Feeling Bloated? Try these tips
Ketogenic diets have multiple benefits including weight loss, improved appetite control, increased cognitive protection, and more. However, the process to become keto adapted takes some time and includes some uncomfortable side effects, like bloating.
Let’s look at the relationship between starting a ketogenic diet and why bloating may occur.
Can Keto Cause Bloating?
When embarking on a ketogenic diet, most people will experience something called the “keto flu” as the body adjusts to using its own stored fat as its primary source of fuel. Fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, and bad breath are among the common symptoms of the “keto flu” (which isn’t an actual sickness). While less common, however, bloating can occur along with general gastrointestinal discomfort (1).
Most individuals who experience bloating find that the symptoms diminish over time. As your body adjusts to the dietary changes, you’re less likely to experience bloating and other related discomfort.
Potential Causes of Bloating on a Ketogenic Diet
The digestive system has to adapt to virtually any dietary changes, but a few common factors among low carbohydrate ketogenic diets can add temporary strain to the digestive system.
Sudden Dietary Shift and Overeating
A sudden change in your diet can cause your body to struggle with adjusting to new foods and different portion sizes. Overeating or eating too quickly can overwhelm your digestive system, leading to bloating.
If you are used to a high carbohydrate diet, suddenly changing to a diet that is high in protein and fats–both of which are absorbed slower than carbs–can cause the sensation of bloating. While the shift in foods is part and parcel of a dietary change, making sure not to overeat or eat too rapidly can help soften some of the side effects of a changing diet.
Insufficient Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes play a crucial role in breaking down the food you eat. Without sufficient enzymes, undigested food in the large intestine can lead to increased bacterial fermentation and gas buildup, causing bloating (2).
Adding digestive enzymes that help with fat processing, like lipase, will make it easier for your digestive system to break down the fats (3).
Overconsumption of MCT Oil
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are a type of fat commonly consumed on a ketogenic diet. These are processed by the liver and offer a quick source of energy for anyone in ketosis.
However, consuming too much MCT oil can lead to digestive upset. Excess MCTs may end up back in your intestine, as they cannot be processed by the liver fast enough.
Starting with smaller doses of MCT may help you avoid keto bloating.
Fiber and Gut Flora
Ketogenic diets are often low in dietary fiber. Depending on the individual, insufficient fiber intake may slow down digestion and cause constipation, which can lead to bloating.
Furthermore, clinical studies have shown that composition of your gut bacteria can change based on your diet (4). A sudden shift from a high-carb to a high-fat diet may cause a temporary imbalance in your gut flora, leading to digestive discomfort and potential bloating.
Soluble fiber (which does not count towards net carbs) can go a long way in promoting healthy gut bacteria (5). Legumes, brussel sprouts, avocados, for instance, are terrific sources of beneficial fiber. Additionally, probiotics are a great way to keep gut microbiome healthy.
Consumption of Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are commonly used as sugar substitutes in a ketogenic diet. However, these compounds can be fermented by gut bacteria, leading to gas production and bloating.
For instance, research has shown that mannitol can lead to a bloating sensation (6), while excessive consumption of other sugar alcohols is linked with diarrhea. Monitoring sugar alcohol intake can help in avoiding gastrointestinal distress on a ketogenic diet at any time, but especially when first starting out.
Dehydration can slow down your digestive system and lead to constipation, thereby causing bloating. This is particularly relevant in a ketogenic diet, where there is often increased water and electrolyte loss. Drinking plenty of water can play an important role in managing all symptoms of keto flu, including keto bloat.
An imbalance of electrolytes—minerals that help regulate fluid levels and proper functioning of your heart, brain, and muscles—can lead to water retention and subsequent bloating. Taking electrolytes, including magnesium, potassium, and especially sodium, is important in all stages of a ketogenic diet.
While any dietary changes will involve an adjustment period for the body, the ketogenic diet requires special care as the body begins to rely on its own stored fat for fuel. By paying attention to your body and making a few simple tweaks, you can manage bloating and other keto flu symptoms and soon learn to thrive on a healthy low-carb lifestyle.
Enaut is the Chief Editor at Latestfuels.com, a media site focused on meal replacement shakes, nutritional supplements and health. He graduated with a in BSc Biochemistry at the University of Bath where he discovered a passion for all things related to health, nutrition and fitness. Now he shares his knowledge with his readers.
- Candelario M, Cuervo A, Moreno-Aliaga MJ. Cardiometabolic Risk Factors Associated With Low Protein Intake: NHANES 2007-2010. Front Nutr. 2020;7:20. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2020.00020.
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- Bajaj HS, Venn K, Ye C, et al. Low-protein diet-induced hyperammonemia: metabolic basis and potential implications. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2021;18(1):26. doi: 10.1186/s12986-021-00549-6.
- Verdin E. NAD+ in aging, metabolism, and neurodegeneration. Science. 2015;350(6265):1208-1213. doi: 10.1126/science.aac4854.
- Krajewski-Siuda K, Zawada A, Siuda J, et al. Genetically determined levels of serum vitamin D affect vitamin D status of an individual regardless of dietary intake and sun exposure: an observational study in Polish families. Eur J Nutr. 2021;60(4):1931-1944. doi: 10.1007/s00394-020-02412-y.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.