Most of the time, surviving on a vegan diet is a boon to your overall health. The reason is clear since you generally don’t require to digest heavy foods like meat, eggs, and milk. However, if you are switching to a plant-based diet abruptly, you might encounter certain gut inconveniences initially. There is nothing much to worry about either vegan digestive problems or stomach pain on a vegan diet because that is how our bodies are designed to adapt.
By the rule of our biological composition, our gut only has those bacterias that contribute to the digestion of the regular food items we eat. When the food profiles change, the existing bacteria are replaced by other microorganisms which are efficient for the new kind of food. Therefore, most of the gut problems on a plant-based diet are just a part of adaptation.
However, having diarrhea on a vegan diet or other vegan stomach problems could be highly inconvenient. This is why we have listed some of the steps for you to follow and gradually relieve the symptoms to nothing.
Most Probable Causes of Vegan Stomach Problems
1. Increased Fiber Intake
When you shift to a vegan diet, the number of veggies and beans you consume increases dramatically. It is essential since greens and legumes are a great source of all the essential micros and macros that you need to maintain good health.
Dietary fiber is not harmful. In fact, it can help you lower cardiovascular risks, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. However, the fermentation of fiber releases gas which may not ideally comfort you anyways. Almost any food you eat would have dietary fiber, but a plate of the vegan-friendly meal does have a comparatively higher concentration of it that your body might not be acquainted with.
As we have discussed above, when you alter your regular nutrient profiles, the gut flora undergoes a change in its ecosystem. Our gut flora comprises bacteria and microorganisms that play a crucial role in our digestion of food.
They also metabolize acids and synthesize vitamins. So a change in the concentration and structures of food, or introduction of those items that you were not initially dependent on, may take time to develop a decent population of the healthy bacteria that aid digestion. Therefore, adapting to the increased fiber intake could take some time.
2. Intolerance to Certain Plant-Based Foods
It is obvious that when you are new to a vegan diet practice, you are certainly not fully aware of what food does or does not suit you. That might sound crazy but you must be aware of allergies and intolerances Though guesswork or certain hit and trial is after all not a terrible idea- however, you must have the right direction to follow when you take a leap from a western diet to a vegan one.
Instead of starting immediately with food items that are difficult to digest- such as wheat, barley, etc, those containing gluten or the ones which develop gas such as cauliflower and broccoli, start with quinoa or amaranth. Don’t go overboard with one specific vegetable, rather increase the diversity in your diet.
Check if nuts or seeds are the notorious ones there. You never know if you are allergic to mustard (check vegan status). You could be intolerant to soy as well. You must never feel scared to eliminate any food and check if that resolves your gastric issues. By reducing or completely avoiding certain items from your plate, you could identify those that trigger a gut problem and gradually get rid of it. It is all about self-discovery, dear!
3. High FODMAP Intake
Hear us out carefully- though there are vegan alternatives to almost every kind of food like milk (check vegan milk alternatives), meat, etc in the market today, you never know if you would be able to digest them or not until you have tried it out on yourself! The thing to look out for in this case is FODMAPs which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols. They define a wide array of carbohydrates that most plant-based foods contain.
Fruits such as bananas (check vegan status) and berries, tofu, herbs such as lemongrass and coriander, gluten-free bread, etc, are significantly lower on FODMAPs and may not trigger gastrointestinal troubles in vegans.
On the contrary, fruits with fructose and fructans like apples, watermelon, etc and vegetables with polyols such as cauliflower, green capsicum, mushroom, and sweetcorn should be consumed within limits. The latter with high FODMAPs must only be introduced gradually to your diet and the consumption should be kept under check.
Check out the FODMAP list on certified pages to learn more about the kinds of food that may cause gut problems. You can eliminate them selectively to understand if they are the reason for your issues.
4. Increased Dietary Fat Intake
If you are relying on calorie-rich food like seeds and nuts to reach your daily calorie intake target, dietary fat might have caused you the gut problem. Fat is an essential macronutrient. It helps in the absorption of vitamins like A, E, K and is a form of stored energy.
You must incorporate fat in your diet but not much as to cross the threshold. Too much fat can cause stomach issues for anybody and it gets worse if you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The oil in your food can be too complicated for the stomach to metabolize. Additionally, they aren’t even whole food. You may except for diarrhea or stomach pain with increased fat consumption. While embracing whole foods that have good fats, for example, chia, olives, flax, coconut, and avocado are extremely essential, yet do keep their portions small.
Tips to Deal with Digestive Problems on a Vegan Diet
1. Work your way up Slowly
Yes- don’t run uphill faster and aimlessly. To reach the peak of a healthy and comfortable vegan lifestyle, you must give adequate time to your body and the digestive system. Take your call rather slowly and develop your familiarity with vegan foods first. Give your gut flora the time to undergo the transition and evolution.
Practicing a safer diet profile with limited FODMAPs could also prove highly beneficial in your initial days to a vegan diet. Replace wheat, barley, and rye with quinoa and slowly start increasing the portion of gluten only if you are not suffering from celiac disease.
Do not overly rely on a single type of vegetable or smoothie. Get more inventive with foods and check if the elements you consume are safer to continue eating. Try to get more home-cooked meals than prepackaged vegan snacks.
Make small lifestyle changes with an increase in activity levels that can also boost your digestive health. Look at the veggies in your crudites. Inspect if you must lower some of the ingredients and gradually scale up on your journey.
2. Watch your Dietary Fat Intake
If you are doubtful of your gut problems rising from an increased dietary fat in your meals, limit the fat sources until you find an improvement in your metabolizing of fats. Just have flax or chia seeds as toppings to your meal and then introduce items that heavily feature the nuts and seeds.
To investigate the concentration of fat in your meal, tabulate your meal patterns on a calorie-nutrient calculator app or websites such as MyFitnessPal or HealthifyMe and check the fat count. You can reduce the high-fat foods that you identify on the app and keep checking on the impact of a slightly lower fat count in your meals.
Try to eliminate the foods that are deep-fried or too overt in oil topping. Make sure the fat you consume is mostly unsaturated than saturated. Limiting fat within the healthy range also reduces weight and keeps the body in a good shape.
3. Hold back a little with the raw veggies
Don’t get too excited with the green vegetables so as to include too much of them in your meals. This can drastically increase the fiber intake which can cause gut problems in new vegans.
Fiber is fermented in the stomach to release gas which can make you feel puffed, congested, or bloated more than usual. While fiber is particularly known to be beneficial in facilitating good bowel movement and keeping the consumer hydrated, your gut flora needs sufficient time to digest fiber without causing gut troubles.
Vegetables from Brassicaceae or Cruciferae family, such as cabbage and broccoli, can also increase the gas formation in your gut which might lead to inconvenient burps and stomach pains. To further aid your digestion, you may cook the vegetables or bake them a little before eating. Beware not to overcook the vegetables as they tend to lose their nutritional benefits. Slight cooking will make fiber digestible.
4. Thoroughly cook your beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are high in protein and fiber. Legumes such as chickpeas, peas, or lentils, and beans such as black beans, kidney beans, or soybeans are excellent in their nutritional benefits. Moreover, they are also central to a vegan dietary regime since plant-based sources or proteins are typically hard to find outside beans and legumes categories.
They also have an impressive profile of amino acids which helps in metabolism and growth. Nonetheless, the oligosaccharides in beans are difficult to digest if you are not acquainted with the food. Be sure to start with cooked beans or make a yummy hummus out of them to develop familiarity.
5. Chew Your Food
This is one of the most overlooked aspects while talking about indigestion. No matter what your dietary patterns are, if you hastily chew and gulp the food down your throat, that would only challenge your gut’s capacity to metabolize the nutrients fully. So just slow down.
Chew your food thoroughly and let your saliva break the basic carbs in the food. Stay away from electronic distractions while eating. You can also leave the longer conversation for a later time and focus on enjoying the meal. As an important piece of advice, consider increasing the number of chews and grinding in the mouth than your regular habit to make the food soft and paste-like.
6. Consider Supplementing with Vegan Probiotics
Vegan probiotics can help foster the efficiency of your gut flora in digesting vegan food. They facilitate the supply of digestive enzymes for metabolizing the food particles in your stomach. Improved digestion can reduce a lot of stomach pains and gut inconveniences that you may experience with any kind of diet habits.
If you are picking up a commercially available probiotic or digestive aid, check the label for vegan-friendly approval or certification from a reliable third-party. Some people notice a difference within some days, and, on the other hand, it can take even up to a month for others. So, you can expect a good result within 1-4 weeks.
You can also include fruits that naturally contain digestive promoters such as pineapple or papaya to help the gut flora in evolving faster and digesting protein as well as fibers more efficiently.
In this article we understood:
- Gut flora and its transition to adapt to a change in diet.
- What causes stomach problems in vegans, and
- Natural ways to reduce the gut problems from a plant-based diet
You can also go out and experiment with soaking grains, akin to oatmeal, buckwheat, etc, overnight before cooking them. In case it aids your digestion, try and practice it consistently. No trouble is impossible to tackle while you are on a journey to a vegan lifestyle. We hope to make the journey more informative, backed by science, and above all, safer for you.