I've been following a strict paleo diet for the last three weeks - Whole30-style, zero exceptions (so zero grains, legumes, or dairy), with very minimal fruit/sweet potato intake.
Lots of things are better, but there is one strange side effect that won't seem to go away: even though my body composition totally appears to be changing for the better (I'm 5'5", about 135 pounds) and I look like I'm starting to lean out, my lower abdomen is super-distended, significantly more than before I started, to the point where my clothes are tight and I'm half-thinking of buying bigger pants.
I had a couple of theories: was mostly vegetarian until this, now eating chicken, fish, or grass-fed beef at least twice a day, every day. Maybe it's an HCl deficiency? I started taking Now Foods Super Enzymes (per Robb Wolf) yesterday, with no noticeable difference so far. I also started eating naturally fermented sauerkraut about a week ago, also with no difference.
I'm also wondering if could be nuts (almonds, sunflower butter) and/or coconut products, both of which I probably started over-indulging in when I started this diet.
The timing of this lines up perfectly with the change in diet, so I'm pretty sure it's related somehow. My questions: Has anyone else experienced this and found a solution? Is it probably the vegetarian-to-meat-eater transition, and I just need to be more patient with the enzymes? Should I cut the coconut and nuts out for a while, just to be safe? Is there another fix I'm not thinking of? I can't even tell you how happy I would be for this to go away!
Updated April 24: I'm still not 100% sure, but it seems like FODMAP foods may have been the problem. It also helped to eliminate almonds (with skins). Getting rid of both helped much more than anything else I tried.
There's a great paleo anecdotal account about FODMAPs here: http://crystaljnelson.blogspot.com/2011/01/road-to-digestive-health-continues.html -- and then she posted her results: http://crystaljnelson.blogspot.com/2011/02/fodmap-update.html.
Patsy Catsos' book, IBS - Free at Last, is also clear and helpful.The FODMAP food lists keep changing as new research comes out, and she posts updates to her book on her blog here: http://www.ibsfree.net/.
asked byZiva (119)
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on March 31, 2011
at 09:06 AM
It absolutely could be the over indulgence of nuts and especially nut products. Your omega 6 intake will be way to high which leads to inflammation. Sunflower butter?! That's really not a good idea. Cut the nut/seeds products straight away, coconut is fine but other nuts and seeds should be really restricted. It's just not good for you in large amounts.
on March 31, 2011
at 08:28 AM
Could be a lot of different things... food intolerance, bacterial imbalance, hypochloridia, etc. Being a little more specific would help; do you feel bubbles in your stomach or anything?
Here's what I would try:
Digestive enzymes: you're already doing this so stick with it. take 1-5 caps at the beginning of each meal.
Get some decent probiotics: food sources like kimchi and sauerkraut are probably the best, make sure they are raw and unpasteurized though. As far a supplements jarrow is my preferred and primal defense seems to be pretty good too.
Betaine HCL: I think this stuff is awesome. the superenzymes have a little bit but grab some 650 mg capsules and take as many as you need to feel warm in the stomach, along with the superenzymes. When I started I had to take 4-5 with each meal. They help a lot though.
In my experience, sugar is not your friend here... bacteria thrive on it which may be a problem.
Really make sure all food issues are dealt with: some people don't do well with raw vegetables. Onions and other fermentable sugars can cause a problem sometimes. Sweet potatoes maybe too. Try eliminating different things one at a time and track how you feel.
on August 14, 2012
at 02:15 AM
take a look at the FODMAP food list as others have suggested. cutting out raw vegs has helped me as well. I just cant digest them and look like im going to blow up (feel horrible) after eating a huge salad with raw vegs. i cut out apples and raw almonds and found that to be helping. still havent been able to kick the almond butter yet!
on May 28, 2011
at 01:31 AM
Just wondering if you could give an update on your condition? I'm having the same problem with abdominal distension and would love to hear if anything's really helped you get better!
on August 13, 2012
at 09:56 PM
how is everyone doing? I have been eating RAW for 6months. Just had an ultra sound today to rule out ovarian cancer or fibroids. My stomach is so swollen I could pass as being expecting, about 4months. I lost weight from the RAW food but my stomach is huge it really gets big after I eat, I'm so puzzled! Hoping drs can figure this out!
on April 14, 2011
at 07:54 PM
it could be flatulence (gas). try a digestive enzyme (beano).
on April 14, 2011
at 01:43 PM
How fatty are the meats you're eating? I wonder if you're overindulging in the nut butters because you're craving more fat? I get most of my fats from heavy cream and butter, and plain Greek yogurt is great for my digestion. If you can't eat dairy then perhaps eat some organic bacon and greasier grass-fed beef?
on March 31, 2011
at 12:22 PM
i would give it some time, might clear up... you made a big change recently.
My paleo diet cured my chronic bloating (related to my IBS). Keys: I don't do raw veg (insta-bloat), don't overdo fibrous vegetables, and I avoid eating more than a serving of most fruits and nuts, as they give me gas and bloating as well. I eat white potatoes and white rice regularly, digest them perfectly.
on July 23, 2013
at 03:39 PM
I get no reaction, ever, from coconut oil (which I consume often and in large amounts) or flaked coconut (though I never eat much of that). Coconut butter, though, does cause bloating if I have over 1 tsp of it a day...I can't imagine eating the suggested serving of 2 tbsp. Anyway, because other coconut foods don't set me off, I believe it has to be the concentrated fiber in the butter hitting my gut hard.
on March 23, 2012
at 10:50 AM
I was doing paleo with full fat dairy, but no grains or legumes of course for nearly six weeks. I look three months pregnant!!! I have switched back to my regular regimen of cardio and lifting weights for 20 min about 2-3 times per week and yes, against my knowledge of paleo, I have gone back to grains and legumes. It's only been a week and a half, so I'll post back. I have not yet cut out the full fat dairy. I am switching to low and no fat dairy today. I'll update in a week or so.
I'm so freaked out I wnr to the doctor and got an ultrasound to see if I have uterine fibroids. (high sat. fat and red meat and pork cause them to grow). I can watch the digestion of food in my stomach (looks like a baby kicking me) because my belly is so distended. Paleo just isn't the diet for me. And if you ever look closely at those cross fit guys, they have a belly too. It may just be the sat. fat.
on March 19, 2012
at 05:30 AM
I used to have FODMAP intolerance and SIBO and although I still need to be careful with my diet, I have A LOT more flexibility with my food choices than I used to have. I can now enjoy almost any vegetables, including onions, broccoli and asparagus without any problems! SOme of my journey is described on my blog adietitiangonepaleo.
I think that eliminating FODMAPs to allow your gut to heal and your gut flora to rebalance itself can make a BIG difference.
I just wrote an article about the Paleo diet & FODMAPs. You will also find a downloadable PDF list of FODMAP Paleo food choices.
If you need more help, I actually am a Paleo dietitian and do online nutrition consultations!
on January 13, 2012
at 01:44 AM
So glad I stumbled across this! I've been doing strict Paleo for almost two weeks now and about a week ago I noticed that my stomach had been severely bloated. I've been eating smaller portions and eating lots of more protein and veggies, and somehow this became the problem. Go figure. Anyway, I switched from 2% milk to almond milk, have been making grain-free pumpkin bread made with almond butter, and then on top of that, I've been eating mixed nuts with yes-more almonds. So, my guess is for me that the almonds are something I should definately cut back on. Just glad to know others have noticed this too because I thought it was the strangest thing!