There is no denying the effectiveness of the keto diet. When you cut your carb intake down to 50 grams or less per day, your body has no choice but to burn more fat for fuel. Keto all but guarantees rapid fat loss. While your initial weight loss is mainly water, once you’ve transitioned into full ketosis, your body starts burning fat like a super-furnace!
The keto diet involves eating foods that may be unfamiliar to you. It also triggers changes within your body, and especially your digestive system. This can cause keto bloating. Feeling bloated on keto is a common problem, but the causes are usually obvious and are also easy to fix.
No one likes to feel (or look) bloated so don’t ignore this keto diet symptom. In this article, we reveal the leading causes of keto bloat so that you can treat or even avoid this problem altogether.
The keto diet is one of the best fat loss diets around. Don’t let keto stomach pain put you off! You CAN beat the bloat!
What Is Bloating Anyway?
Before we look at the causes and treatments for keto bloat, let’s clarify what it actually is. Bloat is usually the result of a combination of things – including constipation and stomach distension. Stomach distension means your abdomen is swollen and pushes outward. Your stomach may also be painful and even tender.
If you notice your pants are getting tighter rather than looser on the keto diet, you are probably experiencing bloat. For some people, bloat is also accompanied by water retention. You may also have trapped wind or keto gas.
Constipation means not being able to go to the bathroom despite feeling like you need to.
Ironically, even if you have keto bloat, you should still find that you continue to lose weight. Bloat usually doesn’t affect weight loss although you may feel fatter because your abdomen is distended. Even if you are lean, a bloated stomach can make you look more rotund.
If your stomach feels swollen and your toilet habits are disrupted, it’s a safe bet to say you have keto bloat. Don’t worry – help is on the way!
The 8 Causes Of Bloating On The Keto Diet
There are lots of different causes of keto bloat. Here are the eight most frequent suspects.
1. Too little fiber
Your digestive system consists of your stomach and your small and large intestines. Digested food exits your stomach and then passes through the intestines for absorption and, finally, elimination.
Your intestinal tubes are made from smooth muscle. Smooth muscles work in a very particular way; it contracts in waves to push your food through your body. This is called peristalsis. In simple terms, the walls of your digestive tracts push inward to squeeze digested food along.
In the keto diet, you cannot eat foods like bread, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, or potatoes. These are sources of complex carbs and carbs are off the menu on keto. However, these foods are also a source of fiber. Fiber is important!
Fiber gives your digested food bulk which makes it easier to push through your intestines. Eating less fiber means food will take longer to pass through your digestive system, and that can lead to bloating. Food that moves slowly is more prone to fermentation which causes a buildup of keto gas.
The fix: Just because you cannot eat starchy carbs on keto doesn’t mean you have to be low on fiber. Eat more non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, celery, kale, brussels sprouts, etc. to make sure you consume the fiber needed to keep your digestive system working as it should.
2. Too much fiber
At the risk of being contradictory, eating TOO MUCH fiber can also cause keto bloating. If you overeat fiber, you may make your feces too big to pass easily down your digestive tract. This will again cause slow transit times, a buildup of gas, bloating, and abdominal distension.
If you are eating lots of vegetables, you should first congratulate yourself, but also dial things back a little because you could be your own worst keto bloating enemy! In addition, if you are using a fiber supplement like psyllium husks or flax seeds, you may not need it if you are also eating a lot of fibrous veggies.
The fix: Eating enough fiber is crucial for beating the bloat, but too much fiber can be equally problematic. Use a food tracking app to measure your fiber intake and reduce it if you are consuming more than 35 grams per day.
3. Not enough water
The keto diet is often accompanied by lots of peeing. As your body uses stored glycogen, it releases a whole lot of water, and that increases your urine output. This can leave you dehydrated.
Your body uses water for a wide range of essential functions, including lubricating your digestive tract and keeping your feces moist. As you can imagine, a dry digestive tract combined with dry feces means that your digestive system will have to work much harder to move your feces through your intestines. Slow-moving poop can cause a digestive back-up, leading to bloating and stomach pain. This is usually accompanied by constipation.
The fix: Drink more water. Don’t worry about keto water retention – it’s not usually a problem on a low-carb diet. Shoot for 64 ounces of water per day, making sure you also balance your electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals that are essential for things like muscle contractions, setting a proper heart rhythm and even regulation of digestion.
4. Too many sugar alcohols
With sugar and carbs off the menu, a lot of keto dieters turn to sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols taste sweet but contain no digestible carbs. They are often used in sugar-free candy, food bars, and other keto diet snacks and treats. Examples include xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, and maltitol.
While sugar alcohols are sugar-free, and won’t kick you out of ketosis, consuming too much can lead to bloating. They are mildly inflammatory and are known to cause digestive upset, especially when consumed to excess.
The fix: Consuming sugar alcohols occasionally should not be a problem but, if you abuse them, they could be the cause of your bloating. Cut down on foods containing sugar alcohols. They are mostly processed anyway. Instead, eat more natural, low sugar and sugar-free foods.
5. Too much MCT oil
Medium chain triglycerides, or MCTs for short, are beneficial on the keto diet. MCTs are easy to digest, and your body can use them as a quick-acting source of energy. MCTs also encourage your body to make ketones faster and can reduce the duration and severity of keto flu.
Most keto advice suggests eating plenty of MCTs – both as a supplement and from natural sources such as butter made from grass-fed cows, palm kernel oil, and coconut oil.
Unfortunately, while MCTs are undeniably beneficial, consuming too much can be a cause of bloating. Studies on MCT oil have reported side effects like diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, and cramps when they are consumed to excess.
The fix: Introduce and increase your consumption of MCTs gradually, and do not exceed the recommended daily maximum of 60-100 ml per day. Use MCT powder rather than MCT liquid as many users report less bloating.
6. Allergens in your diet
Following the keto diet means making big changes to the foods you eat. Instead of staples like bread, rice, pasta, bread, and potatoes, you’ll eat more protein and fats, increasing your intake of things like eggs, nuts, full-fat dairy, and other foods you may not have eaten so much of before. Eating new and unusual foods, especially in increased quantities, may trigger allergic reactions and lead to keto bloating.
Allergic reactions produce inflammation and swelling. That’s bad enough when it affects your skin but can be even more unpleasant when it affects your intestines and stomach.
Common sources of food sensitivities include:
- Artificial sweeteners
The fix: The solution to this problem is simple, but it also involves some trial and error. Eliminate any suspected allergens and monitor how you feel. Reintroduce the foods you think are upsetting your stomach and make a note of your response. Alternatively, see your doctor for a more comprehensive allergy test.
7. Imbalances in gut flora
Your digestive system is home to a host of healthy, beneficial bacteria. These bacteria keep your digestive system working correctly. Responsible for a wide range of functions, these bacteria are usually self-propagating, but big dietary changes can upset their fragile ecosystem. This can lead to an increase in harmful bacteria and is a common cause of bloat. Too little fiber and too much sugar alcohol can have a detrimental effect on your levels of good bacteria.
The fix: Restore and feed your good bacteria with probiotics. You can use probiotic supplements that contain common bacterial strains such as Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, and Saccharomyces. Alternatively, foods like natural yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, pickles, miso, kefir, and kombucha contain probiotics too.
8. Cheating on your diet
In most cases, bloating is usually worse during the induction phase of the keto diet. It’s part and parcel of keto flu. Keto flu is the result of your body making the switch from using carbs for energy to using fat and ketones. Also known as keto induction, keto flu can last anywhere from a few days to 1-2 weeks. However, once it has passed, your keto flu symptoms will disappear, and that includes bloating.
If you cheat on your diet and eat carbs, you will kick yourself out of ketosis, and this may trigger a new bout of keto flu – and that means more bloating. Even just one cheat or treat is enough to disrupt ketosis.
The fix: Don’t cheat on keto! Like any diet, keto only works if you stick with it. However, unlike most diets, even a small cheat can derail your progress for several days. It can take that long to get back into ketosis. Cheating is absolutely not worth it on a Ketogenic diet.
One of the reasons keto is so effective is that it is so unlike every other diet. You’ll eat very different foods, and that changes how your body works. While this is great for fat loss, it also affects digestion, all-be-it temporarily.
Bloating is a common problem in the keto diet, but not everyone gets it. By accident or design, many keto dieters avoid this issue altogether. And just because you aren’t bloated does not mean you aren’t doing keto properly!
There are a lot of things you can do to avoid keto bloating, and several things that increase your chances of suffering from this unpleasant issue. Pay attention to your water and fiber intake, avoid common allergens, use and don’t abuse sugar alcohols and MCTs, consume probiotics, and don’t cheat on your diet. If you do these things, you are much less likely to experience keto bloat and, even better, you’ll lose weight faster too.