September 3, 2020

You've read lots of amazing things about the ketogenic diet. It's amazing and can help you lose weight and finally achieve the weight loss and fitness goals you've wanted all your life. 

But what if we tell you that there's a price that you have to pay to get these benefits? Yes, all the advantages you experience comes with diet ketosis side effects. One of them is diarrhea.

Now, that's confusing, right? That's because keto diet causes constipation too. So how can it both cause diarrhea and constipation? And why does it cause diarrhea in the first place? We'll discover all the answers in this article!

Can Keto Diet Cause Diarrhea?

Let's keep the answer short and sweet—yes, keto may cause diarrhea. It is a common side effect of this diet. 

The severity of the diarrhea keto dieters may experience vary from one person to another. It can be as mild as loose stools or as moderate as a frequent bowel movement or as severe as full-on diarrhea (a combination of both). 

In addition to frequent and loose bowel movements, this side effect is sometimes accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Abdominal cramping and pain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What's with the keto diet that it can make your poop a lot? To know more about diarrhea on keto, continue reading!

Why Do You Get Diarrhea on Keto?

It can be confusing as to why keto is causing diarrhea. After all, the diet is made up of meat and other high-fat food items that are more linked to constipation. 

Keto may cause both constipation and diarrhea. But for this article, we'll focus on keto diarrhea. Here are some of the things that cause it: 

#1. Higher fat intake

The keto diet is a high fat diet. In fact, it is recommended that 70% to 80% of your daily calorie intake is from fats. (1)

The high fat intake is the most straightforward reason why you're experiencing diarrhea. When you consume fat, your body produces bile, a substance that is responsible for breaking down fats. (2)

Bile is good, and your body needs it to digest the fats properly you're consuming. However, it also acts as a lubricant for your colon. 

The more bile you have in your body, the more lubricated your colon is. The more lubrication you have in your colon, the faster your bowel movements will be. Additionally, your stools will become loose because it didn't have enough time properly form. 

The good news is your body can adapt to your high fat diet. You just need to give it some time. Ideally, this side effect will subside after a week or two. 

#2. Changes in Gut Microbiome

The gut microbiome refers to the beneficial microorganisms in your GI system.  Any changes in your diet can affect the composition of your gut bacteria. (3)

When you start on a new diet, you're consuming lots of fats. A diet that is high in fat may cause inflammation on the GI tract. Some studies show that this will have adverse effects on your gut microbiota. On the other hand, some studies show that it may positively affect your gut bacteria. (4,5)

It is apparent that more studies have to be conducted on this topic. But one thing's for sure, the fats in your diet will bring changes to your GI system and have a significant impact on your bowel movement.

#3. Too Much Magnesium

When you're on the ketogenic diet, you're at risk of electrolyte imbalance, which is the reason behind the dreaded keto flu. To prevent this, keto dieters add supplements to their diet. The most common of which is magnesium supplements. 

Unfortunately, high magnesium doses from supplements can increase stool frequency and may cause keto diarrhea. (6)

Stop taking magnesium supplements and see if the symptoms improve. Just make sure to incorporate magnesium-rich foods in your diet to ensure that you're getting enough of this electrolyte. 

#4. Lactose Intolerance

To add fats to your diet, most keto recipes use dairy as their main ingredient. This is a great idea unless you have lactose intolerance. Diarrhea is the most common symptom of lactose intolerance.

If you don't have any problems with dairy and lactose before, there's a chance that you may discover a food allergy/ intolerance to it when you increase your daily consumption of dairy. (7)

To address lactose-induced keto diarrhea, you should try reducing the amount of dairy you consume. You may also want to take an allergy test to determine the possible culprit for this side effect. 

#5. Artificial Sweeteners

The ketogenic diet is a low carb diet. You're only allowed to consume 50 grams of carbs or less per day. Consuming anything more than that can derail your weight loss results. (8)

Because of this, most keto dieters shy away from consuming sugars or any added sugar products. Instead, they use artificial sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols. While these are great sugar alternatives, they come with a disadvantage—gastrointestinal disturbances. (9)

This is because sugar alcohols are difficult for your intestine to absorb. Because of this, they are still not properly digested when they reach your large intestine. At that point, they deliver a laxative effect, which causes diarrhea. 

When you experience diarrhea, you may want to look at how much sugar alcohol you're consuming and cut back on them. This is important, as too much consumption of sugar alcohols may also raise blood sugar levels. 

#6. Improper Macros

The keto diet is designed to be a low-carb, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet. However, most keto dieters' common mistake is that they consume high amounts of protein and only moderate amounts of fats. 

When protein is taken in higher amounts than fats, it may lead to diarrhea. What's worse is, your incorrect macros will even prevent your body from entering the state of ketosis. (10)

Because of this, you need to note the levels of magnesium in your diet when creating an eating plan. You must pay attention to the ratios of your macros (protein, carbs, and fats). Your protein consumption should only be 20% to 30% of your daily caloric intake. 

How to Deal With Diarrhea Keto?

How can we manage this side effect keto diet? Here are other possible solutions that you can try:

#1. Ease into the ketogenic diet slowly. 

Sudden changes in your diet will disrupt your GI system. To help your body to adapt to your new diet better, ease into the keto diet slowly by gradually decreasing carbs and increasing fats.

#2. Take probiotics and prebiotics.

Probiotics and prebiotics contain beneficial bacteria for your gut and digestive system. These supplements can provide the support that your gut bacteria needs during the transition. 

#3. Take digestive enzyme supplements.

Your body may need help when it comes to digesting the fats you're consuming. Luckily, we have this digestive enzyme called lipase that can burn fats. 

#4. Stay hydrated.

As you wait for your diarrhea issues to be resolved, you should take some steps in ensuring that you won't experience dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. To prevent this, increase your fluid intake.

In addition to water, you can also consume electrolyte drinks. Just a reminder, though, most of these drinks contain high amounts of sugar. With that in mind, it would be best to look for keto-friendly electrolyte drinks, or you can make one on your own. 

Is Diarrhea Sign of Ketosis?

No one wants to experience diarrhea. Unfortunately, it is one of the side effects of the keto diet. But along with this symptom comes with good news. Experts consider diarrhea to be a sign of ketosis. That means your body is already producing ketones which are responsible for burning fats. (11)

What does this mean for you? The sooner your body reaches ketosis, the faster you can break free from these unwanted symptoms! 

While waiting for your body to adapt to your new diet fully, the best thing you can do is minimize your consumption of dairy and sugar alcohol and ensure that your takin is in the right macros. You can also take a few keto supplements that can help you reach ketosis after. 

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