Yes, ladies and gents; we feel you. We all get bloated sometimes, and we all hate it. If you are new to the vegan lifestyle, you may even be more bloated than before! But take my word, you can beat the bloat.
Fiber rich diets, like the whole food plant-based one we recommend, are linked to lowered risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even cancer. The people in the places in the world with the highest fiber consumption are the healthiest on the planet. On the other hand, when you first adopt a high fiber diet, you may experience a bit of annoying bloat. First off, a little bloating after a meal is normal and healthy. However, if you are experiencing bloating all day, then keep on reading.
There are many reasons we experience bloating: improper digestion, stress, air in the abdomen, food sensitivities, and/or the menstrual cycle. For years I was bloated, constipated, and pissed off because of dairy––no doctor ever suggested I remove it from my diet. After giving that up, I able to link my occasional bloating to stress. Both times it came down to my lifestyle. What's bloating you?
Step one: Pinpoint the bloat factors in your life. Is it the new vegan lifestyle you are living (GO, YOU!!)? Are you still consuming dairy (thumbs down)? Are you not getting enough sleep? Are you constipated for days?
If you are unsure of where your bloat stems from, keep a food/mood/sleep journal. Track these activities and feelings for at least 10 days to begin to notice possible culprits.
Now that you know your bloat trigger you can handle it appropriately.
Step two: Improve your gut bacteria. The healthy bacteria that live in our guts keep us healthy, stable (even mood-wise), and regular. Taking a probiotic supplement can help us all with our digestion. Before you start taking a probiotic you should make your gut a welcome place for the good guys to live. Eliminate ultra-processed foods, cut back on refined sugar, drink less alcohol, and lower your stress level. Once you start taking your probiotics they'll be able to win the battle against the bad bacteria that may have been bloating you, and keeping you out of the bathroom.
Step three: Eliminate what causes the bloat. If you get bloated each time you eat broccoli, stop with the broccoli. Take out all of the foods that are causing your bloating for at least 14 days, and then begin to reintroduce them little by little into your diet. Cruciferous vegetables are often responsible for the bloating new fiber-eaters experience. Though they are extremely healthy, you can live without them for a couple of weeks. Transitioning your body to these foods is the best way to allow it to process all of those cruciferous-y nutrients. The same elimination and reintroduction plan can be used for all foods that cause bloating. The exception is dairy. You do not have the enzymes necessary to properly digest dairy. Eliminate it at all costs!! Foods that cause extreme sensitivity (like dairy) should be avoided, of course.
Step four: Crunch it! Strengthen your core with exercise. Fat around your mid-section/abs is the most harmful kind there is because it is linked to heart disease. Sometimes bloat is just excess fat that needs to go. If you have more than a few inches of fat on your abs implement a strict whole foods plant-based diet along with exercise and these other tips.
Step five: Stress less. There are some things we just cannot help worrying about; our kids, our families...that's about it. Everything else is keeping us in a vicious cycle of stress, poor sleep, out-of-whack hormones, weight gain, bloating, cravings, and more STRESS!! Make it your priority to lower your stress level each and every day. Outsource tasks, exercise more, let go of "obligations", take a trip, live with less. Whatever it takes to lower your stress, do it. Your body, mind, and soul will thank you. Why does this relate to bloat? Stress causes our body to release the stress hormone cortisol which causes weight gain and bloating.
Step six: Balance your hormones. There are so many hormone disrupters around us each and every day. While it may be normal to experience bloating at the start of your period, stress, xenoestrogen hormones from plastics and chemicals, dairy hormones, and over use of alcohol and other drugs, will mess your whole s#&* up! Avoid chemical laden cleaning, self-care, and beauty products, as well as stretchable plastics (this one is hard to avoid). Also limit your alcohol, drug, and refined sugar consumption. Oh, and stop it with the dairy––bloating is the least of your worries, as dairy is linked to breast and prostate cancer.
Workout, eat well, eliminate the bloat-triggers, and chill. Bloat, be gone!!
--UPDATED June 10 to address men as well as women ;)
Jenné & Isabelle
We're both passionate vegan foodies with backgrounds in nutrition. We decided to bridge our skills to create Buddhalicious; a program that guides members to find balance, excitement, and flavor on their plates, and in their lives.