Gas, wind, bloat…..they’re all part of plant-based eating.
However, in my mind, there’s an acceptable level of bloating and then there’s totally objectionable level of bloating.
Like when suddenly, overnight, your stomach sticks out as if you’re pregnant and the most unladylike noises are being emitted from both ends of your body.
Especially when you’re about to give a presentation at work or meet your new hot date.
Therefore, today I’ll write about how we can avoid or at least reduce the levels of pesky gas.
Let me get the most obvious issues out of the way.
If you eat a highly-processed fatty diet, or if you eat way too much, you might experience digestive discomfort and gas.
For now, I’ll assume you are not plagued by a sudden onset of terrible flatulence and bloating because you’ve just eaten a massive amount of a greasy vegan takeaway. Or a whole French baguette.
Another obvious issue for your discomfort could be due to medical conditions like IBS, Crohn’s disease, gastric reflux etc.
I’m sure your doctor is helping you overcome some of your symptoms.
Instead, I will assume you are experiencing gas simply because you eat healthy whole food plant-based meals.
FACT: carb foods can cause bloating, and plant-based eating contains many carbs [don’t forget, even lettuce is made up of carbs]
The fibres and natural sugars in carbs are the worst offenders.
In beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, many other vegetables, and whole grains.
In fruit to varying degrees, and in artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, leeks, mushrooms, okra, onions, peas, red pepper, shallots and tomato products.
Found naturally in fruits, including apples, pears, peaches, and prunes. It is also used as an artificial sweetener in many dietetic foods and sugar-free candies and gums.
Potatoes, sweet potato, corn, pasta and wheat etc.
By the way, rice is the only starch that does not cause gas.
Various types of fibres
Soluble and insoluble.
Why else do we get bloated?
There are different dietary and lifestyle reasons for it.
Reasons that may cause gas
- Swallowing excess air
- Carbonated aerated drinks
- Certain medicines
- Excess body fat around the waist and belly area pressing on the abdomen
- Changes during the menstrual cycle
- Lack of exercise
- And even stress.
The most likely foods that cause bloating are:
- Vegetables in the Brassica family like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower etc.
- Certain legumes: peas, baked beans, dark lentils [red split lentils don’t cause as many problems! How peculiar.]
- Whole grains
- Some sugar replacements such as sugar alcohols called sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol [the latter one is toxic to dogs!] but not erythritol which does not ferment in the colon as the others do.
- And FODMAPs. Those are certain carbohydrates that do ferment in the colon.
- Raw vegetables [cooking softens the fibres making them easier to digest]
If wish to use a low FODMAP diet, please note it can only be followed for 2-6 weeks!
Although there’s no cure for bloating and gas, here are some science-backed ways to help reduce the symptoms
1) Reduce the main food culprits.
Keep a food diary so you can pinpoint culprits that cause you the most havoc. And then reduce, not necessarily omit, those that cause you the worst symptoms.
2) Prevent Constipation.
Ensure you drink enough water. Consume a minimum of 25g to 30g fibre. Some people can’t have more without creating a problem for themselves.
3) Walk or move every day.
A light walk after your meals out in the fresh air can do wonders for your digestion.
4) Add probiotics
There are natural foods with probiotic qualities such as vegan sugar-free yoghurts, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso and kimchi.
You could also consider using a vegan probiotic supplement. Look at the labels and choose one that specifically mentions that it reduces bloating and gas
5) Try Vegan Digestive Enzymes
The reason why certain foods cause gas and bloating is a lack of enzymes that break down food into its basic components for easy digestion. A good vegan enzyme supplement will contain bromelain, lipase, protease, amylase, papain, lactase and cellulase. These help to break down protein, fat, sugars and carbohydrates.
6) Reduce your salt intake.
A high salt intake contributes to water retention in the gut and can cause unpleasant side effects of bloating.
5) Eat smaller portions and chew your food well
Limiting your portion sizes gives your digestive system a much easier job and often helps to reduce the symptoms of feeling overfull and gassy.
Natural herbal teas that might help:
Try peppermint, ginger, chamomile, lemon balm, fennel or wormwood.
And if none of the above tips helped, and you are still plagued by discomfort, please talk to your doctor about this problem. They can investigate and hopefully rule out any underlying issues.