Plant-Based Diet and Bloating: 5 Tips To Help
I’m all about that plant-based life. Of course, I have to be honest: high-fibre living is not without its quirks.
When clients in my private practice (I’m a registered dietitian) adopt a plant-based diet of high fiber foods, it’s not uncommon for them to feel kind of bloated at first.
While it’s 100% normal to be bloated from time to time, it’s not a ton of fun to have to deal with excessive gas and bloating. If it gets to be a daily issue, it’s probably a good idea to check in with a doctor to make sure you don’t have IBS or another digestive concern because your previous low fibre diet may have been hiding symptoms.
Moving from a dietary pattern that is low in fibre, and high in starches and added sugars to one that’s filled with high-fibre plants is one of the best things you can do for your health and vitality.
It also requires your body to adapt, which takes time, particularly with fermentable high FODMAP foods such as legumes and whole grains.
How to get rid of bloating on a plant-based diet
If you feel bloated, consider these five strategies to help ease your transition:
- Drink water
- Chew thoroughly
- Blend some foods
- Eat cooked vegetables
- Spread fibre consumption throughout the day
1. Drink water to help fibre do its job properly
All that extra fibre you’re consuming requires a significant amount of water to work its magic. In fact, without adequate water, fibre will have the opposite effect.
Yep. It’s literally plugging you up. It can even constipate you!
Whenever your elimination is sluggish, you will be bloated because, if there’s a lot of stool in the gut, it will hinder the movement of gasses.
The gasses that do escape will also be extra smelly. Also, if you’re dehydrated your gut will attempt to retrieve water from your stool, further slowing the process.
How much water should you drink?
Well, it’s very individualized. Ideally, drink enough water to be urinating pale urine (unless you take B vitamins or meds that change urine colour) every couple of hours.
If you are larger, more active or it’s hot out, you will need more than someone who is smaller or less active. Keep a one-litre bottle of water at your side and fill it up at least twice a day.
2. Chew thoroughly to more effectively digest plant foods
This sounds too ridiculously obvious to be meaningful but plant cell walls take a considerable amount of grinding to break down properly.
Why does this matter?
All of the acid and enzymes that your food encounters after you swallow work best when there is more surface area to attach to.
Chewing is the one act of digestion that you have control over, which will optimize the process. Yet most of us gulp down our food barely chewed.
It makes a difference! Be mindful that you have fully chewed before you choose to swallow. Slowing down the rate at which you eat will also help minimize the amount of air you are swallowing, which will decrease the amount of gases you are introducing into the gut.
3. Blend some foods
Blending foods can also improve digestion. Blending is a common strategy for my clients with particularly sensitive digestive tracts such as those with ulcerative colitis because it helps to break down the tough cell walls of plant foods.
If you feel like kale is difficult to digest, try adding it to smoothies or blending it into a pesto. New to beans? Make hummus or a smashed bean dip your first stop on the legume train.
A word to the blender-wise: if you love smoothies, be mindful about how you consume them. If you gulp a 500ml smoothie, you will place a lot of nutrients into the gut quickly and likely feel bloated. Instead, sip slowly and actually chew your smoothie. That’s right! Make the physical motion of chewing before you swallow and it will help slow you down, giving the enzymes in your saliva a bit more contact with the food.
Need some smoothie inspiration? Check out these 10 vegan smoothies.
4. Eat cooked vegetables
When you have a seriously inflamed or irritated gut, it’s not uncommon to have trouble tolerating raw vegetables. Unfortunately, this usually leads to eating more low fibre, low nutrient foods that feel good in the short term but may lead to more inflammation later on.
Cooked vegetables are often easier to handle. Enjoy cooked foods over raw foods as you transition to a higher-fibre diet. Cooking foods helps gently break them down and makes them easier on the digestive process. Give your veggies a quick steam, roast, stir fry or saute until hot and fork tender but not mushy.
5. Spread fibre consumption throughout the day
It’s not uncommon to add a lot of high fibre foods to a single meal like breakfast. This can place a heavy fibre load on the gut.
Instead, try to eat high-fibre foods at each meal, such as beans, berries or hardy vegetables. Adding smaller fibre doses—say 5-10 grams—throughout the day will feel better than a large dose in one sitting.
This is also the perfect time to talk about beans and lentils. If you’re brand new to beans and start eating 2 cups of beans a day, you’re going to be pretty bloated. Really bloated, actually. Instead, start small.
Add ¼ cup of beans to one of your meals every single day. Give your body the clear signal that it needs to adapt without going overboard. You can gradually go up to a half a cup and then one full cup at a meal. Enjoy some other lower fibre plant-based proteins like organic tofu or hemp seeds at other meals as you transition.
Should you take a digestive enzyme?
Usually the first place people head when they feel bloated is digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes can help you feel better in the short term but I don’t agree that they are a long term solution—unless you have a diagnosed deficiency in pancreatic enzyme production.
The reason for my stance is that:
- your body will adapt given the chance
- all of those undigested fibres are food for your gut bacteria
The body was not designed to, nor does it require, that you digest and absorb 100% of your food intake. Waste happens—it’s supposed to. And when you eat a variety of whole plant foods, that ‘waste’ is actually fermentable fibres and carbohydrates that feed gut bacteria to protect and heal your gut for the long term.
Natural remedies for bloating
I’m a big advocate for a little probiotic support. Especially if your diet was less than healthy before. A good probiotic can help your gut bacteria bounce back quicker but it’s not an overnight thing.
I also love natural herbal support for digestion. Ginger, fennel and peppermint are all excellent at soothing angry, bloated guts.
You can chew fresh, picked or dried ginger or sip it as a tea throughout the day. Chew a few organic fennel seeds after a meal or enjoy a strong peppermint tea or a few drops of food grade peppermint oil.
If you’re eating a healthy, plant-based diet a little gas will always be a part of your life.
It means your gut is functional, you have good bacteria in there and you’re eating fibre. But daily discomfort and significant bloating is a sign that you need some extra support. Give these strategies a try and hopefully they’ll help you love living a plant-based life.
52 Comments on “Plant-Based Diet and Bloating: 5 Tips To Help”
Hi! Thank you for your information! I generally eat a very clean, unprocessed diet that includes fish and eggs. When I go fully plant based, I end up with diarrhea. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Thank you!
So interesting – there are many reasons why this might be. The first, is that you are increasing fermentable fibre foods that are causing a bit of GI upset. Typically, our guts need time to adjust to increases in fibre and slow and steady wins the race. Or that your overall dietary pattern looks different and again, the gut is adjusting. But it could also be that you are eating more of something while plant-based that you are actually intolerant to. Really good idea to get it checked out one-on-one with a dietitian.
I’m new to a plant based diet.
You’re so welcome!
Thanks for all these helpful suggestions to deal with bloating. Trying to be more plant based and up my fibre intake.
Hope one of these strategies is helpful for you!
Excellent information regarding bloating… will give a few of these a try to help with my vegan diet!
Hope they’re helpful for you!
Thank you for this! Very helpful information 🙂
I’ve been plant based since I was 12, over half my life, but still took some helpful tips from this! Thank you!
Hey Leanne, that is super high praise coming from a long-term plant person! So glad it was helpful.
I am a new follower and really enjoy your informative blogs/posts. Always looking for new ways to incorporate plant based food into my diet. Thank you
Hi Karen, I am so glad you found me! Thank you for being a part of this community 🙂
Do you ever recommend a fibre supplement to assist? Also, how wondering if eating yogurt daily be the same as having a probiotic supplement?
Hi Eaman, yes, sometimes a supplemental fibre – my fave is psyllium – can be helpful with constipation. But sometimes, adding fibre on top of a sluggish gut actually makes constipation worse so you have to, ahem, trust what your gut is telling you! If after a few days of psyllium things feel worse, not better, discontinue.
As for probiotics, daily yogurt is definitely not the same as a probiotic. Typically, clinical strength probiotics have several times more bacteria – and a different kind. If you’re curious about probiotics, search up at the right hand corner as I have a detailed probiotics blog. Fermented foods like yogurt are great, but they don’t work as quickly or intensively as a probiotic. And that’s okay, for most people, all they need is food and not supplement but in something like IBS, a supplement can be super helpful.
This a very interesting and informative post. Thank you.
Thank you Desiree for such great tips!! It’s always a pleasure to read your blogs:):)
Thank you so much Heather 🙂
I have found blending some foods, such as making smoothies and soups, to be very helpful when it comes to bloating! Now I just need to get more creative and try a variety of recipes!
So glad that strategy is helpful to you, Holly!! Yes, try sauces (white beans are great in cream sauce!) and dips too…so many fun things to try.
Always appreciate your information and recipes.
I am wowed over this in depth article! It’s crystal clear to me that I have been most of my fibre in one meal, usually lunch or dinner, which is definitely not spread out during the day! Also I’m not drinking enough water to satisfy the digestion of my fibre intake. I will make these changes immediately and I’ll bet my bloating simmers down. Thank you so much for this article! All your articles are amazing.
Good luck Lois!! What an insight!
Thanks for your easy to follow information on bloating.
So glad it was helpful Lynne!
Thank you so much for taking the time and explaining all of this. It’s so helpful! I’ll try to remember to chew my smoothies. Does the same apply to blended soups?
Another question, is it ok to dry peppermint tea right before or after my meals? Does it interfere with vitamins or minerals absorption, like drinking coffee does?
Thanks again! 🙂
I’d say yes on the soups, but the act of using a spoon slows us down quite a bit (but doesn’t hurt!). As far as tea, peppermint won’t interfere at all 🙂
I find that some fibers affect me more than others. Chickpeas—bad, regular beans—no problem! Not sure why but I stick with what doesn’t give me issues.
So interesting!! Wonder if it’s the skins on the chickpeas…
Yup, did it again, spent over an hour on your site. Started reading about bloating then slipped down a FODMAP worm hole and ended up with loads of new recipes. So much interesting stuff here. Thanks for the clear and informative material. Now, back to work 😁.
Ha ha…you’re welcome/I’m sorry…I am not sure which one is better in this case 🙂
I do have an issue with bloating but in a different way than normal. I was born with a hernia that holds my stomach, colon & small intestines. After finding this out about 4 years ago after I lost about 80 pounds, I have been having issues with bloating & gas build up. Reading this article may help me by using the peppermint or ginger. Thanks for the information.
Yes, that’s such a different scenario. You might enjoy a double strength peppermint tea, where you use two bags instead of one…and be sure to squeeze them out well to get all the good stuff (unless you have reflux, then avoid peppermint!)
Thank you for this post. I keep eating more fibre and having the opposite effect with digestion and constipation and now I know I am not drinking enough water!
Fibre can’t do its “best work” without water!! Hope that helps
thanks for posting this reminder right now as i have been feeling super bloated. I know i have also been drinking less fluids and the post is gentle nudge to drink more as well as to be listening to what my body is telling me more closely. I found the information on the cooked food helpful as well as i have been wondering if it would help to reduce my consumption of raw veggies. I also found the link to the probiotic blog post helpful as well and need to go back and read that in further detail
So glad this was helpful Jacquie. Listening to your body is SO important.
As always Des (insert hand on mouth, gasp emoji, can I call you Des?)
JUST SO DAMN INFORMATIVE
Thankyou Thankyou Thankyou
Ha ha, you go for it!
I’m inspired to eat more plant-based foods after reading this information. You have made it sound quite simple to make the change- start slowly though, right?
Yes! Take it meal by meal. No rules, no labels 🙂
Even though I’ve heard of many of these tips, it’s always a good reminder. Thanks for putting things in a simple, yet super informative way! I have been eating mostly plant based for years so I don’t usually have too many digestion issues. I’ve found that how I cook my dried beans helps. I cook them in the crock pot all day with a few pieces of kombu. Would you recommend soaking them as well? I usually skip that step.
Hi Amanda, if you digest beans well without soaking, then no worries! Yes, the kombu really helps. I have IBS so I’m very committed to soaking. FODMAPs are water soluble so they leach out in the soaking water, reducing them in the cooked bean.
Always love reading your blogs! Such a wealth of information. Thank you Desiree!!
Thank you Denise!
Thank you for this article packed with helpful information!
You’re so welcome, Gretal!
Thank you for the informative article. A good reminder to chew our food well and even smoothies.:-)
Yes!! Chewing is so important, and highly overlooked 🙂
Thank you for the tips. It will come in handy since I am trying to eat more plant based.
You’re so welcome, glad they’re useful!