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Diarrhea on the Paleo Diet

by
author image Aglaee Jacob
Aglaee Jacob is a registered dietitian. She has experience working with people who have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity issues. Jacob obtained a bachelor of science and a master of science, both in nutrition, from Laval University in Quebec City, Canada.
Diarrhea on the Paleo Diet
Diarrhea on the Paleo diet can be due to a higher fat intake. Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Dietary changes can be responsible for changes in digestion. Some people may observe a change in the frequency or consistency of their bowel movements when they adopt a new diet. The Paleo diet is usually lower in carbs and higher in fat than the standard American diet and your body may require some time to fully adjust and produce regular stools. The Paleo diet promotes the consumption of grass-fed, free-range and wild-caught meat, poultry, eggs and fish, fats from coconut oil, avocado and lard as well as seasonal vegetables, tubers, fruits, nuts and seeds. Grains, legumes, sugar and dairy are not part of the Paleo lifestyle.

Higher Fat Intake

If you experience diarrhea shortly after starting the Paleo diet, it is most likely due to your higher fat intake. The standard American diet gets between 20 and 35 percent of its calories in the form of fat, while fat provides between 50 and 75 percent of the calories on a Paleo diet. If you rapidly increase your fat intake, your body may not have time to adjust by producing more bile and more enzymes required to properly digest fat, which can result in diarrhea as well as fatty and floating stools. Cut back on your fat intake and increase it more slowly to solve the problems or ask your doctor about using digestive enzymes and ox bile supplements to aid your digestion.

Excessive Protein Intake

A Paleo diet should not be a high-protein diet, but rather a high-fat diet. If you skimp on fat and choose a lean source of protein, you could be suffering from what is called "rabbit starvation," or an excessive protein intake. The body cannot handle getting more than 30 to 35 percent of its calories in the form of protein, and diarrhea is a common symptom of an excessive protein intake, along with lethargy and muscle wasting. Decrease your protein intake, choose fattier cuts of meats or accompany each of your meals with plenty of fats from coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts and natural nut butter.

Short-Chain Fermentable Carbohydrates

If your fat and protein intake are appropriate for you, your diarrhea may be the result of a higher intake of short-chain fermentable carbohydrates, which are found in high amounts in some vegetables, fruits and nuts typically consumed on the Paleo diet. For example, the high fructose content of asparagus, apples, pears, mangoes and tomato paste, the high polyol content of peaches, watermelon, avocado, cauliflower and mushroom and the high fructan content of pistachios, Brussels sprouts, onion, garlic, broccoli and cabbage can cause diarrhea as well as bloating and abdominal pain in some people.

Gastrointestinal Problems

If your diarrhea does not resolve after you modify your fat and protein intake and avoid nuts, fruits and vegetables rich in short-chain fermentable carbohydrates, consult your doctor. You may be dealing with a gastrointestinal problem that requires further investigation. Irritable bowel syndrome and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth are common problems and can be the cause of your diarrhea. If your diarrhea is not due to your new way of eating, your doctor will help you identify whether the cause of your gastrointestinal symptoms.

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