Ok, I know gas and bloating isn’t the nicest subject to talk about. It can be really embarrassing to have uncontrollable gas and bloating when you start a new plant-based diet.
But it is important to talk about this embarrassing subject if you want to be successful on a plant-based diet!
A whole food plant-based diet is packed with nutrients. By eating less meat and dairy and less processed foods you will be preventing disease and weight gain, but the transition can be full of embarrassing bloating and tooting if you don’t know what you are doing.
Whole plant-based foods high in fiber can take a little time to adjust to. But your gut bacteria will catch up if you go slowly and add the new foods in gradually.
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Embarrassed by Veggie gas?
Chances are you already know the health benefits of eating a plant-based whole-food diet and you want to start losing weight and feeling great and become a walking billboard for the best diet on the planet. You want sparkling skin, clean breath, and a slim waist.
The last thing you want is to be so bloated it looks like you’re six months pregnant and smelling up the room with kale farts!
It’s hard enough transitioning to a new diet and having family and friends judging you as a crazy hippy without smelling up the car with your veggie gas.
I lost 30 pounds on a plant-based diet then the kale farts started
When I first switched over to a 100 percent plant-based diet it was pretty smooth sailing for the first 3 months I lost 30 pounds easily but then I stalled a bit. I ended up going back to some of my old eating habits and got gassy again.
I had been introducing more greens and beans very gradually for months. When I finally went off all processed foods my digestion improved dramatically in about a week.
I had been suffering from loose stools, (I know, TMI) but everything was great as soon as I cut out all the processed foods.
I knew about the Ayurvedic herb, Triphala and took that twice a day before meals and that really helped ease the transition.
I was fine for months. Then I started skipping meals and cheating with breakfast bars full of flour, fillers and dried fruit and sugar. Not only that but I had been eating mostly organic and avoiding glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup), that way. Glyphosate can damage your digestion by causing the gut lining to become too permeable. So eat pesticide free as much as you can.
Most breakfast bars and prepared foods are not GMO-free or pesticide-free. I had reintroduced toxins to a system that was still delicate and in recovery from years of abuse.
That was when I developed digestive problems again and had to go through the process of eliminating cheat foods and healing my digestion all over again.
Tips to avoid gas and bloating on a plant-based diet
Keep your meals simple at first. The fewer ingredients the easier it will be to digest.
Try to keep regular meal times and give food 3 to 4 hours to digest so that your stomach is empty the next time you eat.
if you do have a mid-morning snack or a snack between lunch and dinner keep it simple. Just have one item rather than a mix of foods, an apple or carrots or some jicama etc.
Chew your food really, really, really, well…Like, way more than you are used to.
This may sound obvious but when you are accustomed to eating more processed foods like dairy, highly cooked meats, white flour, etc. You don’t have to chew them nearly as much before swallowing so you may need to really exaggerate your chewing time.
Deepak Chopra has some great tips about how to eat mindfully: smell the food, enjoy each bite, wait for the food to go into the stomach before taking the next bite.
Wait five minutes before going for seconds just to see if you are doing it out of habit or if you are really still hungry.
Don’t drink liquids with your food
This sounds counter-intuitive, but we shouldn’t be using water to wash down the food. If you chew well the saliva will mix with the food and add amylase for starch digestion. Drinking liquids during the meal or right after eating can dilute your digestive juices too much.
Drink 8 oz of water 20 minutes before eating and then wait an hour or two for food to exit the stomach before taking in liquids again.
Food prep tips for avoiding gas
It is important to get familiar with how to prepare plant foods so they are well cooked but not overcooked.
For a while, you may need to eat more easily digestible foods like stews and softer foods and less raw foods. Mash your sweet potatoes and stem your veggies longer. Kind of like baby food at first.
You can gradually add in more raw veggies as your digestion gets stronger.
Soak beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds
Soak beans, nuts, seeds, and grains before cooking Beans can be soaked overnight and then rinsed to get rid of any lectins and gas forming chemicals. then add fresh water and make sure they come to a boil for ten minutes before you turn down the heat and allow them to cook until tender.
Rice should be soaked for 6 hours and then rinsed to get rid of about 80 percent of the mercury. Other grains should be rinsed and soaked for an hour or two before cooing.
When cooking sweet potatoes and squash make sure not to bake or boil them so long that they become too mushy. They should still be a little firm still when you stick the fork in to test them, not completely gelatinous.
Depending on the size of the potatoes or squash it can take up to an hour to cook. When baking potatoes and sweet potatoes don’t over bake. you end up with a gelatinous texture that is totally disgusting.
How to prepare nuts and seeds
Nuts should be eaten sparklingly and soaked overnight or added to moist salads an or two hour before you eat them to avoid gas. This allows them to sprout and gets rid of phytic acid and other digestion inhibitors.
Nuts and seeds are designed to protect themselves from weather and from gastric juices to be passed through the body without digestion so they can grow more plants. Soaking makes them easier to digest and keeps them from binding with nutrients in your intestines.
Grind fresh flax seeds and chia seeds in a little coffee grinder right before sprinkling them on food, keep nuts and seeds refrigerated. try to get raw nuts and seeds that are not processed with added salt.
The cruciferous family includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens and many more Don’t eat a lot of raw cruciferous veggies in salads or smoothies.
Cook them by steaming for ten minutes making sure to remove the stems and spines of the tougher veggies. don’t over steam or under steam. Veggies should be tender but not mushy.
Raw cruciferous veggies can also affect the thyroid negatively if you overdo it. But cooking removes much of the threat to your thyroid.
Grating, pressing and marinating veggies in lemon or lime can soften them break down and make them easier to digest when eaten raw. Pressed salad and fermented slaws can be a great addition to your raw portions.
Prepare the autonomic nervous system for food
Eat slowly and take a few deep breaths before you eat. I know it sounds a little airy-fairy but by closing your eyes, saying a little prayer or just taking a few deep breaths you calm the autonomic nervous system. This is the “rest-and-relax” part of our nervous system.
Too often we are stuck in the tension of the sympathetic nervous system in flight-or-fight mode trying to rush things. This shuts down the digestion and makes it hard to absorb nutrients so you end up with the dreaded kale farts in the middle of a presentation.
We tend to eat and drive or text or watch TV or do a million things while we eat. This can cause our bodies to be in a constant state of stress and overwhelm. When your body is in chronic stress the last thing it is ready to do is digest food.
So by signaling to the body that we are about to eat and everything is chill you will be amazed at how much better your digestion is.
Your gut bacteria and probiotics
Your diet will build your microbiome to the point where you will be digesting your new plant diet easily.
When you stay off animal products and processed foods and eat more veggies you are changing your inner flora.
While you wait for things to adjust you can add man-made probiotics or try naturally fermented veggies.
I have had mixed results with probiotic capsules and prefer using real foods to build my gut microbiome, but some people have great results with them. It is best to find a probiotic with as many different strains as possible and try different brands until you find one that works for your body.
I like the Hyperbiotics brand because it gets past stomach acid and isn’t overly expensive.
Your microbiome is adjusting and this will pass. Our gut flora changes quickly to adapt to whatever we are eating.
But at first, you might not have the right flora to help with digestion of higher fiber foods have. Humans have evolved to adapt to whatever food is in the location they find themselves in.
Our ancestors were lucky that they never had to transition off of processed foods back to whole foods.
They had strong digestion from eating a combination of different unprocessed foods with some cooked and some raw foods some plants.
And depending on location some animal products but they didn’t deal with chemicals and highly processed foods. A lot of what they ate was high in fiber.
To learn more about what our ancestors ate read Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham, an interesting book on how we evolved to eat a variety of cooked foods.
Fermented vegetables are easy to find now a ‘days and are a lot less expensive than probiotic capsules. Eating real food is the way your body was designed to create probiotics and prebiotics, the food your gut bacteria like to eat.
If you decide to buy fermented veggies make sure they are raw. Try kimchee or raw sauerkraut and try to get organic if you can.
You can make your own by shredding cabbage easily, and add other veggies like carrots, kale, onions. etc. mix them with a pinch of sea salt and press them tightly into a mason jar.
Cover and let sit for a couple of days and then refrigerate them. Cabbage has a natural chemical that aids in fermenting the veggies.
You can add a tablespoon or so of fermented veggies a little with each meal.
Skip juicing and blending for a while
Juicing and green smoothies are some of the biggest culprits for bloating. I know it sounds so healthy to pound down a green smoothie or some green juice in the morning, but you may be better off having some steamed veggies with your breakfast.
As mentioned, raw kale is hard to digest and has some toxic substances that are neutralized when cooked. Breaking down the fiber or removing the fiber turns the food back into a processed mess that rushes into the bloodstream way too fast.
So please don’t juice or blend too often, and if you do, do not juice a lot of fruit.
Fruit is better with the fiber still in it. This slows down the blood sugar levels and keeps you from crashing and keeps you from bloating.
Eat Fruit separately from other foods
This is the one thing I found useful when learning about food combining.
Eat fruits and raw salads first, before you pile in the beans and grains. You don’t want the fruit to ferment in your belly since it is a faster-digesting food and high in sugar.
Don’t eat bananas right after beans for instance.
Don’t mix acidic fruits with sweet fruits and don’t eat fruits later in the day.
Have them at breakfast or at the beginning of the meal. You can experiment and see what works for your body over time.
Melons especially, digest very quickly so if you eat beans first, which digest a lot slower and then throw in your melon on top of the beans you end up with fermenting fruit trapped in your digestive tract waiting for the beans to move on through and this can cause bloating.
Fruits should be eaten alone or with your salad or steamed greens followed by heavy foods like grains, sweet potatoes, and beans.
Or you might find that you need to just eat your fruit first thing in the morning and don’t have anymore that day at least until you acclimate to the new diet.
If that doesn’t work try skipping fruit for a week and then add it back in slowly to see if you are allergic to something.
Dried fruit can cause bloating
Try cutting back on dried fruits. Once you remove the water it is easy to overeat on these and they are extremely sweet, much more concentrated than whole fresh fruits.
Sugar is one of the main culprits for bloating because it causes fermentation, and this can feed bad bacteria and imbalance the gut microbiome.
Ayurveda for digestion
Try sipping hot water sipped throughout the day. Keep a thermos of hot water nearby and take a sip every half hour or so.
You can add a little peppermint or slices of ginger. This is an ayurvedic technique that is a gentle cleanse for your digestive tract.
Triphala is the herbal mixture I took when I started on my plant-based diet. Triphala is a digestive tract supporter and cleanser that helps balance the digestion and make assimilation easier. Triphala is made of three different Indian herbs.
Try cutting out oils
Try removing oils from your diet. This might sound extreme but food can be delicious with water Sautee, baking, Instapot or steaming.
Oils are a highly processed food. Oils have been found to be damaging to the endothelial lining of the cells so cutting or eliminating oils can help. You can get healthy fats from nuts, seeds, and avocados in their full-fiber natural forms.
- Eat slowly and enjoy your food
- Stop blending and juicing if you have been doing a lot of that
- Eat fruit first thing in the day or at the beginning of the meal
- Cut out processed foods like sugar, flour, and dairy
- Add fermented veggies to your meals
- Try a probiotic and see if that helps in the transition
- Prepare food carefully and make sure to soak beans, nuts, and grains
- Ayurvedic herbs like Triphala can help
- Be patient, it can take a little while for the gut bacteria to catch up so introduce beans gradually.
It is all going to be worth it.
Remember all the health benefits you are getting:
- freedom from cravings for processed foods and the natural weight loss that comes with that.
- Brain fog will lift.
- More energy to live your life
- Protection from diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer’s to name just a few lifestyle diseases.