Constipation, weight gain and insomnia.

by 7153 · March 20, 2014 at 01:16 AM

I've been eating a paleo diet for about 2 months. I kind of eased into it at first, but now I am totally paleo with occasional white rice (in sushi rolls) about once a month. I eat only pastured meats, lots of veggies, some fruit (mostly berries), no dairy, no grains.

I am overweight and need to lose about 50 pounds. When I first started doing paleo, I lost weight but now I'm gaining. I'm also having other problems I didn't have before. Other than the extra weight, I've always been in excellent health. I was already eating a healthy whole foods diet. The main change for me with paleo was cutting out rice, traditionally prepared legumes, and oatmeal, and adding more fats (mostly coconut milk and oil).

I've always had a bowel movement every day--usually around the same time of day. Now it is usually every other day or even more. I'm eating lots of fat and a minimum of 6 servings of fruits and veggies (often more), so I'm not sure what's causing this.

Also, I've started waking up really, really early in the morning. I've never had this problem before in my life. I have dealt with insomnia in the past, but it was just having trouble falling asleep--I still always got a full 8 hours. Now I'm sleeping only 5-6 hours and waking up before dawn. I am unable to go back to sleep. My room is dark and quiet, plus like I said this is not a problem I've ever had before.

I walk daily and do yoga about once a week.

I'm starting to wonder if I was better off with traditionally prepared legumes, rice and oatmeal in my diet. Maybe paleo isn't for everyone? The insomnia and constipation seem like steps in the wrong direction. The weight loss was good, while it lasted, but that's moving in the wrong direction now, too.

One more thing: I don't track every day, but I check every now and again and my macronutrient rations are about 60% fat, 20% carbs, 20% protein. Calories are usually around 1800-2000. My carbs are usually around 75 grams a day.

UPDATE: Thanks for all the answers and suggestions. It's been a several months now and after a few experiments I did not abandon the paleo diet. I just altered it to suit my body's needs. It was interesting to go back and read this and see the struggles I was having when I first started--was that really only about three months ago?!?. I remember being very frustrated when I originally posted this.

Ultimately, I did add traditionally prepared legumes back into my diet about once a week. All of the problems I was having disappeared and weight loss resumed. I suspect I was low in magnesium (which is found, among other places, in legumes). It may also have been that my carbs were simply to low for me; the legumes added some extra carbs (on the days I eat them). I could have just taken the magnesium supplement as recommended by several PHers, but I prefer to get my nutrients from whole foods whenever possible and while there are other paleo-friendly sources of magnesium, this is what works best for me right now. I don't see the paleo/primal/ancestral lifestyle as a concrete set of rules anymore. I see it as a framework that I adjust as my needs change.

I did also add more fermented foods to my diet (kombucha, kimchee, sauerkraut...in addition to the legumes which I ferment before cooking); I think was also a good choice although the problems I described above had improved before I did that.

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1855 · September 14, 2011 at 03:11 PM

I like my beans to help keep regular and the body does adjust to eating them and you don't fart. My body adjusted to eating more meat. The beans have enough carbs to fuel my brain keep me from going insane without eating bread. I used to get really BAD constipation from going to either extremes, all fruit and vegetables or very low carb. My husband is really good at making pinto beans because he got inspired by the book Born to Run. I know a lot of paleo types don't like beans BUT my ancestors survived the slave trade eating beans and rice and I have many second and third degree family members living well into their 90s and one centenarian grandparent who died falling from a mango tree.

I am getting up earlier too but I don't mind that part. I get more done in the morning before my afternoon job.

7741 · September 14, 2011 at 09:18 PM

I didn't read other replies but:

One of the several reasons I no longer eat very LC is because of the effect on my sleep. Try eating most of your carbs at dinner - that should get you get a good 7 hours.

If your stool is compacted and uncomfortable to pass, eat more fat and fiber and less protein. However it's totally not necessary to take a shit every day. :D Do you think you are constipated because you have a lower frequency? This is not what 'constipated' means.. When you eat paleo, you will naturally produce less waste because fat and protein are almost completely digested by the body. Do you eat cheese or lots of solid dairy products? Many people find that casein blocks them up.

Forget about 'weight gain'. Many, many people (especially women) eating this way see no decrease, or even an increase in the number on the scale, while their bodies get smaller and smaller. Your body composition can change a great deal simply from the diet, mobilizing and decreasing body fat all over and building (denser, heavier) muscle. How do your clothes fit? How do you look in the mirror? Take measurements weekly rather than weighing yourself.

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39204 · September 14, 2011 at 04:01 PM

If high fat/low carb isn't working for you, you may want to try shifting your diet toward leaner meats and just make sure you get your essential fats from a few pastured egg yolks a day. Double your carbs to 150g/d, focusing more on sweet potato instead of fruit. Walk as much as possible, but make sure that it is before your meals or the elevated insulin will make it largely worthless.

Good luck.

14843 · September 14, 2011 at 02:50 PM

If I had to guess, I'd bet your issues are less going paleo and more going too low-carb ... your old diet was likely considerably higher!

So before you go back to oatmeal and legumes, you might want to try some magnesium (Natural Calm helps me whenever I'm constipated). And if you aren't eating tubers (sweet potatoes are especially good), you could try adding them in.

All of this said, I'm one of those folks who include rice in their diet (a la the Jaminets' Perfect Health Diet). I've got cooking basmati rice in the rice cooker down pat now ;).

442 · September 14, 2011 at 02:26 PM

People are probably NOT gonna like my answer, oh well. But I personally do really really well on paleo, this is the most regular I have been on my entire life!

My best friend on the other hand, starting having issues and feeling like GARBAGE when she switched to 100% paleo.. We have both stumbled upon this concept called metabolic typing. We both took the test, I am "protein type", she is "mixed type"... We think this is the answer to why I thrive, and she doesn't. SHe plans to stay mostly paleo, but adding potatoes, rice and oatmeal.

Maybe u should try the test and see what you think for yourself..


If you're protein here is your plan http://www.progesteronetherapy.com/protein-type-diet.html

Mixed: http://www.progesteronetherapy.com/mixed-type-diet.html

Carbo (mercola calls it veggie type) http://www.progesteronetherapy.com/carbo-type-diet.html

8753 · September 14, 2011 at 01:53 PM

First off the fruit is probably causing the weight stall. You most likely would benefit from one seving max berries per day if weight loss is what you want. Also total carb intake less than 50g day as well.

as for the constipation, are you in discomfort? Or is it simply an issue not going daily as before? Remember you are now eating whole foods which are more condensed without all the added fluff from grains etc, so your system may not need to evacuate as often. This is a common complaint for some but if ther is no physical discomfort theres no real issue other than adjusting to this change and perhaps waiting for your system to regulate itself with your change in diet.

Probiotics and digestive enzymes can assist with regularity.

as for the insomnia, I definitely had a burst of energy after a few months, it was like an awakening of sorts, I believe for me, this was me coming out of the carb flu fog. I also noted when I got into ketosis another type of energy burst.

As with all change it takes time to adjust, the body is detoxing and cleaning itself so there are bound to be some secondary effects.

Hang in there, you should try to take it in stride know that these things are just mild adjustments and hopefully will pass.

11113 · September 14, 2011 at 01:44 PM

I had the same problem, and for some reason my constipation was exacerbated after going Paleo. It had gotten so bad that I developed fissures which would tear and bleed with each BM. It's not fun when you dread having to go poop! Per my doc's recommendation, I started taking MiraLax once a day to bring about softer stools, and boy did it help!

But back in April I got a lovely case of food poisoning, which really cleaned me out at both ends. Worried about having my gut bacteria diminished, I started taking a probiotic. I've found that taking them with my dinner each night has completely eliminated my BM issues. I don't even get the RDA of fiber (mine averages >20g/day) and I still have large, normal BM's every morning. I haven't had to use a laxative in over 5 months.

Please don't go back to eating rice, beans and oatmeal. Those kinds of foods are what messes up your natural gut flora which causes constipation when you stop eating them. Plus, they make you gassy, when eating Paleo should reduce/eliminate gas. Humans were not meant to fart all day!

As for the waking up early thing, I think it's related to the change in seasons. Both my b/f and I have found that over the past few weeks we've been waking up before the alarm goes off, which is unusual for me as I really like to sleep!

EDIT: OP didn't mention how much water per day they drank. If they're going low carb they need to drink a lot of water, otherwise they'll be pooping rocks.

613 · September 14, 2011 at 06:09 PM

Read the book The Schwarzbein Principle. Check out The Perfect Health Diet. A slightly higher carb ratio worked wonders for me. High cortisol could be responsible for both early waking and constipation. Also eat fermented foods or take probiotics. Candida could also be responsible for your symptoms.

8890 · September 14, 2011 at 05:32 PM

You might want to check out Dr. Emily Dean's post on Carbs and Serotonin. You might feel better on more carbs, or at least more in the evenings, to assist with sleep. If your sleep is thrown off for a long period of time, everything else will be out of whack, no matter what you eat. Dr. Mike Eades also has some sleep suggestions on his blog, and it is worth checking out.

329 · September 14, 2011 at 02:39 PM

Maybe try some magnesium (either citrate or glycinate) at night. That should help with the constipation and insomnia.

0 · June 20, 2013 at 11:41 PM

Since seeds are allowed on the Paleo diet, try Chia seeds (either sprouted or raw). Soak them in water until they "swell" and drink. Works for me (plus I have one cup of coffee each a.m.)

30 · March 02, 2012 at 12:37 PM

There are lots of things that can cause the symptoms that you are describing. I am on a Paleo diet as well and I love it, but I have had to be go through lots of trial and error to find the correct balance of good carbohydrates, proteins & fatty acids to make by digestive system run perfectly. Constipation was the main problem and of course it's hard to lose weight if your your body is not digesting the proteins in the high quantities of meat consumed. The following worked for me:

Betaine Hydrochloride (HLC) tablets - Your stomach mat be underproducing stomach acid. HLC helps to neutralise stomach acid and break down the proteins in your stomach, before they enter the rest of your digestive system. It helps with constipation. Make sure you do the test to see if your stomach is underproducing or over producing BEFORE you launch into this. read this link http://www.modernherbalist.com/betaine.html.

Magnesium supplements - Sleeplessness and muscle cramping are both symptoms of a magnesium deficiency. Go to you local Pharmacy and ask with supplements are the best. Take one a day before bed.

Calcium supplements - Sleeplessness is also a symptom is being low is Calcium. Try a Calcium supplement before bed.

Lastly, you only need one serving of fruit per day and it's best to eat it in the morning. Increase the amount of green leafy vegetables that you are eating, decrease red meats and increase oily fish like salmon, increase your healthy fat intake (avocados, nuts, fish, coconut etc.).

I hope this helps a little :)

0 · February 21, 2012 at 05:21 AM

I started to have the problem of constipation too a couple of months after doing Paleo. I personally do not believe that we should use the toilet every other day. Technically, we should have a BM with every meal. It has nothing to do with "high quality of food" we are eating. Dogs eat mostly meat and pass large stool every day several times. Your stool by volume is over 50% bacteria, good and "bad". Dogs also eat grass to facilitate defication. I am taking psyllium husks once a morning. I get mine at Trader Joes. On Paleo, I lost a lot of weight at first too, but then because my bowel got so backed up, I could hardly eat at all, and yes, I was eating PLENTY of veggies. I believe that because my digestive system got so backed up and that I could not eat, that my metabolism actually slowed down. I was hardly eating one meal at all during the day and I started GAINING weight like crazy! After taking the psyllium, it totally helped move my bowels and I am once again hungry and eating. I have ideas why paleo may be great for some. I do not think grains are evil, however, I think when they are not properly prepared according to Weston A Price standards and the principles set forth by Sally Fallon in Nourishing Traditions, grains become toxic to the body causing it to hoard fat and water, thus enters paleo diet. I hope this helps some people with the issue of constipation. I was on Paleo and suffered for over a year with horrible bowel habits and through a prayer discovered the magic of psyllium. No matter what any diet touts, if you are not able to move your waste once a day, it is not healthy for you.

15380 · December 07, 2011 at 09:13 AM

Hi! You wrote "my macronutrient rations are about 60% fat, 20% carbs, 20% protein". This seems very very off. Your rations should be 60% vegetables (including carrot, parsnip, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc), and the rest could be split between lean protein and berries. You don't actually need nuts and oils. People during Paleolithic times did not make any oil - imagine running after a buffalo with a gourd full of oil) and all their prey was lean, not fat! As for nuts, in some areas naturally they only ripen in the fall, so, just like eggs, you are not supposed to eat them all year around.

Please do not go off Paleo - eat more veggies instead and reduce/eliminate fat and see if it makes any difference.

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