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The Scoop on Keto Poop: Bowel Movement Changes on a Low Carb Diet

Yes, we’re talking keto poop! Have you experienced any keto bowel movement changes when going low carb? 

You read that right — we’re talking about keto poop!
When making significant changes to one’s diet, it’s pretty normal to experience irregular bowel movements, which admittedly can be a little stressful!

Constipation and loose stools make the top of the list of temporary side effects when starting a keto diet. They are generally nothing to be concerned about as bowel movements typically normalize over time, but you’re not alone if you experience bowel changes on the keto diet.

Celebrating every time you go? 🥳 
Because ketogenic foods are nutritiously dense, lower in volume, and highly absorbable, it’s natural to produce less waste. So, if your bowel routine changes and ends up being less frequent, but you’re not experiencing any pain or discomfort, you’re likely A-OK. Having bowel movements three times a day or once every three days is all considered “normal”.

Many people think constipation after starting the ketogenic diet is a result of a lack of fiber when this is generally not the case (if you are choosing good foods).

Constipation is likely the result of the initial diuretic effect (also known as water loss), along with a depletion of electrolytes. Your gut is also changing and learning to adapt to the higher intake of dietary fat, which is why people often experience a bit of bowel irregularity.

How to manage constipation on the keto diet:

Stay well hydrated.
Dehydration is one of the biggest contributors to constipation. Drinking water doesn’t need to be excessive, but pay extra attention to your body’s signals of dehydration (headache, fatigue, dark or smelly urine, thirst, etc.) to stay appropriately hydrated. If you want to kick up your water, try our citrus water recipe.
Electrolytes are important.
Along with dehydration, a very low-carb diet can initially change the way your body handles electrolytes, potentially resulting in deficiencies or imbalances. Electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and magnesium) help with muscle contraction, including those that help move food through your gut. On the ketogenic diet, consuming more foods and fluids high in electrolytes may help minimize constipation.

To aid in digestion, try to eat keto foods that naturally contain electrolytes and fiber:

Sodium — Salt, bacon, pickles, fermented vegetables, cured meats, fish.
Potassium — Avocados, salmon, dark leafy greens, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts, mushrooms.
Magnesium — Nuts, artichokes, fish, spinach.
Fiber — Non-starchy vegetables: spinach, celery, avocado, asparagus, bok choy, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, etc.

Here are some other options that may help smooth the way for keto bowel movement changes:

Electrolyte-enhanced beverages — Just make sure they’re sugar-free!

MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) oil — Not only can it help with ketosis and fat burning, but it also aids in constipation due to rapid absorption. Incorporate pure MCT oil slowly by starting with 1 tbsp per day and increasing up to 3 tbsp per day as tolerated. Try drinking it in your morning coffee, but be careful though as too much can have the opposite effect!

Magnesium supplement — Your need for magnesium on keto does not increase like sodium and potassium, however, studies have shown that nearly half the US population is deficient. Magnesium is also effective as a mild laxative and can help with indigestion and constipation. Look for magnesium citrate to specifically help with constipation.

Morton Lite Salt Mixture —  This is salt that contains both sodium and potassium.

Aloe vera juice (from inner filet) — May help to soothe and calm the gut.

But what if it’s the opposite? A.K.A. Diarrhea…

On the flip side, one of the bowel changes on the keto diet that some people experience is loose stools. Again, this is likely the result of changes in gut bacteria and your bowels adapting to an increase in fat intake. Surprisingly, aside from MCT oil, the above recommendations for constipation also apply for diarrhea — increased need for electrolytes, fiber, and water.

If you are already using MCT oil, you may want to consider temporarily cutting it out and then reintroducing it slowly, in smaller doses. You could also consider adding a probiotic supplement and fermented foods, such as no-sugar-added yogurt or kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi.

Another option is to try taking a digestive enzyme supplement. This can help your gut break down fats and proteins. A lot of people find it helpful, especially if they’ve had their gallbladder removed.

Above all, give it time!

A lot of people actually report improvements in their gut health when starting keto. Some actually experience less bloating and more regular bowel movements.

In the end, remember to be patient with your body, especially your gut. Give it time to adapt and heal from the many years of processing intolerable foods — your body will thank you in the long run!
So that’s the scoop on keto poop!

Check out more tips from our keto nutritionist!