One of the most common complaints we hear from patients on a paleo diet is an increase in constipation. Regular elimination is critical for gut health, no matter what diet you follow. This common side effect of the paleo diet can be combated with a few simple strategies.
Pay Attention To Your Water and Salt Intake
Often times when a paleo diet is adopted, the total number of carbohydrates being consumed drops. This causes a diuretic effect which accounts for the immediate weight loss experienced within the first few days of a paleo diet. This is commonly referred to as “water weight” but is more accurately named natriuresis. Natriuresis is the process by which salt and water are excreted by the kidneys. When insulin spikes, salt is retained by the kidneys. If few carbohydrates are consumed, there are fewer insulin spikes which means that the kidneys are not being signaled to retain salt, thus salt is being excreted. Water follows the salt in excretion, and a loss of “water weight’ ensues. While this water loss can look impressive on a scale, it is a major contributing factor in constipation because less water is available to travel through the gut. Focusing on increasing your water consumption is the key to combating this water loss and decreasing constipation.
Don’t Forget Salt
While some people note that salt causes their blood pressure to increase, this intake is usually in the form of refined salt, MSG, and sodium from processed foods in a Standard American Diet. When following a paleo diet, those processed sources of sodium are removed from the diet. This decrease in sodium consumption and thus free sodium in the body can contribute to constipation via a second mechanism. The mechanism that is responsible for this effect is a sodium pump in the muscular lining of the gut. When there is not enough sodium available, the gut does not contract as effectively causing gut motility and elimination to slow down. A simple fix for this problem is to season your food at each meal. Using Himalayan sea salt is a great way to maintain this critical electrolyte balance and help ease constipation.
Magnesium Can Help
Taking a magnesium supplement is a fantastic way to help ease constipation on the paleo diet. Magnesium helps to relax the intestinal smooth muscle and also pull water into the gut, encouraging easier motility. Taking magnesium citrate before bed can help ease constipation by morning.
Remember your Prebiotics and Probiotics
The health of the gut microbiome is critical for proper elimination. If you are transitioning to a paleo diet, taking a probiotic supplement (like the Be Well Probiotic Powder) can improve your gut health and elimination. Also, including prebiotic foods that are high in soluble fiber, such as cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, leeks, onions and garlic is critical to feeding the healthy bacteria. Another addition that can help is fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, Kombucha, and kimchi. By implementing these simple strategies you can stop constipation and start thriving on a paleo diet.