It’s true that a vegan diet can immensely benefit your health, but no diet can make you invincible. Even vegans—particularly new vegans—can experience bloating, gas, heartburn, and general stomach upset from time to time. Animal products won’t make the tummy woes go away, but being a bit more intentional with how and what we eat can help banish bloat and calm the rumblies. Follow these nine simple tips to pave your way to a happy gut.
1. Chew slowly
Taking small bites and chewing your food slowly gives your body time to release digestive enzymes and stomach acid that are necessary for proper digestion. Chewing slowly also allows your brain to catch up with your stomach and receive the “full” signal, which may help you stop halfway through that tub of Trader Joe’s Vegan Mac & Cheese instead of polishing off the entire tub and ending with a sore stomach.
2. Eat mindfully
A part of being vegan is being mindful of how your food and lifestyle impact others. This mindfulness can also translate to being present in the moment while you are eating. When present, the body becomes more relaxed and can digest food properly. Multitasking while eating—such as scanning through vegan sundae shots while simultaneously munching on a big vegan salad—can lead to undigested food lingering in your gut causing gas, pain, and bloating.
3. Drink water, but time it right
Most vegan diets involve a lot of fiber. Water helps to move all this extra fiber in your gut, but drinking too much water too close to eating can dilute the stomach acid and digestive enzymes in your gut and prevent proper digestion. Drink a little water with meals but aim to get most of the recommended nine to thirteen cups of water between meals.
4. Get your flax on
We’re just going to say it—fiber is nature’s laxative. When things aren’t moving as they should, a bit of fiber from foods such as ground flaxseeds can keep you regular. Add one tablespoon of these nutty-tasting seeds into your daily bowl of oats or green smoothie. They also make a stellar egg replacement for vegan quickbreads and muffins.
5. Go herbal
We love a good caffeine jolt, but herbal tea reigns supreme over coffee when it comes to easing belly woes. Teas such as chamomile, peppermint, fennel, and ginger can provide hydration, soothe the stomach, reduce nausea, and tame bloating and gas.
6. Soak legumes before eating
We’ve never met a legume we didn’t like—beans, peas, and lentils are all staples in our diet. However, sometimes we fail to realize just how many beans were stuffed into that burrito we just inhaled, and the result is a bloated food baby that refuses to go away. To reduce gas and bloat, try BPA-free, canned legumes or soak dried varieties overnight before cooking. Want to go a step further? Sprouted legumes are even easier to digest.
7. Enjoy an early vegan dinner
To help prevent tummy troubles, especially heartburn, avoid eating for at least two-and-a-half hours before bed. At night, our body falls into a relaxed state and shifts energy and blood flow away from digesting foods and towards healing and repairing the body. Make your reservations long before bedtime so you can properly digest that incredible meal before hitting the sheets.
8. Loosen your vegan leather belt
Wearing tight pants, belts, or other restrictive clothing can cause excess pressure on your digestive organs. If tight enough, this pressure can move food back up your esophagus and into your throat—resulting in heartburn. Excess mid-body pressure can also impair digestion and cause gas, bloating, and general stomach pain. Time to go shopping for a new pair of cute slouchy jeans and looser athleisure wear.
9. Limit processed foods
Thanks to the innovations that have created all-vegan-everything, it’s easy to consume processed foods without truly realizing it. Oils, added sugars, food additives, and saturated fats found in many commercial products are all common causes of nausea, bloating, and gas. Enjoy vegan treats in moderation and note what products stimulate a sour stomach to avoid future discomfort.
Holly Booker is a registered holistic health and nutrition counselor as well as a yoga teacher and vegan mom living in Ontario, Canada.