A common motive for moving to a plant-based diet is to feel better—but what about those who are finding that’s just not the case? It may come as a surprise to some, but digestive issues aren’t an uncommon side effect of a newly acquired plant-based diet, with symptoms often including bloating, gas, irregular bowel movements, and more. However, there’s no reason to be afraid of making the switch with a few digestible solutions.
Increase fiber slowly
Fiber is a carbohydrate from plants that our body can’t digest. It provides many benefits, including aiding the digestive system to bind food and move it through more efficiently, keeping you regular. However, only about 5 percent of the population meets the recommended for fiber intake. (Current USDA guidelines for daily fiber intake suggest about
25 g per day for women and 31 g for men aged 31 to 50.)
Because plants are full of fiber, moving toward a more plant-forward diet may mean upping your intake without even trying! However, increasing your intake too quickly can cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, gas, and even constipation. By paying attention and increasing fiber gradually—letting your gut adjust to the change—you may be able to reduce or avoid some of these issues.
Drink plenty of water
Eating more fiber without increasing your water intake may cause a range of unpleasant digestive side effects. For example, constipation is often the result of inadequate water intake. To help lessen these symptoms, aim for at least eight glasses of water a day. If you’re having a tough time drinking enough water, focus on foods that have a higher water content, such as berries, tomato, celery, lettuce, and cucumber.
Eat probiotic-rich foods
Probiotics are gut bacteria that offer a helping hand when it comes to digestion. You can increase your probiotic intake with fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and tempeh, or by sipping on some kombucha. Luckily, prebiotics—a type of plant fiber found in a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains—feed those good bacteria, too, so, with a healthy diet you can help keep your existing gut flora healthy and thriving.
Choose cooked over raw
While raw fruits and vegetables are a great choice, cooking them may make them easier to digest. Don’t worry, once your digestive system gets used to the change, you can start adding more raw fruits and vegetables back in.
Consider digestive enzymes
Digestive enzymes help the body break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (including fiber). Although our bodies produce digestive enzymes naturally, supplementing may ease digestive disorder symptoms. If you’re struggling to adjust to a plant-based diet, speak to a health-care professional about trying a plant-based digestive enzyme.