Eating plant-based has been known to massively improve the condition of your gut, mostly due to the increased fiber consumption that comes with eating vegan foods. A lot of new vegans are thriving on their plant-based diet, as they have finally overcome constipation, and the detox effect of plant-based eating, combined with the increased intake of vitamins and minerals usually results in clearer skin, weight loss, boosted energy levels, and more.
There is another side of the coin, though, and you could sure be one of the many vegans, complaining from gas, diarrhea, or other digestive issues, which may be caused by the increased fiber intake as well as eating foods like beans, chickpeas, and lentils that are gas-forming, and may take more time to digest. Good news is that there are a few simple solutions to digestive issues such as stomach acid, indigestion, and general bloating that will make your lifestyle as a vegan a lot better!
The most important thing to remember is that each body reacts differently to different foods, so it is important to watch out for the signals YOURS is giving you, while testing the different methods to heal your digestive difficulties. Here are a few of the best tips that are a surefire way to help you:
Legumes can cause stomach discomfort and gas. The culprit? The carbohydrates, says Hermann: “They go undigested into the large intestines where they’re finally broken down—and the byproduct of that process is gas.”
Make sure beans are well cooked. “Beans don’t do any good cooked al dente,” says Hermann. “They need to be soft on the inside. The firmer they are, the harder they are to digest.”
Rinsing beans after soaking but before cooking also helps by getting rid of some of the non-digestible elements. During cooking, skim off any foam that forms. If you soak beans overnight, rinse them well before cooking. If you’re using canned beans, empty the liquid and rinse the beans before using them. Beano or other over-the-counter preparations can help prevent gas problems. Probiotics containing Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus may also help reduce gas and bloating, according to a Harvard Medical School special report on food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivity.
2. FRUITS & VEGETABLES
“The acid in citrus fruit can cause stomach trouble,” says Hermann, as can melons, apples, and other fruits. Meanwhile, vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can also cause gas.
Eat fruit with other food, and make sure the fruit is ripe. “Less-ripe fruit contains indigestible carbohydrates,” says Hermann. And watch out for dried fruit—it can be a laxative, she adds. Limit your portions and introduce dried fruit into your diet slowly, paying attention to your gut’s tolerance. As for those nutrition-packed but gas-producing veggies? Keep them in your diet but combine them with other less gas-creating vegetables.
Eating a lot of whole grains can cause abdominal discomfort because their outer coatings can be hard to digest, says Hermann.
Introduce whole grains in small portions and start with a gentle grain like brown rice, which is not all that high in fiber, as opposed to, say, wheat berries.
Cook whole grains well, and also try introducing whole wheat as flour in baked products. “When it’s ground up, whole wheat is easier to digest,” Hermann says.
4. Take it Easy on the Raw Veggies
While corn, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower are all awesome for you, they’re sometimes hard to digest in raw form. When you go plant-based, ease your way into eating raw vegetables. Most people find they tolerate raw greens and fruits fine, but find veggies are much better tolerated when cooked first. The cooking process helps the body gets used to breaking them down. If you’re concerned about nutrients being lost, consider steaming or baking your veggies instead of boiling them where vitamins leach out into the water.
5. Consider Digestive Enzymes
Digestive enzymes are safe supplements that you can take which help break down your food easier. Most people find their digestion is much better with the use of certain enzymes. Just remember to buy plant-based versions, not ones that use animal ingredients. You can also eat pineapple and papaya, which both contain certain digestive enzymes that help ease the stomach and promote easier digestion of protein and fat.
I love almond and cashew butter but find roasted versions sit pretty heavy in my stomach and lead to pain quickly. Raw nut butter is much easier to digest since they still contain live enzymes which help the digestive process. They also contain less oil, salt, and acidity than roasted versions. Also be wary of peanut butter if you have a sensitive digestive system. Peanuts can be hard for many people to digest and are often contaminated with mold that might upset a healthy gut bacteria balance.
7. Embrace Root Veggies
Root veggies like sweet potato, beets, onions, winter squash, carrots, red potatoes, and even white potatoes are amazing for your digestion. I love baking them or roasting them for an incredible flavor that is also easy on the stomach. Root vegetables are high in water and soluble fiber which help improve regularity and constipation. They also contain a large amount of potassium and magnesium, which help prevent bloating and constipation. You can eat these over a salad or with dinner, or check out some other amazing ways to use them too.
8. Embrace Herbal Tea
Herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile, ginger, fennel, anise, and roobios (a sweet red tea) all help the digestive process and are especially awesome if you have IBS symptoms. Consider having them thirty minutes after mealtime or before bed to help relax and settle your stomach.
9. Watch the Oils
Oils can be incredibly dense on the stomach and aren’t a whole food. They can also trigger diarrhea or stomach pain. I advise eliminating oils and embracing whole foods that contain beneficial fats instead such as flax, chia, olives, coconut, and avocado. You can also cook without oil by using lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or just plain water if you like. For salad dressings, opt for avocados, hemp seeds, lemon juice and/or balsamic vinegar.
While there are amazing and fun vegan products on the market that replace animal products such as cheese, ice cream, milk, and meat – the truth is that these processed versions can be taxing to the digestive system at first unless you’re used to eating them. Many are often filled with certain fillers, gums, and stabilizers that many people find are hard to digest. Instead of consuming vegan processed foods, just start with the basics and go for more greens, fruits, veggies, easy-to-digest grains (such as quinoa, millet, gluten-free oats, amaranth, and rice) over gluten-containing grains like wheat barley and rye. If you’re a fan of vegan protein powders like myself, always opt for one that’s free of additives, sugar, and gluten for optimal digestion as well.
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