Are you transitioning to a vegan diet and struggling with bloating? Wondering how long is the bloat going to last? Adopting a vegan diet is one of the best things you can do for your health, the animals, and the planet. However, gas and bloating are uncomfortable side effects that surprise a vast majority of transitioning vegans.
While it is only a temporary effect, its duration varies from person to person. Vegan Registered Dietitian, Jill Nussinow claims, when transitioning to veganism, the bloat should settle down after two weeks but some vegans have reported it to last up to 2 months in the worst cases.
Bloating when going vegan is a completely normal experience but let’s take a look at the causes and what can you do to have a more comfortable transition.
Why does bloating happen when going vegan?
If you’re new to eating a plant-based diet, you can blame any gas and bloat on all the fiber you’re eating. According to Dr. Michael Greger, 97% of Americans get only 15 grams of fiber a day (the minimum daily requirement is 31.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women).
So naturally, if you’re new to a plant-based diet, which contains A LOT more fiber than you’re used to, your digestive system is going to be overwhelmed.
Dr. Thomas Campbell (son of the legendary plant-based doctor and “China Study” author T. Colin Campbell) says “…when you first change your diet, you may not have the optimal bacterial community adapted to your new diet. And the bacteria you do have to ferment fiber may be producing gas in amounts that is new to your gastrointestinal system and may cause bloating, discomfort, and gassiness.”
Also, your digestive tract is clearing out all those animal products that have been caught in the nooks and crannies, so you’re going through a bit of detox at the same time.
What is the role of dietary fiber in bloating?
Dietary fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods that cleans out your digestive system. :
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber. Both are present in all plant foods, but in different proportions.
- Soluble fiber:
This type of fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance in the digestive tract.
- Insoluble fiber:
This type of fiber doesn’t dissolve in water. Instead, it adds bulk to your stool.
While it may cause gas and bloating, fiber actually improves digestion and relieves constipation, reduce cholesterol, remove toxins, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and much more.
How to avoid bloating when going vegan?
1. Easy it on the fiber
If you’re going from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet, you want to increase your fiber intake gradually. Start off with 1-2 meals a day and then slowly add it to the point where you are getting 30-35g a day which is split across all your daily meals.
You can try swapping white rice for brown. Or white bread for brown bread. Then after a few weeks, if well tolerated, add in some beans to one meal. Let your body adjust and then add in another high fiber food to a second meal and so forth.
2. When in doubt, add water
This one might seem obvious but it is too important to ignore. When you increase fiber you MUST increase your water intake or you risk becoming constipated. Water plays an important role in digestion; it breaks down food so your body can absorb the nutrients. It is also key to a successful transition to a higher fiber diet. Dietary fiber needs water to work properly Do not forget this.
3. Cook Your Veggies
Cooked foods are easier to digest than raw foods, especially while transitioning to a plant-based diet.
Limit the number of raw veggies and try to steam all your vegetables at the beginning. Slowly build up to better handling raw vegetables over time as consuming some food raw has tremendous benefits.
4. Avoid Unnecessary Foods (While Transitioning)
Try and cut out unnecessary foods that can cause excessive gas like gassy carbonated beverages, beverages with sorbitol or sugar-free candy/gum.
- If you are gluten intolerant, limit foods with gluten to avoid irritation of the digestive system.
- Avoid too many processed fats (oils). Fats in nuts and seeds and avocado are fine.
- If you are cooking with raw legumes, soak them overnight (8-24 hours) in water, and then after boiling them dry them right off before serving (the liquid contains the oligosaccharide sugars that cause fermentation in your large intestine…and the production of ‘gas’). The trick here is knowing what type of water to use for certain beans:
- Black Beans/Fava Beans/Lentils – soak in warm water with some lemon or lime juice and apple cider vinegar
- Split peas – in water with a 1 tsp of baking soda
- White/Kidney or Brown beans – soak in soft water (water free of minerals so slightly acidic) or tap water with a bit of lime juice
- If you are eating canned beans drain them thoroughly, then rinse and dry before cooking up or eating cold.
Even light exercise will help increase the speeds at which high fiber meals move through your body and keep you more regular. This, along with lots of water, helps reduce bloating and constipation when you start eating higher fiber meals.
6. Chew Some More
This may seem like an obvious tip, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Digestion starts in your mouth when saliva breaks down your food. Once the food reaches your stomach, saliva acts as a fluid so your food can easily pass through the intestines.
Obviously the more you chew, the more saliva you produce. And when you have enough saliva for digestion, you can prevent things like indigestion and even heartburn.
7. Drink Smoothies Slowly
I enjoy my smoothies every day. They can pack a lot of nutrients in a convenient and delicious drink. But even if you don’t see it, the fiber is still there. So sip them slowly, especially if you are new to them or a plant-based diet. Start by drinking half, then drink the other half later.
8. Avoid “Aerophagia”
Aerophagia is just a fancy term for swallowing air. Habits that can cause aerophagia include:
- Eating and drinking too quickly
- Chewing gum
- Using a straw when drinking
- Loose dentures
9. Be cautious with your caffeine
I love my coffee and luckily for me, it doesn’t cause me any digestive issue. Bur for some people, caffeine and other stimulants, can mess with colonic motility causing gas and bloating.
Even if you’ve always consumed caffeine and typically tolerate it well, if it gives you any problem at all, it may be best to moderate your intake while you’re transitioning to the vegan diet.
10. Limit Artificial Sweetened Products
Sugar-free food products like candies and gum often have problematic sugar alcohols like Mannitol, Sorbitol, and Xylitol.
Sorbitol is a poorly absorbed sugar alcohol that’s naturally found in some fruit in small amounts but is added in large amounts to reduced-sugar or sugar-free products—soft drinks, chewing gum, etc.
What vegan foods help to combat bloating?
While there are some foods to avoid when bloating, these ones will help you ease the symptoms and improve your digestion.
1. Fermented Foods
Foods like sauerkraut, coconut yogurt, kombucha, and even tempeh will help improve your digestion and may reduce gas.
Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for indigestion, gas, and bloating. You can drink ginger tea or add ginger to your water. You can also use it in your meals — curries and soups are a great place to start!
3. Herbal Tea
Herbal teas, such as peppermint, ginger, or fennel, can provide digestive relief while also increasing your water intake.
Adding lemon to your water is an easy way to relieve indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid.
5. Water Packed Foods
Papaya, Pineapple, Watermelon, and Cucumber, seem to help a lot of people with reducing gas. They are full of water and contain important enzymes for digestion.
It is recommended to eat fruits on an empty stomach and not after meals to avoid bloating.
What foods cause bloating when going vegan?
All plant foods contain fiber. But when it comes to gas and bloating on a plant-based diet, these foods are the ones to pay attention to.
1. Cruciferous Vegetables
Crucifers such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and brussels sprouts, contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds. They also contain raffinose, an oligosaccharide that humans can’t digest. Because it enters the large intestine undigested, bacteria breaks down the food via fermentation. The end result (no pun intended!) is carbon dioxide, methane, or hydrogen AKA gas.
2. Beans and Legumes
Legumes, such as beans and lentils, are the second leading gas-producing foods (dairy products are #1). That’s because they contain two relatively indigestible sugars, raffinose, and stachyose, that end up in the large intestine.
3. Processed Foods And Oils
Processed foods can be hard on your digestive system. (Yes, even plant-based ones!) High-fat foods, especially oils and fried foods, move slowly through the digestive tract causing bloating.
Vegan Bloating FAQ
Does going vegan make you bloated?
A healthy whole-foods plant-based diet is usually high in fiber so people who transition to this lifestyle and didn’t use to eating vegetables and legumes before can experience some bloating.
However, it is not something that happens in every case. If you used to consume enough fiber in your diet before going vegan then you probably won’t experience any bloating.
In a similar way, there are also vegans who choose this lifestyle solely for ethical reasons and choose to eat fast food vegan options that do not have any fiber so they will probably not experience any bloating either.
Does going vegan make you gassy?
In a similar way, as bloating, a diet high in fiber can cause an increase in gas or flatulence.
Since vegan diets can be higher in fiber, going vegan can lead to an initial gassy phase but that will be temporary and will go away once your body and gut get used it. Fiber is good for you so you actually want your body to be able to process it.
Does being vegan make you lose weight?
Going vegan is not an automatic weight loss solution. It is also not the goal of veganism.
If you choose to follow a whole-food plant-based diet you will most likely lose some weight just by eating intuitively since plant foods tend to be less caloric dense and you’ll end up eating fewer calories while staying full.
On the contrary, if you eat vegan but mostly junk foods, you will probably gain some weight and you would with a non-vegan junk food diet.
Bloating and gas are completely normal and most vegans have gone through it. Your body will adjust and you will continue to reap the benefits of this amazing lifestyle!
Do you still have doubts? Check out the following video on bloating and veganism
- 35+ Fat Burning Vegan Foods
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- Top 15 High Protein Vegan Foods To Tell Your Non-Vegan Friends About
- Vegan Multivitamins Every Vegan Should Know!
- Is Arnold Schwarzenegger Vegan?