Does The Carnivore Diet Cause Constipation?
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Perhaps you are interested in the carnivore diet, but you have reservations based on the mainstream assumption that our digestive systems require fiber to run smoothly.
Isn’t it common sense that without fiber in your diet, you will become constipated? Eating an all-meat diet essentially eliminates fiber completely, and therefore you would naturally become constipated, right?
What if the answer to these questions is, NO. The carnivore diet doesn’t cause constipation.
I know this sounds like crazy talk and believe me I thought the same thing when I first heard about the carnivore diet. In fact, I remember vividly when watching Shawn Baker on the Joe Rogan podcast thinking this guy is insane and probably has hemorrhoids the size of baseballs.
Wrong, wrong wrong! Nothing could be further from the truth as the carnivore diet actually may help prevent constipation.
In this post, I am going to show why, based on both scientific research and anecdotal evidence as well as sharing my own experience with the all-meat diet.
Scientific Studies on Fiber
Scientific Study #1
The first study we should take a look at is titled, “Systematic Review: The Role of Fibre in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”
The reason this study was conducted was to challenge the assumption that a high fiber diet is a good idea to treat irritable bowel syndrome, IBS. The basic thinking and procedure is to treat IBS patients with a high fiber diet to accelerate intestinal transit.
Researchers took groups of IBS patients and fed them diets high in fiber. Some groups were given soluble fiber, like psyllium, ispaghula, and polycarbophil. Another group was given insoluble fiber like corn and wheat bran. The third group was given a placebo.
What they found was that the group given insoluble fiber actually had worsening symptoms.
Their conclusion stated the following, “The benefits of treating IBS constipation with fiber is marginal. Soluble and insoluble fiber has different effects and in some cases, insoluble fibers may worsen clinical outcomes.” (1)
Scientific Study #2
The second study is titled, “Stopping or Reducing Dietary Fiber Intake Reduces Constipation and its Associated Symptoms.”
This study wanted to see what happens when you actually reduce fiber in patients that have idiopathic constipation. (Idiopathic means, relating to or denoting any disease or condition which arises spontaneously or for which the cause is unknown.)
One of the reasons the researchers in this study wanted to see what the deal is with fiber was due to what they considered historical misguidance. They stated that back in 1971 the media and some food companies hyped up the idea that a low fiber diet could potentially cause diseases like diverticulosis, hemorrhoids, and colorectal cancer. (2)
The narrative that was started back then basically said that a high fiber diet is essential for healthy bowel movements and will help reduce constipation.
Kelloggs is full of crap, literally.
Here’s the thing. Fiber is not digestible and your body does not absorb it therefore it just passes through your digestive system. What this means is that by eating fiber you are adding food matter which increases fecal volume. (3)
So if you are prone to constipation why would you add a substance that increases the volume of your poops? The researchers even mentioned the analogy of traffic on the highway. When you add more cars you get more traffic which in turn slows down the flow.
Perhaps adding more fiber to your digestive highway is a bad idea assuming you want quick, nice flowing bowels?
These researchers concluded that increasing fiber in your diet can increase pain, bloat, and constipation. Also, they determined that the combination of gut bacteria and fiber will cause fermentation which in turn makes gas. The gas in your belly puts pressure on your inside thus causing pain and discomfort. (2)
Per the researchers, “in conclusion, contrary to popular beliefs, reducing or stopping dietary fiber intake improves constipation and its associated symptoms.”
Scientific Study #3
The third study is titled, “A High Fiber Diet Does Not Protect Against Asymptomatic Diverticulosis.”
What’s diverticulosis? It’s little pockets or pouches that form in the colon or large intestine which are known to create symptoms like bloating and constipation.
Mainstream doctors say it’s caused by a low fiber diet. This study says maybe not so.
Not So Fun Fact: Diverticulosis complications and disease resulting from such cost 2.5 Billion Dollars in the U.S. annually.
This research paper starts off by saying that the widely known narrative of doctors is that a high fiber diet helps prevent the development of diverticulosis but the evidence to prove this is poor.
These researchers took 30-80-year-olds who had colonoscopies done between 1998-2010 and looked at their results and concluded that a high fiber diet does not reduce the prevalence of diverticulosis.
What they did find was that those with the high fiber diet actually had more diverticulosis.
They found that people who ate a high fiber diet had more bowel movements throughout the day but that that is not necessarily an indicator of good digestive health. It just means there is more fecal volume in your system which in turn potentially puts a strain on your intestine and colon lining which then can create diverticulosis and those unwanted symptoms like constipation, bloating, and gas.
The researchers also concluded by saying, “the intake of fat and red meat was not associated with diverticulosis and that higher frequencies of bowel movements are associated with greater, rather than lower, prevalence of diverticulosis.” (4)
Generally speaking, carnivore dieters have one bowel movement per day but one should not confuse this as being constipated.
In fact, Dr. Shawn Baker conducted a study within the carnivore diet community and the daily bowel movement average was 1.2.
Is Constipation Caused By Fiber and Not Meat?
As you can see the studies show that constipation and bowel issues can actually be caused by eating fiber. Fiber appears to be the irritant in the eating equation and not the solution to digestive health.
How could fiber be such a problem?
Well, first it’s made out of cellulose, the same material found in bark and sawdust, and can not be digested by human stomachs.
Second, this cellulose is an irritant to our intestinal walls which may play a role in discomfort.
Third because fiber can’t be digested it is taking up space and creating more fecal matter, it’s adding traffic to your digestive system.
What Happens to Peoples Digestion That Don’t Eat Meat?
Ever talk to a vegan or happen to watch an ex-vegan on YouTube explaining their digestive experiences? A lot of them will share their unpleasant experiences and mention they had constant stomach issues like bloating, gas, and stomach pain. They will also mention that they had to frequent the bathroom 3-4 times per day.
In fact, all that extra fiber is making your body produce more mucus to line the interior of your gut to protect it from the fiber.
The research above pretty much shows that frequent bowel movements don’t necessarily mean you have good digestive health but it could set you up for some good diverticulosis.
Constipation on the Carnivore Diet
The carnivore diet seems to help with constipation issues, but it is possible to still get backed up. Here is a list of some potential reasons one would get constipated while on the carnivore diet; at least, these are what I have heard from people in the carnivore community and carnivore doctors.
- Adaptation: If you are just starting out there is an adaptation period in which your body adjusts to this new diet. Chances are if you had chronic constipation issues prior to going carnivore your body will need time to acclimate and get flowing again. This could be 2 weeks or a couple of months. Everyone is different.
- Hydration: Some people have reported that staying hydrated while on the carnivore diet helps improve digestion
- Electrolyte Imbalance: Calcium, Potassium, and Calcium all play a role in digestion. Too much potassium can cause constipation as it depletes Magnesium which is associated with proper bowel movements. The same thing with Calcium, if you are going heavy on dairy and have too much Calcium this too can slow down your digestion.
- Fat: Sometimes people that go Carnivore eat meat with not enough fat content. One way to combat this is to add fat heavy ground meat to your diet, something like a 70/30 or 80/20 fat to meat ratio. Also adding tallow to your meat will help.
- Salt: Too much salt can throw your electrolytes off. A lot of times the salt disrupts the magnesium in your system which in turn can slow things down. And speaking of salt, the best salt, in my opinion, is Redmond Real Salt…plus they sometimes offer our readers a 15% discount with this link.
Those new to the carnivore diet may experience the keto or carnivore flu. we wrote an article that contains potential remedies:
What to Do to Get Regular
A few things I did to get things moving. I discontinued eating dairy products and I added more fat to my diet like Epic Beef Tallow.
Basically, go get that fatty burger meat, the 70/30 mix and see if that helps over the next few days.
If you need a quick fix then you may want to supplement with some Magnesium Citrate. I use Natural Calm, usually 2 teaspoons before bed will do the trick.
Everyone is a little different so you will need to test out. Too much and you will have disaster pants, too little and it does nothing.
Digestion Helpers and Electrolytes
Carnivore diet doctors and people within the community recommend these supplements to aid with digestion. Speak to your doctor before taking and to find out which dosage is good for you.
- Redmond Real Sea Salt
- NU-SALT Potassium
- Grass-Fed Gallbladder (w/ Ox Bile and Liver) by Ancestral Supplements
- Source Naturals – Betaine HCl Hydrochloric Acid Source
- MassZymes – Premium Digestive Enzyme Supplement for Women and Men
Anecdotal Evidence from Two Non-Fiber Eaters
If you’re not convinced about the potential health benefits of the carnivore diet I would suggest looking at MeatRX. This website has numerous stories of success.
Take for instance Raymon Nazon. He experienced severe diverticulosis which caused enough pain he could pass out. He went carnivore and hasn’t had a flare-up in 4 months.
Another person Doris C. had similar issues. She eliminated all fiber from her diet and as a result had no further signs of diverticulosis not to mention the reduction of other major ailments.
My Experience with Constipation on the Carnivore Diet
Prior to the carnivore diet, I was bouncing back and forth between paleo and keto diets. The reason for these diets personally was to get my gut healthy as advised by my functional medicine doctor.
However, these diets never solved my issues with constipation. I was prone to constipation and it seemed like I could go a week with proper bowel movements but then the next I would be stopped up, uncomfortably so.
I had heard other people in the same situation that went carnivore and had tremendous results so I figured I would give it a shot.
Here’s the deal it never really seemed to help me. In the first few weeks, I had to continue to use Natural Calm Magnesium to keep things flowing.
There would be days that I would try to ween off Magnesium but then I would be blocked up again so back to Magnesium. This on and off went on for about 12 weeks.
After 12 weeks I ended up in the Emergency Room, that was a wild ride which I explain in this post, “How the Carnivore Diet Sent Me to the Emergency Room.”
After the emergency room episode I slipped back to a paleo diet heavy on meat but it also include sweet potatoes, plantains, butter and some other paleo friendly items. Constipation issues remained and I still needed the Magnesium supplement.
Fast forward two months and I go strict carnivore again. Within 2 weeks I weaned off the magnesium completely. This time everything just started to work. No more seemingly slow bowel movements. To be graphically honest I have one bowel movement every morning about 1 hour after I wake up. It’s a perfect one too.
By removing all the irritants and fibers caused by the consumption of vegetables and fruits I was able to finally get normal again. From what I have researched it’s basically due to the elimination of the irritants which allows your body to heal and get back in balance.
It worked for me, could it work for you?
Motivation, Education and Coaching
If you are looking to expand your knowledge of the carnivore diet I can recommend two books:
If you are looking for a personal carnivore diet coach, you can book a session with me at MeatRX Coaching. I’m part of Dr. Shawn Baker’s network of awesome coaches.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. Consult with and ask your doctor about any diet or medical-related questions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease or condition.
- Systematic Review: The Role of Different Types of Fibre in the Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Stopping or reducing dietary fiber intake reduces constipation and its associated symptoms
- Re-evaluation of the mechanisms of dietary fibre and implications for macronutrient bioaccessibility, digestion and postprandial metabolism
- A High-Fiber Diet Does Not Protect Against Asymptomatic Diverticulosis