Are You Embarrassed by Veggie Gas?
Ok, I know gas and bloating aren’t the most delicate subjects. It’s embarrassing to have uncontrollable gas and bloating when you start a new plant-based diet.
Flatulence is a normal part of life. When you transition to a plant-based diet you may notice more bloating and tooting than normal at first.
The problem is fiber! But more fiber is a good problem to have because fiber can help increase calcium absorption, and improve colon health dramatically. Fiber contains nonextractable polyphenols which are highly beneficial to your health.
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The Standard American diet doesn’t meet the minimum requirement for fiber and the polyphenols it contains. So it might take your system a few weeks to adjust to a whole-foods plant-based diet high in fiber. But your digestion will catch up if you go slowly and add new foods gradually.
In reality, animal products like eggs and dairy produce noxious gas just as frequently or more than a plant-based diet. By avoiding animal foods you are doing your body a favor.
A whole-foods plant-based diet is packed with nutrients. When you eat less meat and dairy and less processed foods, you are 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.
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.
Are you ready to become a walking billboard for the best diet on the planet? You want sparkling skin, clean breath, and a slim waist.
It’s hard enough transitioning to a new diet without the gas! Your family and friends may already think you’re a crazy hippy. The last thing you want to do is confirm their suspicions by leaving a fog of your veggie gas everywhere you go!.
When I finally switched over to a whole-foods plant-based diet, I lost 30 pounds quickly, But I did have to deal with kale farts for a few weeks.
I had been introducing more greens and beans very gradually for months. When I finally went off all processed foods, my digestion improved dramatically, but it took time.
One thing that helped was the Ayurvedic herb, Triphala. I took that twice a day before meals, and that helped ease the transition. More about Ayurveda later — Let’s get into the 11 tips for avoiding gas and bloating on a plant-based diet.
1. Don’t use too many different ingredients per meal
Keep your meals simple at first. The fewer ingredients, the easier it will be to digest.
Try to keep regular mealtimes 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.
2. Chew, Chew, Chew!
Chew your food really, really, really, well…Like, way more than you’re used to chewing.
The idea of chewing a lot may sound obvious, but when you’re accustomed to eating processed foods like dairy, lunch meats, white flour, etc., you don’t have to chew them very much before swallowing. With whole foods, you need to exaggerate your chewing time because there is a lot more fiber.
3. Prepare your body for food with mindful eating
Eat slowly and take a few deep breaths before you eat. I know it sounds a little airy-fairy, but try closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. You will calm the autonomic nervous system, the “rest-and-relax” part of our nervous system.
When we are tense or eat too quickly, the sympathetic nervous system goes into flight-or-fight mode because that’s its job.
When you eat to fast, it shuts down your digestion and makes it harder to absorb nutrients. So you end up with kale-farts in the middle of a presentation.
Do one thing at a time
We tend to eat and drive or text or watch TV or do a million things while we eat. If you eat while doing other things, it can put your body into a state of stress and overwhelm.
When your body is in chronic stress, the last thing it is ready to do is digest food.
By sitting down to eat you are signaling to the body that you are about to eat, and everything is chill. You will be amazed at how much better your digestion is if you focus on just eating when you eat.
Deepak Chopra has some great tips about how to eat mindfully:
- Close your eyes for a few seconds and calm the nervous system, maybe even say a blessing.
- Smell the food, and get your digestive juices flowing.
- Savor each bite, so your body registers that food is going in.
- 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.
Stay hydrated by having a full glass of water 20 or 30 minutes before or after your meal. Hot tea sipped during your meal can be helpful especially for those suffering from acid reflux. A thermos of warm water with ginger can help with digestion. In Ayurveda, it is suggested to sip hot water throughout the day.
We shouldn’t use liquids to wash down the food. If you chew well, the saliva will mix with the food and add amylase for starch digestion.
Bowel movements and hydration
Water helps with keeping bowel movements regular and easing the transition to a high-fiber diet. don’t be alarmed if you are having more frequent bowel movements than you are used to after you start a plant-based diet. Bowel movements 2 to 3 times per day is actually normal on a plant-based diet.
5. Soak beans, whole grains, nuts seeds, and grains
It’s essential to become familiar with how to prepare plant foods, so they are well cooked, but not overcooked.
Beans should be soaked for at least 2 hours and then rinsed to get rid of any lectins and gas-forming chemicals. Then add fresh water and make sure beans come to a boil for ten minutes before you turn down the heat and allow them to cook until tender. Better yet, use an instant pot for fast, safe cooking.
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 cooking.
When you cook sweet potatoes and squash, make sure not to bake or boil them so long that they become mushy. They should still be a little firm 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, or you end up with a viscous texture that is totally disgusting.
Potatoes only take 4 minutes to cook if you use an Instant Pot. You don’t need a lot of fancy kitchen gadgets to start a plant-based diet, but an Instant Pot is one item you may want to get right away.
How to prepare nuts and seeds
Nuts should be eaten sparingly and soaked overnight, or you can add them to moist salads, to avoid gas. Soaking allows nuts and seeds 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. Seeds are designed by nature to pass through the body without digestion so they can grow more plants. When you soak nuts, it makes them easier to digest and keeps them from binding with nutrients in your intestines.
Grind fresh flax seeds and chia seeds in a small coffee grinder right before sprinkling them on food. Keep nuts and seeds refrigerated.
Try to find raw nuts and seeds without added salt.
6. Eat cruciferous veggies cooked or fermented
The cruciferous family includes cabbage, broccoli, kale, collard greens, and many more. Cruciferous veggies are high in nutrients, so don’t avoid them. But they can be harder to digest when they are raw.
An easy way to cook cruciferous veggies is by steaming them. Make sure to remove the stems and spines of the tougher vegetables. Don’t over steam or under steam. Veggies should be tender but not mushy. It only takes 4 to 10 minutes to steam most veggies.
Pressed salads with cruciferous veggies
Grating, pressing, and marinating veggies in lemon or lime juice can soften them and make them easier to digest when eaten raw. Pressed salad and fermented slaws can be a great addition to your raw portions.
7. Avoid pesticides in your food
There can be hidden chemicals and pesticides in packaged plant foods. For instance, breakfast bars are full of processed flour, fillers, and dried fruit and sugar.
Unless they say non-GMO or organic on the packaging, you may be eating glyphosate. Chemicals can damage your digestion by causing the gut lining to become too permeable.
It’s important to eat pesticide-free food as much as you can afford to. You can use the Dirty Dozen, Clean-15 List from Environmental Working Group. That way, you can avoid the worst pesticides in your food without spending a fortune.
4. Care for your gut bacteria
Your diet of plants will build your microbiome to the point where you will start digesting your new plant diet easily.
When you stay off processed foods and eat more veggies, you are gradually changing your gut flora. While you wait for things to adjust you can add human-made probiotics or try naturally fermented veggies.
Probiotics and prebiotics
Probiotics are the microbes that move through your gut as well as the colonies that live there permanently. Prebiotics are the natural plant foods that feed the probiotic bacteria in your gut, so you do not need to buy prebiotics.
Ideally, your body makes all the probiotics you need naturally. At first, you might not have the right flora to digest the higher fiber we have in whole foods. So a probiotic might be helpful for the first few months of a new diet.
Contrary to popular belief. Larger numbers of different probiotic strains don’t always mean the brand is the best one for you. It’s best to find a probiotic with viable strains that have been proven to help the human gut. Many brands have 20 strains of microbes that do nothing for our human bodies. We have specific probiotic needs as humans.
I like the Seed brand because it’s researched by a group of medical doctors with specific strains of bacteria designed for humans. Seed has a dual-layer-capsule technology that gets past stomach acid, and it isn’t overly expensive.
It can take a few weeks to see results with a good probiotic. Your microbiome is adjusting, and this will pass. Our gut flora changes quickly to adapt to whatever we are eating.
Where do natural probiotics come from?
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. They ate plants predominantly, and depending on location, humans ate 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, a fascinating book on how we evolved to eat a variety of cooked foods.
9. Skip juicing and blending for a while
Juicing and green smoothies are one 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 are 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. When you blend and juice, it breaks down the fiber or removes fiber.
Blending and juicing 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 when you do juice or blend, do not juice a lot of fruit.
The fruit is better with the fiber still in it. Fiber slows down the blood sugar levels and keeps you from crashing and bloating.
Green smoothies with berries or mango are an exception to the rule according to a study. and may improve overall health.
10. Dried fruit versus fresh fruit
Fruit, in fresh and dried form, is rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients. Fruit can aid in digestion. Contrary to popular belief it is not unhealthy to eat fruit with other foods. Fruit will not ferment in your stomach.
If you are having trouble with bloating you may want to stick with whole fruit rather than dried fruit because of the sugar content of dried fruit and the lack of water.
You might need to experiment with prunes and fresh fruits to see what works. Prunes are wonderful for digestion and increase the Bifidobacteria in the colon but they can also increase gas and bloating.
It’s it is easy to overeat on dried fruit because the sugar is much more concentrated than it is in whole fresh fruits. Sugar is one of the main culprits for bloating because it causes fermentation.
11. Ayurveda for digestion
Try sipping hot water 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.
- Don’t eat too many items at one meal
- Chew thoroughly
- Prepare Your Body for food With Mindful Eating
- Make sure you are consuming enough fluids
- Soak beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and grains
- Eat cruciferous veggies cooked or Fermented
- Avoid pesticides in your food
- Care for your gut bacteria
- Skip juicing and blending
- Eating fruit with meals is a bonus
- Ayurveda for digestion
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 and you will have more energy
- Protection from diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer’s to name just a few lifestyle diseases.
Want to learn more about transitioning to a plant-based diet? Subscribe to get our free Plant-Based Beginner’s Guide.