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How to Reduce Digestive Discomfort on a Plant-Based Diet
Just starting out on your plant-based journey? Gone vegan or vegetarian but experiencing some bloating and gas?
The great news about eating a diet centred around whole plant foods is that you’ll finally be getting the recommended 30g of fibre a day.⠀
The bad news is that this can sometimes be accompanied by a few unwelcome digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation and the aforementioned bloating and gas.⠀
Rest assured, these side effects are normal and usually temporary, and armed with these tips, you should be able to reduce any GI distress.⠀
Your gut microbiota just needs some time to adjust to your new lifestyle and populate its thriving community with beneficial microbes that will help you get better and better at digesting and optimising your fibre intake. ⠀
Ten tips to reduce digestive discomfort on a plant-based diet
1 – Go low and slow
Don’t build up your fibre intake too quickly – aim for a weekly increase of 5g per day, and only add more the following week if you have no discomfort.
2 – Stick to cooked foods
Cooked plant foods are easier to digest than raw, so while your body gets used to the increase in fibre, leave raw produce alone for now.
3 – Blend it up
Blitzing plant foods in a blender or food processor breaks down tough cell walls which can make digesting them easier. Think: smoothies and hummus.
4 – Soak Your Legumes
Soak dried beans for a minimum of 12 hours before cooking, and lentils for around 30 minutes and give canned/pre-cooked legumes a thorough rinse too!
5 – Try smaller meals
Overeating is a major contributor to the bloat, regardless of whether you’re eating a plant-focused diet or not. Try having three smaller meals and two snacks throughout the day to space out your food intake – it really works wonders!
6 – Write it down
Keeping a diary of what you’ve eaten and any digestive symptoms you’re experiencing can help you identify any foods you don’t tolerate well. It’s trial and error.. test, test, test!
7 – Remember the basics
Eating slowly and chewing properly can reduce the amount of air you swallow, which means less gas in your guts and better digestion all round. Also, stay away from carbonated drinks and don’t drink through a straw.
8 – Stay hydrated
Make sure you increase your water intake alongside your fibre intake so that things can keep moving happily through your digestive system. Dietary fibre depends on water!
9 – Don’t suffer in silence
If you’re still experiencing digestive discomfort, please see your doctor to rule out any medical cause behind your symptoms, just to be on the safe side.
10 – What 5 grams of fibre looks like:
- 1/2 a cup of (dry) oats
- 1 apple or pear with skin
- 1/2 an avocado
- 2 slices of multigrain bread
- 1 1/2 cups of air-popped corn
- 1 medium (200g) potato with skin
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1/2 cup of cooked beans
Just stick with it, and believe me, the benefits far outweigh any short-term distress!
Need more guidance?
I work with vegan and vegetarian clients to help them increase their fibre intake in a controlled and steady, way so they can avoid digestive discomfort, improve their gut health and eat more plant foods with confidence.