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If you want to lose weight, low-carb keto is the diet for you. Miraculous things happen when you cut your daily carb intake to less than 50 grams per day. Eating less bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereal, sugar, and processed foods forces your body to burn fat for fuel. Going keto means you’ll lose up to ten pounds in the first two weeks alone!
However, as well as being a powerful weight loss tool, keto CAN cause a few unwanted side effects, collectively called the keto flu, a symptom of which is keto stomach pain.
The good news is that keto flu, including stomach pain, is short-lived, easy to fix, and actually an indicator that your ketogenic diet is starting to work. There is no denying that stomach pain is no-one’s idea of fun, but if you can tough it out, you’ll soon be rewarded with dramatic weight loss.
In this article, we explore the causes of keto stomach pain and reveal how best to treat and avoid it.
Can You Avoid Stomach Pain on Keto – Everything you Need to Know
What Are the Main Causes of Keto Stomach Pains?
So, what causes keto stomach pain? There are several reasons you may experience gastric discomfort on keto, with the main culprits being:
Dehydration – going keto can lead to dehydration. When you cut carbs from your diet, your body releases and uses stored carbohydrates for energy, a substance called glycogen. Glycogen is glucose combined with water. As the glycogen is utilized, your body releases the water, which is excreted. This represents a significant amount of the water stored in your body.
In addition, turning fat into energy uses a lot of water. Needless to say, on keto, you’ll be burning a lot more fat than usual.
Finally, keto dieters often end up drinking fewer fluids. That’s because a lot of drinks, such as juices and sodas, are not very keto-friendly. If you drink less, you are more likely to become dehydrated.
Dehydration affects your stomach in several ways:
- Intestinal cramps
- Slower movement of waste material through the intestinal tract
All of these factors add up to an increased incidence of stomach pain on keto.
Less fiber – going keto means cutting out a lot of common sources of fiber, such as whole grains and cereals. Fiber helps keep you “regular” by bulking up your feces. Low-bulk feces are much harder to push through your colon, leading to increased pressure and abdominal discomfort. This situation is made worse by dehydration.
High-fat foods – keto is a very low carb, moderate protein, high-fat diet. Eating a lot of fat can lead to stomach aches, especially if you usually eat mostly low-fat foods. In addition, certain keto-friendly foods, such as coconut oil and medium-chain triglycerides, can also cause stomach aches if you use too much, too soon.
Artificial sweeteners – you can’t eat sugar on keto, but you can use non-calorie artificial sweeteners. However, while artificial sweeteners won’t kick you out of ketosis, they can upset your stomach. That’s especially true for sugar alcohols.
Exogenous ketone supplements – some keto dieters use supplements called exogenous ketones to help them get into ketosis faster and achieve a deeper state of ketosis. As useful as exogenous ketones usually are, they are not without side effects, and using too much too soon could cause stomach aches.
Tips for Avoiding Keto Stomach Pain
Not all dieters experience stomach pain on keto. The same is true of keto flu. But, if you are one of the unlucky few, here are some tips and tricks for avoiding keto stomach pain.
1. Drink more water
Dehydration is very common on keto. In fact, a large majority of the symptoms of keto flu are directly attributable to dehydration. Avoid headaches, cramps, and keto stomach pain by drinking plenty of plain water.
How much you should drink is up for debate, but most experts agree that people should drink at least 64 fluid ounces of water per day, which is eight 8-ounce glasses. Drink 1-2 glasses on waking, and then another glass every couple of hours to hit your hydration target.
2. Ditch the diet soda
Leading on from point #1, your body needs water and not diet soda. Diet sodas, and many other keto-friendly snacks and foods, contain artificial sweeteners that may cause stomach pain. The occasional Diet Coke won’t do you any harm, but drinking several per day could be part of the reason you have keto stomach pain.
3. Use electrolytes
Electrolytes are minerals, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. If you are dehydrated, you are usually low in electrolytes too. Low levels of electrolytes can cause muscle cramps, including the smooth muscular tubes that make up your digestive system.
Electrolyte supplements can help replace these lost minerals, leading to fewer cramps and keto stomach aches. Eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables will also help, as they are high in minerals too. Good options include spinach, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, and bok choy.
4. Eat more fiber
A lot of people think that going keto means cutting down on dietary fiber. After all, most people get their fiber from whole grains, which are VERY keto-unfriendly. Not eating enough fiber can cause constipation, a common cause of stomach ache.
Make sure you eat lots of low-carb vegetables to ensure you’re getting the fiber you need to keep your digestive system healthy.
Most adults should consume around 30-35 grams of fiber per day. Don’t worry; fiber IS a form of carbohydrate, but you don’t have the enzymes necessary to digest it so that it won’t put you out of ketosis.
5. Try digestive enzymes and/or pre and probiotics
Your body uses enzymes to breakdown and digest the foods you eat. On keto, your digestive system may become a little sluggish, resulting in stomach aches and bloating. Taking digestive enzymes will provide your body with the help it needs to digest your food more efficiently. Easier digestion means less gastrointestinal strain and fewer stomach pains and upsets.
Pre and probiotics feed and repopulate your good digestive bacteria. Low levels of good gut bacteria can lead to stomach upsets and pain. Digestive enzymes and pre/probiotics are available in health food and nutrition stores.
Should I Exercise If I Have Keto Stomach Pain?
The truth is, only you can answer this question. It depends on the severity of the pain and how accomplished an exerciser you are. If the idea of missing a workout fills you with fear, you should probably head out and exercise. However, if you are an exercise novice or your pain is severe, it may be wise to skip your workouts for a few days.
It’s worth noting that exercise stimulates your digestive system. You may find that, after a workout, your abdominal pain lessens.
Ultimately, use your ability to tolerate pain as your guide. If you feel well enough to work out, then that’s what you should do. Exercising with stomach keto pain won’t cause you any problems.
When it comes to losing weight, there are lots of diets to choose from, and some are better than others. Some are so complicated that you need a degree in nutrition to follow them! Others involve cooking elaborate meals or buying exotic ingredients, and that can be impractical and off-putting too.
Keto is MUCH simpler. It’s more about what you can’t eat than what you can. Just cut out carbs and eat more protein and fat; simple!
Keto is both easy to do and very effective, but that effectiveness comes with several potentially unpleasant side effects, including stomach aches. However, the good news is that these effects are usually very short-lived, lasting only a few days and up to two weeks. Once you enter full ketosis, any and all unwanted side effects should disappear.
There are several causes for keto stomach ache, but the leading issue is dehydration. Part of the reason that keto dieters lose so much weight in the first few weeks of keto dieting is that getting into ketosis is usually accompanied by a significant loss of water.
Use the information in this article to avoid keto stomach ache or treat it if you are bothered by it. Remember too that keto stomach ache is seldom serious, should disappear on its own, and is an indicator that your diet is starting to work.
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