Some weight-loss strategies can cause digestive issues. Digestive health is important for a number of reasons. Not only does properly digesting your food help you receive all the nutrients your body needs, but poor digestion can lead to symptoms such as uncomfortable bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, a weakened immune system, and even depression.
In addition, making sudden, drastic changes to your diet can cause intense digestive reactions. Use caution when trying the following foods or weight-loss strategies, and take care not to overdo it.
1. Consuming lots of sports drinks
Sports drinks that promise to replenish electrolytes, liquids, and energy are often loaded with sugars, artificial ingredients, and fructose – the latter of which is quickly absorbed by your digestive tract. Sports drinks that contain high amounts of fructose can lead to problems with cramping and diarrhea if you consume these beverages too quickly within a short amount of time. Try sipping on sports drinks more slowly, or make your own homemade electrolyte drink with orange juice, lemon juice, and coconut water and stay away from the questionable ingredients altogether.
2. Consuming too much fiber
Fiber is great for weight loss in that it keeps you feeling full and promotes good digestion. Plus, most foods that are high in fiber — like your all-important fruits and veggies — are also high in key vitamins and minerals. But loading up on too much fiber within a short period of time can lead to serious problems with gas, bloating, and diarrhea. To prevent fiber from interfering with digestion, add fibrous foods to your diet in slow increments so you can monitor their effects on your digestive system. Also, soften highly fibrous foods like carrots and beets by cooking them before eating them.
3. Drastically reducing carb and fiber intake
Cutting out simple carbs is an ideal way to shed extra pounds, but cutting out complex carbs, such as those in fruits and vegetables, can lead to constipation. Additionally, many people who cut back on carbs may also unintentionally cut back on fiber sources like leafy greens. To avoid problems with constipation, aim to consume between 20 and 25 grams of fiber per day, and focus on eliminating refined carbs like baked goods from your diet.
4. Consuming high amounts of fat
Foods high in saturated fat can sometimes lead to indigestion since these foods generally take a longer time for the stomach to process. Avoid eating saturated fat within three hours of going to bed to prevent digestive issues, and try choosing unsaturated fats over saturated fats whenever possible. For instance, opt for avocados and olive oil over meat and cheese.
5. Eating sugar-free processed foods
While sugar-free foods may seem like the healthiest option when it comes to weight loss, these foods typically replace real sugar with low-calorie sugar substitutes that can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Consider omitting processed sugar-free foods from your diet completely, and start satisfying your sweet tooth with non-processed goodies like dark chocolate or plain Greek yogurt with honey.
6. Running long distances for exercise
Those whose exercise routines generally consist of long 13-mile runs are more likely to encounter problems with constipation or diarrhea. Dehydration can lead to constipation, while consuming dairy, fiber, and high amounts of caffeine prior to the run can accelerate digestion and cause diarrhea. To prevent digestive issues from interfering with your long runs, take frequent breaks to stay hydrated, and avoid consuming any caffeine, dairy, or high-fiber foods at least three hours before your run.
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Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on December 22, 2017