Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
September 5, 2021
Yes! I am going to talk about constipation – difficult bowel movements and straining on the toilet. Not pleasant but a reality at times. And I’m going to relate it to my favorite way of eating – an animal-based (i.e., Carnivore) diet.
The Carnivore Diet has been the most important change I made to my lifestyle along my Cancer Journey. The nutrition and healing powers of eating properly raised animals from nose-to-tail is unparalleled. My Better Belly Blueprint way of eating includes at least 70% animal-based foods and less than 30% plant-based foods that are low in phytates, oxalates, and lectins.
I’ve discussed the supporting medical science about a properly designed animal-based diet in many previous blogs. I even discussed how animal husbandry is good for nutrition, fertile farmland, and the environment in my most recent blog, The Case for Meat.
But when a person changes his or her eating habits abruptly, much happens internally and emotionally. And the body takes time to catch up with the changes and may react in very unpleasant and nasty ways.
One of those reactions when you change to an animal-based diet is constipation.
Constipation is awful! It’s painful and can create a depressive state of mind. Whenever I have had constipation, my wife tried to avoid me. She says I become a bear to live with. Fortunately, I rarely have constipation.
If you have persistent constipation, you must rule out any gut obstructions or pathologies which could manifest as constipation. So, if there is a question as to a medical cause for your constipation, you should first consult with your gastroenterologist.
But what if you rarely had constipation until starting an animal-based diet (i.e., carnivore diet)?
You need to know a few basics …
- It’s normal to have bowel movements less frequently.
- Muscle meat, organs, animal fat, and collagenous parts take longer to digest as you absorb more nutrients compared to plant foods.
- Eating animals from nose-to-tail produces minimal roughage in the digestive tract.
- In fact, the carnivore diet seems to help with constipation issues.
However, it is possible to still get backed up. Here is a list of 11 potential reasons and treatments for constipation while on the carnivore diet. These are what I have learned personally as well as from people in the carnivore community and carnivore doctors.
11 Steps to Treat
#1 Be Patient
Assuming that there are no gut obstructions or pathologies, switching from other ways of eating to the carnivore diet will take time for your body to rebalance. This is an adaption period which most people experience. If you have issues with constipation, they should go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. Everyone is different.
#2 Reduce Stress
Emotional stress can cause and exacerbate constipation. If you believe that there is chronic or acute stress in your life, you should delve into this cause. It is not easy to eliminate emotional stress. You may need the advice and support from a professional to deal with how you handle your stress.
#3 Improve Hydration and Water Consumption
Water is essential to prevent or treat constipation. But you must choose water that has the necessary electrolytes and trace minerals for absorption and hydration. I have written some articles about this. My most recent is titled Natural Spring Water – Gut Health & Hydration.
However, too much potassium can cause constipation as it depletes magnesium which is associated with proper bowel movements. In addition, too much calcium could be a problem.
Excessive salt also could be a problem. Too much salt can throw your electrolytes off. High salt intake can disrupt the magnesium in your system, which in turn can slow things down. The salt you should be consuming should have an abundance of trace minerals, like Original Himalayan Salt and Redmond Real Salt.
#4 Reduce or Eliminate Fiber
In this 2012 peer-reviewed article, the authors concluded, “contrary to popular beliefs, reducing or stopping dietary fiber intake improves constipation and its associated symptoms.”
The researchers showed that excess fecal volume could place a strain on the lining of the intestine and colon. The strain could create constipation, bloating, and gas. Harsh fiber also could cause excess mucus production to protect the epithelial barrier from the irritating fiber.
#5 Increase Grams of Animal Fats
Sometimes people eating a predominantly animal-based diet will eat muscle meat with not enough fat content. One way to counter this is to add additional animal fat to cooking. Also, include fattier cuts of meat in your diet.
#6 Decrease Grams of Animal Protein
While increasing the grams of fat you consume daily, you could decrease the grams of animal protein in your meals.
#7 Remove Toxic Elements in the Gut
Your gut is often the “master control center” for the overall health of your body. If there are toxic elements in your gut or a poorly diversified garden of gut bacteria, these should be addressed and corrected. To reduce the toxic elements, bovine colostrum has been shown to bind to LPS (lipopolysaccharides), which are highly toxic byproducts of gram-negative bacteria. I personally use Pro Colostrum LD.
#8 Improve Gut Bacteria
As you transition from a significant amount of carbohydrates from your diet to a predominantly animal-based diet, the carbohydrate loving bacteria in your gut may rebel. These changes may lead to constipation as those bacteria die off.
By increasing the diversity of bacterial species in your gut, the potentially pathogenic bacteria will be crowded out. Also, improving the health of the gut microbiome will help seal the gut epithelial barrier.
#9 Maintain Ideal Stomach Acidity
The hydrochloric acid in your stomach has a very low pH of 1 to 2, which means it is highly acidic. Your medical doctor can check if your stomach has this healthy acid level. If you have less acidity in your stomach, it could lead to many complications – one of which is constipation.
If your stomach pH level is 3 to 5, you have low stomach acidity (i.e, hypochlorhydria). If the pH is higher than 5, you may have achlorhydria. This happens when your stomach stops making hydrochloric acid.
Your medical doctor needs to determine the cause. You may only need to change your diet to less carbohydrates and processed foods, more nutrient-dense anti-inflammatory foods, and the addition of a supplement called Betaine HCl.
#10 Enhance Bile Production
Reduced total bile production could lead to constipation. You could improve your natural bile production with specific desiccated organs. An excellent animal-based supplement is desiccated gallbladder, ox bile, and liver from Ancestral Supplements.
#11 Possibly Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium deficiencies are one of the most common sources of constipation on the carnivore diet. Magnesium is involved in over 300 biological functions in the body. But it also helps with constipation by drawing water into the bowel. Some magnesium products can cause diarrhea. I prefer magnesium glycinate with no harsh or damaging additives. This provides bioavailable magnesium for the body. However, magnesium citrate liquid can quickly eliminate constipation, but it could create significant diarrhea.
While constipation is awful, it is transitory. The previous 11 steps to avoid or treat constipation are not inclusive. However, in my experience these have been the most frequent areas of concern.
But it is critical that you do not have a medical condition requiring treatment by a medical doctor. If there is any doubt, take the time to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist to be sure.
Otherwise, the animal-based diet should perform well for you. But the adaptation and rebalancing stages can be daunting.
Check out my training on the Better Belly Blueprint! You can watch it HERE.