The Down Low on Low-Carb Diets
How to avoid the pitfalls and side effects of a low-carb weight loss plan.
You've cleaned out those pantry closets, gone food shopping,
and made the commitment. It's official: you're on a low-carb diet!
But while the road to a slimmer new you may be paved with
high-protein foods, if you're like most low-carbers it's likely you've also
encountered a few potholes along the way.
"Any time you make a fundamental change in your diet your
body is going to react -- and when it does you are bound to experience certain
symptoms or problems," says Stephen Sondike, MD, director of the Nutrition,
Exercise, and Weight Management Program (NEW) at Children's Hospital of
When that change involves reducing carbs, he says, among the
most common problems is constipation.
"One of the primary places where you are going to see
metabolic changes on any kind of diet is in your gastrointestinal tract -- and
that can include a change in bowel habits often experienced as
constipation," says Sondike, who is also credited with conducting the first
published, randomized clinical trial on low-carb diets. The reason, Sondike
tells WebMD, is that most folks get whatever fiber they consume from high-carb
foods such as bread and pasta. Cut those foods out, and your fiber intake can
drop dramatically, while the risk of constipation rises.
"However, if you really follow a low-carb diet correctly,
you will be replacing those starchy foods with low-carb, high-fiber vegetables
-- which should help counter the constipation by providing as much, if not more
fiber, than you had before," says Sondike.
Doctors say that eating up to five servings of low-carb
vegetables daily -- foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce -- can
keep your bowels healthy without interfering with weight loss.
If it's still not doing the trick, Sondike says a fiber
supplement -- such as Metameucil or FiberCon can help.
"The one thing I would not do is start taking laxatives --
adding more fiber to your diet is definitely a smarter and healthier way to
deal with the problem," says Doris Pasteur, MD, director of the Nutrition
Wellness program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City.