How to Minimise Bloating When Switching to a Plant-Based Diet
Congratulations! You’ve decided to transition to a plant-based diet, and you couldn’t be more excited. You’ve heard about all the amazing benefits like weight loss, more energy, clearer skin and better mood, and you just want to load up on those green smoothies ASAP. There's just one problem, and that is you now suddenly have a vegan farting problem. You're eating 'cleaner' than ever, but now you're getting bloating, gas and cramps on another level. What gives? Don't give up, there's plenty you can do to make sure your transition to plant-based eating maximises the benefits whilst minimising the bloat!
Start your day the right way:
Want the ultimate 'glow up' hack? Start the day with half a lemon squeezed in a glass of warm water to get your digestion kickstarted. It'll also act as a ‘wake-up’ to get your bowels moving. This is a tool of many models and wellness enthusiasts worldwide! Apple cider vinegar (ACV) works well too, just make sure to have no more than a tablespoon, to begin with, or you might be irritating your sensitive belly!
If you want to supercharge your morning to the next level, have a scoop of bRaw Ultimate Greens to provide your body with the alkalising start it deeply craves. With concentrated polyphenol, greens and immunity blends plus gut-loving probiotics, you’ll feel fresh and ready to seize your day.
Fibre fans, beware:
When the consensus is ‘eat more fibre!’, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to load up your plate full of all the veg. Not only can fibre improve gut health, but it also adds volume to your food so you can eat more for fewer calories (more food? sign me up!). With the Heart Foundation recommending at least 25-30g daily, Australians aren't eating enough fibre, consuming 20g on average. Given so many of us are falling short, the message on ‘more’ is strong.
In general, we want to make sure we are getting more fibre in our diet. But for some, simply adding more fibre can make issues worse (for example, if you have IBS or another digestive concern). If you’re making the switch to all plant-based, know that a lot of foods you eat will now be high in fibre.
Moving from a typical western diet that is low in fibre to suddenly devouring tons of fruits and vegetables can be quite a shock to the system. Your microbiome hasn’t yet adapted to the new way of eating. The best way to ease into it is to simply start slow – if you were only having 10g of fibre before, start by increasing a few grams, and see how your body reacts. If you’re getting bloated and gassy, ease off a little until your body adjusts. Also important is to make sure you’re getting both soluble and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre adds bulk to your stool, while insoluble fibre helps move things through. Though you’ll find some foods have more of one of these types of fibres, they will contain some of both.
When you increase your fibre, remember to up the ante on your water intake too, to help things move along! Sip, rather than chug your water, so your body can absorb it properly and you prevent any annoying bloating. By minimising (or better yet, eliminating) caffeine, you can give your body an extra helping hand for proper hydration. If you need your caffeine fix, try green tea or matcha instead, which can aid with your body’s detoxification processes. Include some dandelion tea, which is stimulating to the digestive system and acts as an excellent coffee substitute that your liver loves. Load up on anti-bloat fruit and veg that hydrates you too - asparagus, cucumber, celery, pineapple, banana, avocados all make excellent choices!
Know your plants:
No matter what fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds you eat, there will be some that you can handle easier than others. By studying some basic nutrition and keeping a food diary, you can see what your body thrives on.
- Some people may find high fructose foods such as onions, grapes, pears and mangoes difficult to digest, especially when paired with other foods.
- Raw vegetables contain a type of fibre called cellulose, which is difficult to break down (the simple solution is to cook your veggies, but don't overdo it!).
- Phytic acid can be an issue with nuts and legumes, so some find that overnight soaking can help.
- Beans are a type of legume that are notoriously hard to digest (even inspiring a song about this!), with their high levels of fibre and raffinose (a trisaccaride). Whole grains also contain raffinose, high levels of starch and fibre which can make them a gassy companion for many.
- Sulfur-rich foods like brussel sprouts and broccoli might be amazing for health but can cause foul-smelling gas and stool for those intolerant or who have inflammatory digestive conditions (beautiful picture isn't it!).
- Finally, note that many plant-based whole foods contain sugar alcohols (polyols) that can be difficult to break down, such as mannitol, sorbitol and erythritol. By taking the time to learn about what you're eating, you can start to see a pattern with your symptoms!
Support your digestion:
Digestive enzymes before and probiotics during meals can also give some digestive relief. You can buy digestive enzymes in supplement form, or you can also incorporate more papaya and pineapple in your meal plan to reap the benefits. Probiotics can similarly be bought as supplements, and you can increase them in your diet by having cultured coconut yogurt, tempeh, sauerkraut and other fermented foods. Similarly to fibre – go easy! A sudden increase can make gas worse. Support your probiotics with prebiotics, found in fibre like inulin and acacia, or resistant starch (such as in green bananas).
Ditch the vegan junk:
Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Wherever you go, you’ll be bound to find some highly processed foods that are promoted as ‘vegan’, hoping to give you a false sense of security. Even Oreos are vegan! Though you don’t need to shun all processed foods in your quest for better health, minimizing them will help your body process all the goodness out of real food. Try to stick to natural whole foods as much as you can, your body will love you for it. This includes thinking twice about loading up on plant-based meat substitutes, which are often full of wheat and soy. For a delicious plant-based protein you can use as a snack or meal replacement, try the bRaw Ultimate Plant Protein!
Variety = spice of life:
A healthy gut with a varied community of microbes thrives on different plant-based foods. Time to get creative! By eating a range of plant-based foods: nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, you can increase your microbial diversity and therefore improve your gut bacteria. By chewing your food properly, you’ll also activate the digestive enzymes needed for proper processing, and allow food to smoothly move through the digestive tract. As already mentioned, start slower so your system has time to catch up! Some people also find that splitting up meals into smaller ones during the day helps in helping to process food.