Plant Based + Digestion: How to Avoid the Veggie Bloat


Whether you're vegan, vegetarian or just love whole foods-  it may come with some stomach discomfort, bloating, gas or other stomach upsets. Especially if you're not used to housing a plate of fresh greens and whole grains. 

I've been plant based for the last 13 years and have learned what works and what doesn't for me. One of the questions I am asked the most is what to do about post veggie bloat.

For starters, if you're taking the step to a healthier lifestyle, congratulations! You're on the right track. If you're stomach is sensitive to lots of veggies,  start with cooked or steamed veggies. Especially veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. 

The biggest life hack I can give you is: digestive enzymes. 

Digestive enzymes from both supplements and natural sources.

Vegan or not, digestive enzymes work wonders for the body and help with stomach digestion immediately.  

Digestive enzymes break down the food you eat to absorb and use the nutrients. If you're body isn't breaking down the food correctly, you're not absorbing and benefiting from all the nutrients. 

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Quick little enzyme 101:

There are three major types of enzymes, each of which has specific functions: amylases break starches down into sugar molecules, proteases break down proteins into amino acids, and lipases break fats down into their component parts.

Digestive enzymes can also help your body weed itself of pathogens that may contribute to GI issues like leaky gut - this is because protease can break down bacteria and parasites, which are made of protein, and can then be removed from the body.

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For the new vegans, vegetarians or plant based:

Digestive Enzymes help from the enzyme alpha-galactosidase, derived from a fungus, can help break down the fiber found in foods that contribute to gassiness, like beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

Taking this digestive enzyme with a plant-based meal high in these types of foods can help minimize any symptoms that follow.

For a complete list of top rated and reviewed enzymes visit Urban Vegan. 

(one of my personal favorites is the Source Naturals - Daily Essential Enzymes.

Essential Enzymes®, Daily bottleshot

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In addition, here a few tips to help digest and break down fruit, veggies, legumes + whole grains from Mindy Hermann, RDN, a New York–based dietitian. Hope it helps!

LEGUMES

Problem
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.”

Solution
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.  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.

 

FRUITS & VEGETABLES

Problem
“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.

Solution 
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. 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? Take a digestive enzyme and try eating them steamed or cooked. It also helps to pair them with other non-bloating greens like arugula, cucumber, celery etc. 

WHOLE GRAINS

Problem 
Eating a lot of whole grains can cause abdominal discomfort because their outer coatings can be hard to digest.

Solution 
Introduce whole grains in small portions and start with a gentle grain like brown rice, which is not all that high in fiber, as to, say, wheat berries.
Cook grains well, and try quinoa or plant based pastas. The plant based flour (chick pea, lentil, cassava) is easier to digest when broken up. 

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