Are you just starting your new vegan lifestyle and experiencing the famous vegan bloat? Or perhaps you’re an experienced vegan and are still battling the digestive discomfort that usually wears off in the first few months?
These 5 tips will help you overcome those feelings and get back to feeling lighter, healthier and much more comfortable.
I, myself, have been vegan for over 2 years. In the beginning, I did experience bloating…a lot. It was an unpleasant experience and I was indescribably relieved when my stomach finally settled down. However, over the last few months, I have adjusted my diet to suit what is available in my small country village. Lo and behold, the bloat returned and I have spent the last several months trying out scientifically-backed techniques and tricks to try to remedy the bloat. In this article, I am presenting the ones that worked for me. Everybody is unique and will respond differently, so please be aware that you may have to try out more than one or two of these in order to find what works for you. But my hope is that at least one will be beneficial!
Firstly, let me briefly explain why so many vegans encounter bloating. Your gut is filled with bacteria and their by-products which are what is referred to collectively as the Gut Microbiome. This is where your food is digested, metabolized, nutrients extracted and the key to all bloating—gas—is produced. A healthy gut has gas. In fact, every person should have abdominal gas and should pass gas 12-14 times a day. Yes, this is normal and is backed by a study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
What isn’t normal is when this becomes painful or causes your stomach to swell with the bloat. This means that your gut bacteria have become imbalanced or that the food you’ve consumed cannot be processed in your small intestine. For the latter, the undigested food passes to your colon, where the bacteria are different and produce far more gas during the breaking down of food… The result = more bloating.
On a vegan diet, bloating commonly is caused by two things, increased fiber intake, or a dramatic shift in macronutrient balances. The average American eats just 15g of fiber per day, half the recommended amount! However, I found out that on my whole foods vegan diet, I was eating 90g+ per day. No wonder my gut was complaining!
The second cause, a shift in macronutrients, can happen when you go from a standard western diet to a vegan diet, which is comparatively higher in carbohydrates and lower in fat. This shift demands a different gut make-up to process effectively, so your microbiome has to shift. This can take months and is why many new vegans have these issues.
Now you must be wondering… But how do I fix my gut? Well, we’ve all heard that we have to reduce fiber intake and drink more water, but those by themselves just weren’t enough for me. So here are some more tips to help if the common advice doesn’t work!
Posture: In a 2003 study on the Influence of Body Posture on Intestinal Transit of Gas in Gut journal, scientists proved that body posture affects your digestion. It was found that spending more time inactive or lying down led to more discomfort and bloating. So one way that you can reduce the bloat is by increasing the amount of time you spend upright, walking, or exercising. This works because it increases the movement within your intestines through the physical motion of the exercise. Cycling, Yoga, Running, and Aerobics are said to be the best forms of exercise to beat the bloat… Just be aware that some of that gas is bound to come out in the process!
Bloat Reducing Food: Yes, there are several foods that you may already be eating that can do wonders for your digestive health. I found that just eating some of these more often had a real, tangible effect. Some good ones to try are strawberries ( plus they’re delicious), asparagus, and green tea. I have been starting each day with green tea and it doesn’t take long to notice the effects! Asparagus has prebiotic functions and doubles as a delicious addition to most dinners! Of course, adding probiotics to your diet is a well-known treatment option, which did make a significant difference to my bloating. Foods like sauerkraut, coconut yogurt and kombucha are some of the best ways to get a scrumptious probiotic boost!
Natural Remedies (Homeopathy): Natural medicine is something that I use frequently and fully believe has so much to offer our well-being. There are many plant remedies to help relieve bloating and aid in digestion. A few examples include Carbo vegetabilis (Vegetable Charcoal) which is said to be the most effective natural remedy for relieving excess gas and calming the digestion, according to USLTC’s Talk on Homeopathy. Another noteworthy natural solution is the extractions of cedar-like Lycopodium, which are especially effective if you are FODMAP sensitive and have eaten a lot of onions or garlic! I would definitely recommend this method as I found these extremely helpful. Knowing they were natural plant medicines was an added bonus! If you want to try this out, contact a homeopath or natural medicine practitioner. They will be able to evaluate your specific situation.
There you have it. Three effective, accessible and easy ways to help reduce the bloat on your new (or seasoned) plant-based diet. Hopefully, you found these methods new, interesting and refreshingly different. Of course, feel free to let me know which ones you find work for you.
Getting rid of that bloat and calming your digestion can be the next step for you in living your best vegan lifestyle!
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Photo: Aine Barton; Nordwood Themes via Unsplash; Edit Sztazics via Unsplash; Stephanie Studer via Unsplash; Tiara Leitzman via Unsplash