The carnivore diet involves eating only animal-based foods, excluding other food groups, such as fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. This means it is typically high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates. It may sometimes cause constipation.

The diet is contrary to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which emphasize the importance of fiber for good health. Some may worry about becoming constipated due to this diet’s lack of fiber. However, there is a mixture of evidence on fiber and constipation in the carnivore diet.

Nevertheless, generally accepted treatment recommendations for constipation start with diet and lifestyle changes, such as increasing fiber and water intake and getting regular exercise. If that does not work, people may want to try laxative medications.

This article explains why constipation may occur while on the carnivore diet. It will also describe how to prevent constipation in general and treatment options.

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Constipation is a common condition in which a person does not pass stools regularly or cannot empty their bowel fully. A range of possible causes of constipation may occur when following the carnivore diet.

Low fiber intake

For instance, some research shows an association between a lower fiber intake and a higher risk of constipation among adults in the United States.

However, other researchers have found health benefits and high satisfaction rates, with few adverse effects, in people following the carnivore diet.

Glycogen breakdown

Eating a low carbohydrate diet, such as the carnivore diet, requires the body to break down glycogen stored in the muscles and liver. Glycogen attaches to water, which the body then expels through the urine. This could lead to dehydration and a lack of water for forming stools.

Gut health

It is worth considering that a person’s gut needs to adapt to their new way of eating on the carnivore diet, which includes a higher fat intake.

Similarly, the bacterial populations that make up the microbiome need to change in response to this change in diet. Carbohydrate-loving bacteria might die out while fat-loving bacteria increase in numbers. Putting effort into these adaptations could decrease the food transit time through the gut.

Learn more about constipation.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) defines constipation as:

Other possible symptoms include:

It is best for a person with constipation to speak with their doctor if:

Constipation can occur for a range of reasons, which include:

  • the slow movement of stool through the colon
  • delayed emptying of the colon due to pelvic floor disorders or colon surgery
  • functional gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • life changes, such as pregnancy or starting a new eating pattern
  • health and nutrition issues, such as not drinking enough water or having diabetes

Treatment for constipation will depend on the duration and severity of a person’s symptoms and what caused it in the first place.

Some people may speak with their doctor about taking laxatives to help them pass stool. These medications either draw water to the bowel or stimulate the muscles to help a person go to the toilet.

Types of laxatives include:

  • Bulk-forming laxatives: These help the stool retain fluid, making them softer and easier to pass.
  • Osmotic laxatives: These increase the volume of fluid in the bowels, softening the stool and stimulating the defecation process.
  • Stimulant laxatives: These stimulate the muscles lining the digestive tract, encouraging them to move stool and waste products to the large intestine and the anus.

If the constipation is severe, a person may need a suppository, which is medication they insert into the anus, or an enema, which is an injection of fluid into the bowel through the anus.

Before seeking medical attention, a person following the carnivore diet can try changing some of their lifestyle habits. This may involve:

  • getting exercise every day
  • setting the same place and time each day to spend time on the toilet
  • responding as soon as possible to the urge to have a bowel movement rather than putting it off
  • trying to ease the passage of stool by placing their feet on a low step to elevate their knees above their hips when going to the toilet
  • speaking with their GP if a medication could be causing their constipation or making it worse

Eating fiber and drinking water

People can also try increasing their fiber intake by eating fresh vegetables and fruit and including substances to help with stool bulk, such as bran. However, these actions would naturally involve stopping the carnivore diet.

It is also important for a person to ensure that they are well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Learn more about the importance of fiber intake.

If a person experiences constipation, it is very unlikely to lead to complications or long-term health issues. Their outlook is positive if they start treatment promptly.

People who experience ongoing constipation may have an increased risk of rectal bleeding due to piles, small tears around the anus, or fecal impaction, which happens when dry, hard stool collects in the rectum and anus.

Nutrition resources

For more science-backed resources on nutrition, visit our dedicated hub.

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The carnivore diet involves eating only animal-based foods and excluding other food groups, such as vegetables and fruits. This results in higher fat and protein consumption and lower fiber consumption.

Official dietary guidelines emphasize the need to consume enough fiber for good health. The reduction in fiber could be one reason why some people develop constipation when following the carnivore diet.

People can help treat constipation by exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water, and setting aside a time and place to pass a stool each day. If constipation becomes chronic or severe, a person may need to take medications such as laxatives or suppositories.