Bloating and Constipation on the South Beach Diet

Causes and Treatment of Common Low-Carb Symptoms

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The South Beach Diet is a popular, low-carb diet regimen which focuses on a healthy balance between good carbs and fats and the avoidance of bad carbs and fat.

Foods are selected based on their glycemic load and phased into the diet over three stages. Phase One is considered the toughest and involves an often-drastic change in eating habits over a two-week period. It is when you will be asked to limit most of the carbs you regularly consume, including fruit, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, sugar, alcohol, and baked goods.

It is during this phase that people will commonly experience symptoms of bloating and/or constipation. In most cases, the symptoms will not be serious and can be readily treated at home.

Bloating on the South Beach Diet

Abdominal bloating is common during the early stages of the South Beach Diet, usually during Phase One but sometimes extending well into Phase Two.

The bloating is due, in large part, to the sudden increase in dietary fiber which can trigger the buildup of gas. The increased intake of vegetables and beans are largely to blame, with artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, radishes, celery, and carrot among the prime suspects. Adding whole grains to your diet can also contribute, especially if you have been used to eating refined grains.

While the bloating will usually resolve on its own over time, there are a number of things you can do to relieve the initial symptoms:

  • The supplement Beano, found in many drug and grocery stores, contains a natural digestive enzyme that can help prevent the production of gas from beans and vegetables.
  • You can help expel excess gas by exercising regularly. Brisk walking, sit-ups, and yoga are particularly effective.
  • Over-the-counter anti-gas remedies containing polyethylene glycol or simethicone may also help.


Constipation is a common problem experienced by low-carb dieters. This is especially true during the early phases of the South Beach Diet.

If you have been accustomed to eating a lot of fruit, fiber-rich carbs, or high-fat baked goods, the sudden change in diet can leave your body unprepared. Many of these foods have a natural laxative effect to which your body has grown accustomed. Until the digestive system can compensate for this deficit, you may be backed up, sometimes significantly.

There are several ways to deal with this:

  • Drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
  • Eat at least four to five cups of vegetables daily.
  • Consider taking an over-the-counter fiber supplement containing psyllium, methylcellulose, or polycarbophil.
  • Exercise can also help stimulate the intestines and improve bowel function.

You can also try an enema if the constipation is particularly bad, but avoid doing so regularly as this can seriously affect your electrolyte balance. The same applies to the use of laxatives. If overused, laxatives can affect the nerves of the colon and reduce its ability to contract normally.

A Word From Verywell

If you continue to experience bloating, constipation, or any other abdominal symptom while on the South Beach Diet, speak with your doctor as these could be signs of an underlying health condition.

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Article Sources
  • Wylie-Rosett, J.; Aebersold, K.; Conlon, B. et al. "Health Effects of Low-Carbohydrate Diets: Where Should New Research Go?" Curr Diab Rep. 2013; 13(2): 271-8. DOI: 10.1007/s11892-012-0357-5.