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Today I want to talk to you about vegetables and bloating on keto. Experiencing bloating while on the keto diet can feel like all of your hard work has gone down the drain. Even if you've been doing great at weight loss and staying in ketosis, bloating can give the appearance that you've actually gained weight. Not fun.
Even if you're eating a strict low-carb keto diet, certain vegetables can cause you to feel bloated. Don't give up on a low-carb diet just yet. If you've been on the ketogenic diet and my other tips for avoiding bloating haven't been effective, it could be a FODMAPs issue.
There are plenty of other reasons for bloating on keto, but this is one I haven't talked about much before. I'm going to share why certain vegetables (even keto-friendly ones) can cause very uncomfortable digestive system issues and how you can fix the problem.
In this article:
- What are FODMAPs?
- What Happens When You Eat FODMAPs?
- High-FODMAP Vegetables to Avoid on a Keto Diet
- Low-FODMAP Vegetables to Have on a Keto Diet
- What Else Causes Bloating on Keto?
What are FODMAPs?
FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates found in many fruits, vegetables, legumes, wheat products, sugars, and grains. The acronym "FODMAP" stands for Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols. That's a mouthful, so we'll stick with the acronym.
These are types of carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that don't digest very well. Research shows that FODMAPs can contribute to all sorts of digestive issues, including:
- Abnormal bowel movements
- Stomach pain
If you experience one or more of these side effects regularly, I recommend going on a low-FODMAP ketogenic diet. This is similar to the low-carb, high-fat diet I recommend. However, you also avoid all foods that contain these 5 things:
- Polyols - These are sugar alcohols like maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol. Some fruits, vegetables, and sweeteners contain these types of sugar alcohols.
- Fructose - This is a simple sugar. Some fruits and vegetables are high in fructose. It can also be found in table sugar and products that contain added sugars.
- Fructans - These are polymers of fructose molecules, which are found in things like agave, wheat, barley, and rye.
- Lactose - This is a type of carbohydrate found in dairy products like milk, cream, and yogurt.
- Galactans - These are a type of complex carbohydrate. Legumes like kidney beans, chickpeas, and soy contain a large number of galactans.
If you can avoid these things and stick to a ketogenic diet, you're going to feel so much better and less bloated. You may notice that you don't consume most of these on a keto diet anyways. However, some keto-friendly vegetables are high in FODMAPs.
What Happens When You Eat FODMAPs?
Many FODMAPs pass through the digestive tract unchanged. In this case, they are considered dietary fiber, which simply means that they will increase your fiber intake. However, some FODMAPs don't function this way. Instead, they cause side effects like constipation and bloating. This is especially true for those with food sensitivities to things like fructose, lactose, and carbs in general.
When FODMAPs arrive at the colon, they ferment and become fuel for gut bacteria. Although your body needs plenty of healthy microbes, the types of bacteria that feed on FODMAPs are not the kind you want. Friendly gut microbes produce methane gas. However, the microbes that feed on FODMAPs produce hydrogen gas. Hydrogen is a major cause of bloating, constipation, cramps, and abdominal pain. Excessive hydrogen can cause the gut to distend and make your weight loss efforts seem in vain.
On top of FODMAPs causing constipation, they can also cause diarrhea. This is because FODMAPs are osmotically active—meaning they draw water into your intestines, which can cause diarrhea. Many scientists also believe that FODMAPs are major contributors to digestive tract issue like irritable bowel syndrome. So if you're having issues with your gut health, stay away from all high-FODMAP foods.
High-FODMAP Vegetables to Avoid on a Keto Diet
If you have excessive bloating after trying everything, stay away from high-FODMAP foods and see if that helps. Here's a list of high-FODMAP vegetables you should avoid in your keto diet eating plan:
- Brussels sprouts
Low-FODMAP Vegetables to Have on a Keto Diet
The following is a list of some low-FODMAP foods you should integrate into your keto diet eating plan. You can eat as much of these as you'd like.
- Bean sprouts
- Green beans
- Bok choy
- Bell pepper
What Else Causes Bloating on Keto?
If you've tried cutting out FODMAPs and still haven't been able to reduce bloating, there may be a different underlying issue. Here are some other common problems that may be causing you to bloat.
1. Low stomach acid
One major contributor to bloating is low stomach acidity. If your stomach isn't acidic enough, the foods you eat won't be broken down correctly. When your food isn't fully digested, it sits in your digestive system and begins to rot, causing inflammation and gas. Not only does this cause bloating, but it can also constipate you, lead to nutrient deficiencies, and cause indigestion.
Keep in mind that indigestion and acid reflux are signs of too little stomach acid, not too much stomach acid. Your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the bundle of muscles that closes off the opening from your esophagus to your stomach. This keeps stomach acid from splashing up into your esophagus. Your LES needs high stomach acidity to function properly. If your acidity is low, it won't close fully. This allows acid to splash up into your esophagus and cause heartburn.
This is why often times acid reflux and bloating happen together. What I recommend for these issues is apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar helps fix your stomach's acidity so you can break down food properly. For even better results, also use betaine hydrochloride. Trust me, you'll notice a major difference.
2. Consuming Too Much Fat
One mistake that many people make when first starting keto is consuming too much fat. Even too much healthy fat can cause major digestion issues if you're body isn't used to it. Start off slow and work your way up to consuming more fat.
If you're not sure if the problem is too much fat, try isolating the issue. Cut back on fat for a few days and see if your bloating resolves. You don't have to overload on fat to stay in ketosis. But, it's important to not increase your carb intake as you cut back on fat or you may start to bloat because of the carbs.
3. High Insulin
When you first start on a keto diet, you may already have high insulin. If you're doing keto the healthy way, your insulin should go way down. At first, you may struggle to get it under control, which can cause some serious bloating.
When insulin spikes, you begin developing visceral fat. The first thing that happens is your liver begins to become fatty, and it can spill into areas around your organs. Mainly, it stores right around the midsection and causes a distended belly, "love handles", and even some fat that begins to sag and weigh you down.
If you have this kind of belly fat, you likely have high insulin. When insulin levels are high, you can experience some serious bloating and weight loss will be very difficult. What I recommend for this is to stick to a low-carb diet.
The ketogenic diet is a low-carb diet. If you want to learn more about it, click here for a starter pack containing everything you need to know about the healthy keto diet. I also recommend intermittent fasting, which you can learn more about here.
Another reason for high insulin is cortisol. Cortisol takes protein and turns it into glucose. This causes your insulin to spike and your body begins to store fat and bloat. What causes high cortisol? Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. Essentially, if you're frequently stressed, you're likely to have high cortisol. If you are stressed out, try doing some breathing techniques, meditation, and yoga.
4. Consuming Too Much Food at Once
A huge problem people make with intermittent fasting is eating too much at once. It's best to have two smaller meals than one large meal. Your stomach can have a difficult time breaking down food if it's overloaded. This causes a massive amount of bloating.
I also recommend consuming your vegetables separate from your fat and protein. Why? Your body produces enzymes to break down different foods. The problem is, if you have too many types of food in your stomach, your digestive system has to create a variety of different enzymes to break down each type of food. This can bog down your digestive system and slow digestion, causing gas, constipation, and discomfort. I talk about this more in this video.
To sum up, eating plenty of vegetables is essential to the ketogenic diet. However, high-FODMAP vegetables can cause a massive amount of bloating. If you've tried my other tips and tricks for reducing bloating without any changes, I recommend staying away from FODMAPs. FODMAPs are types of carbs in vegetables that can cause inflammation in the gut.
If you cut them out, it should help get rid of belly bloat. I recommend cutting out FODMAPs for at least a couple months until you develop enough friendly gut bacteria. Then, you can begin to expand to higher FODMAP foods.
Give this a try and see if it helps reduce your bloating.