the muscles that do that work!
8 Natural Laxatives You Should Try
- MCT oil – This may help soften stool and stimulate bowel movement, but too much MCT oil may cause diarrhea.
- Coconut oil – Contains natural MCT oils and works similarly to an MCT supplement.
- Coffee – Most of us are very familiar with coffee’s stimulant effect on the bowels!
- Olive oil – Has a relatively gentle natural laxative effect, making it a comfortable option for many people.
- Aloe Vera – Adding aloe vera juice to smoothies or drinking it straight can have a powerful laxative effect.
- Senna – Senna is a very effective stool softener, making intestinal activity more comfortable, but also has stimulant laxative effects and should only be used short-term.
- Kefir and other fermented foods – Can help improve bowel regularity by supporting your gut microbiome.
- Fiber supplements, especially if they contain psyllium husk – Can add bulk and make stools easier to move.
Keto constipation is a common, uncomfortable side-effect of a ketogenic diet. Many people struggle with difficult and infrequent bowel movements as their body adjusts to their new diet.
However, keto constipation may be an ongoing problem, as the diet necessarily eliminates many key nutrients that support regular bowel movements. Specifically, resistant starches are particularly important for gut health and are difficult to incorporate into keto.
While fiber supplements can help, adding a natural laxative and making a few simple dietary adjustments may be equally important.
Be sure you stay physically active and hydrated to keep your gut moving and try to eat lots of probiotic and prebiotic foods to keep your gut biome healthy and active. Because of its highly restrictive nature, keto is not recommended by many physicians and dietitians as a long-term diet for most people.
However, you may be able to use keto to achieve your initial weight loss and wellness goals and then transition to a more sustainable option such as the Mediterranean diet.
Regarding keto-induced constipation or any significant alterations to your diet or exercise routine, it’s advisable to consult your doctor before initiating any changes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Constipation is a common side-effect of a ketogenic diet, but can be avoided and alleviated with dietary adjustments.
Be sure to stay hydrated, get plenty of exercise, and incorporate as many fiber-rich foods and resistant starches as possible into your diet.
Taking stimulant laxatives for too long can make you dependent on them to have a bowel movement at all. Overusing stimulant laxatives can cause diarrhea, electrolyte imbalances, and mineral deficiencies.
Transitioning slowly and giving your body time to adjust to a low-carbohydrate diet can help you maintain normal bowel movements on the keto diet. Along with including enough fiber, staying hydrated and active, and including plenty of prebiotic and probiotic foods, you can maintain gut health on keto!
+ 5 sources
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- Shalabi, H., Alotaibi, A.M., Abdulrahman Saad Alqahtani, Hashim Alattas and Alghamdi, Z. (2021). Ketogenic Diets: Side Effects, Attitude, and Quality of Life. [online] doi:https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.20390.
- Bostock, S., Kirkby, K.C., Taylor, B.V. and Hawrelak, J. (2020). Consumer Reports of ‘Keto Flu’ Associated With the Ketogenic Diet. [online] 7. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2020.00020.
- Higgins, J.A. (2014). Resistant Starch and Energy Balance: Impact on Weight Loss and Maintenance. [online] 54(9), pp.1158–1166. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2011.629352.
- Leeuwendaal, N.K., Stanton, C., O’Toole, P.W. and Beresford, T.P. (2022). Fermented Foods, Health and the Gut Microbiome. [online] 14(7), pp.1527–1527. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14071527.
- Nei, M., Ngo, L., Sirven, J.I. and Sperling, M.R. (2014). Ketogenic diet in adolescents and adults with epilepsy. [online] 23(6), pp.439–442. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.seizure.2014.02.015.