One of the most common questions new vegans and plant-based eaters ask is “does the bloating on a vegan diet ever go away?” The good news is it DOES! You are transitioning to a new and healthier way of eating, and your body (and digestive system) needs time to adapt….and this could take a few weeks.
But there are some things you should know – and small changes you can make – that can help to alleviate bloating on a vegan diet sooner rather than later.
Will Bloating on a Vegan Diet Ever Go Away? 10 Causes and Remedies
1. Not chewing your food enough
Most people chew unconsciously….and not enough. Try this experiment….next time you eat, pay attention to how many times you chew your food before swallowing. Most people chew only 3-4 times before swallowing, which is not enough and will cause bloating.
Digestion of your food actually starts in your mouth with chewing. Your saliva contains digestive enzymes which start the breakdown of food. This means the rest of your digestive system will have an easier time digesting the food, and you will be less likely to feel bloated.
Chewing your food thoroughly is especially important when you eat beans, whole grains, and fibrous vegetables (like broccoli, kale, celery, and asparagus). You want to chew your food until it’s literally mush (I know this sounds gross….but it’s SO important in easing your digestion and preventing bloat and gas!)
2. Eating too fast
If you follow tip #1, you will automatically eat slower because you will be taking extra time to chew! Win win.
Eating slower also means you will swallow less air. And swallowing too much air contributes to bloating.
Eating slower also allows your body’s satiety signals and hunger hormones the time they need to work! It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full…so slowing down is important to proper digestion. And slowing down and eating the right amount of food (vs eating too much) will prevent uncomfortable fullness and bloating.
3. Carbonated beverages
The bubbles from carbonated drinks can cause a buildup of air that can cause your belly to literally inflate (abdominal distension) and bloat. And if you drink carbonated drinks every day (even just plain carbonated water) you might just find yourself bloated every day.
4. Beans beans beans
Many people avoid beans because of the bloating and gas they can cause. But beans are one of the healthiest foods to eat! Have you heard of the Blue Zones? The Blue Zones are regions in the world that are studied because the people who live in these “Blue Zones” are the longest-lived people on the planet. And the one thing ALL the Blue Zones have in common is beans. People in all the Blue Zones eat at least four times as many beans – around a cup a day – than the average person does.
And not only are beans an excellent source of protein and fiber, iron, and antioxidants, but they are also important for gut health. The fiber in beans allows healthy prebiotics in your gut to flourish.
But beans can cause bloating (and gas). This is because beans contain a sugar called oligosaccharide raffinose. Your small intestine can not fully digest this sugar, so any undigested particles remain in your colon where they ferment.
Here are a few things you can do to ease bloating on a vegan diet from eating beans:
- If you don’t consistently eat beans, start with eating small amounts. This will give your body time to adapt to the fiber in beans and help to prevent bloating.
- Cook beans at home – either on the stove-top or in a slow cooker – rather than buying canned beans. Cooking beans at home requires you to rinse (and discard) and soak the beans, all of which will help wash away much of the oligosaccharides that cause bloating. This will make the beans easier to digest, which will help with bloating and gas.
- Add baking soda to the water you soak the beans in (approximately 1/16 teaspoon of baking soda per quart of water). The baking soda will help reduce the oligosaccharides even more, and it will also help tenderize the beans, making them even easier to digest.
- Another option is to soak and cook beans with Kombu, a type of seaweed (many groceries stores carry, or it can be purchased on Amazon here). Adding a strip of kombu to the water the beans are soaking in will also help eliminate the bloat (and gas) causing oligosaccharides. (I have used Kombu and it did NOT make the beans taste “fishy”, which was my concern….but no worries there!)
- If you do eat canned beans, drain and rinse them well before cooking. This will help reduce the oligosaccharides in the beans.
- Try an over-the-counter enzyme that can help break down oligosaccharides and help prevent or eliminate bloating and gas. Be aware though that the most readily available enzyme products – such as Beano and Gas-X – are NOT vegan (both contain ingredients derived from animal products). There are vegan options, however, such as Bean-Zyme.
5. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables (including kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts) can cause bloating. This is because the fiber in these plants is not completely digested in the small intestine (even if you chew thoroughly). So as they continue to pass undigested through your digestive system (and into the large intestine), gas and bloating occurs.
Cooking these vegetables – versus eating raw – will help soften them, and make them easier to digest. And this will help alleviate some bloating and gas.
Unfortunately, the bloating that comes from these vegetables will likely never be fully eliminated…..but that doesn’t mean you should eliminate these healthy foods! As with beans, as you continue to eat them, the fiber and nutrients in cruciferous vegetables will continue to improve your gut health, and this improves your digestion and help with bloating.
6. Artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners (such as sorbitol, acesulfame potassium, and aspartame) used in beverages and processed foods can cause bloating and gas. This is because the chemicals in artificial sweeteners cannot be digested by the small intestine, so they and up in your colon, where they ferment and create gas.
Artificial sweeteners can also disrupt your gut biome, which can cause bloating.
Your digestive system cannot break down the cellulose (outer kernel) in corn, so it ends up being passed through your body undigested. As the corn cellulose moves through your digestive system, it ferments and creates gas and bloating.
And corn is everywhere – in processed foods, tortilla chips, popcorn – and these can all have an effect on your digestion and bloating.
8. Protein bars
Protein bars may seem healthy but they are highly processed. They often contain fillers, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and isolated protein supplements (from soy and peas in vegan bars) that can irritate your stomach and cause bloating.
Fructose is a sweetener found in all kinds of processed foods. Fructose has earned a bad reputation (think high fructose corn syrup) because it is thought to contribute to fatty liver disease, obesity, and diabetes. But some people are also fructose intolerant, meaning their body is unable to digest or absorb fructose. This can lead to bloating and abdominal pain.
Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruit and vegetables. And eating fructose as part of the whole fruit or vegetable (which is also packed with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants) is healthy and NOT the problem. It is when manufacturers extract fructose FROM fruit and process it into sweeteners and other chemicals that fructose become disease-promoting.
For some people, however – those who are highly sensitive to fructose – it may be helpful to avoid fruits that have higher amounts of fructose in them, to see if eliminating them helps with bloating. Fruits and vegetables high in fructose include apples, grapes, watermelon, asparagus, peas, and zucchini. Also, dried fruits and fruit juice are both high in fructose and should be avoided if you are fructose intolerant.
10. Whole grains
Whole grains are full of fiber, but the fiber in whole grains – insoluble fiber – is not digestible. But eating this indigestible insoluble fiber is important for bowel health and regularity. But, if you eat more than your body can process at one, you may experience bloating (in addition to gas and constipation).
If you are transitioning to a whole food diet from a more processed diet, start with eating smaller amounts of whole grains so that your body can adjust to the fiber. It can also help to eat a variety of whole grains versus just one kind. So mix it up a bit….there are so many whole grains to pick from, including whole-wheat bread, pasta, and crackers….also barley, brown rice, bulgur, millet, and oats!
A few more things to try to ease bloating on a vegan diet….
- Make sure to drink enough water. When you don’t drink enough water, your body starts to retain (hold on to) water, and you can get bloated. Water is also vital to your digestion, and if your digestion is slowed, it could cause bloating. Water is SO important, you should probably go have a class of water now!! 🙂
- Move your body. A walk or yoga can help with digestion and help alleviate uncomfortable bloating.
- Drink some peppermint or ginger tea. Both aid digestion and can help soothe your stomach.
- Try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting for 12 or more hours a day gives your body and digestive system time to rest (and heal, if necessary). This will ease and prevent bloating.
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