There are so many benefits to following a plant-based diet: better health, weight-loss, lowering your carbon footprint, etc.
However, there’s one side effect that’s not so enjoyable: gas and bloating.
Yes, it can be uncomfortable and even embarrassing. But before you throw in the towel and say, “Kale no!” to this way of eating, there are ways you can reduce gas and bloating on a plant-based diet!
Continue reading to learn more about the top plant-based offenders as well as tips and natural remedies for gas and bloating.
Why does a plant-based diet cause gas & bloarting?
I’ll get right toot the point: if you’re new to eat a plant-based diet, you can blame any gas and bloating on all the fiber you’re eating.
What is fiber? Fiber, also known as roughage or “nature’s broom”, 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.
Fiber is a double edged sword: while it may cause gas and bloating, it actually improves digestion and relieves constipation. Studies have also shown a diet high in fiber can prevent certain types of cancer, heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
According Dr. Michael Greger, less than 3% of Americans get the recommended minimum adequate intake of fiber. They get about 15 grams 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.
Fiber also promotes a healthy gut. In fact, it feeds the good gut bacteria. Dr. Thomas Campbell (son of 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.”
But as uncomfortable (and maybe embarrassing) as it may be, gas and bloating is completely normal. And more importantly, it’s temporary! While it won’t completely go away, the gas and bloating should subside after a couple of weeks. Give your body time to adjust!
The top 3 plant-based foods that cause gas & bloating
All plant foods contain fiber. But when it comes to gas and bloating on a plant-based diet, these foods are the worst offenders.
1. Cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts, contain glucosinolates, which are sulfur-containing compounds.
Crucifers 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 & legumes
Beans, beans the magical fruit. The more you eat the more you…well, you get the picture.
As silly as that rhyme might be, it’s not untrue. 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.
Tip: If you use canned beans, rinse them thoroughly with water. If you cook your own beans, soak them before cooking.
3. Processed food & oils
Processed foods can be hard on your digestive system. (Yes, even plant-based processed foods!) High-fat foods, especially oils and fried foods, move slowly through the digestive tract and cause bloating.
5 ways to reduce gas & bloating on a plant-based diet
Here are some tips on how you can reduce gas and bloating.
1. Incorporate fibre slowly
If you’re going from a low fiber to a high fiber diet, increase your fiber intake slowly. Adding too much fiber straight out of the gate will almost certainly cause gas and bloating — and ultimately deter you from embracing this new way of eating.
2. Drink water
We all know we need to drink water. Not only is it one of the healthiest beverages on the planet, it’s essential to your health. Water is also plays an important role in digestion; it breaks down food so your body can absorb the nutrients. (Bonus: It helps prevent constipation by softening stool.) Dietary fiber also needs water to work properly.
How much water should you drink? It varies. For those who follow our 5-Day Detox, we recommend drinking 80-100 ounces of water every day. (BTW a detox diet can help improve your digestion.)
3. Chew your food
This may seem like an obvious tip, but I think it’s worth mentioning. After all, digestion starts in your mouth! When I say chew your food, I really mean chew your food — I’m talking chewing your food to a cream. Here’s why: when you chew, you produce saliva, which you need for digestion.
In your mouth, saliva helps break down 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.
Fun fact: Chewing has been shown to reduce stress, which improves digestion. Your stomach will also appreciate you chewing your food because it will have to do less work.
4. Cook your veggies
Cooked foods are easier on digestion than raw foods, especially while transitioning to a plant-based diet.
5. Drink smoothies slowly
We love smoothies at Your Super. We know they’re delicious and they’re easy to drink, but don’t chug your smoothies. Sip them — slowly. If you’re new to smoothies or a plant-based diet, start by drinking half, then drink the other half later.
4 natural remedies for gas & bloating
Before you reach for the Bean-o, give these natural remedies for gas and bloating a try!
Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy indigestion, gas and bloating. Try drinking ginger tea or adding ginger to water (with lemon!). You can also try incorporating ginger into your meals — curries and soups are a great place to start!
2. Herbal tea
Herbal teas, such as peppermint, ginger or fennel, can provide digestive relief while also increasing your water intake. (They’re also detox-approved!)
3. Lemon water
Adding lemon to your water is a simple way to relieve indigestion by neutralizing stomach acid.
Certain yoga poses have been shown to relieve gas and bloating, including the aptly-named “Wind Pose.”