Tips to overcome tummy upset

So you’ve decided to go vegan, but you’re not feeling great. Maybe you’re feeling bloated, irregular, have acid reflux, or even some irritable bowel symptoms. Don’t throw in the towel just yet, because this is not uncommon when switching to a vegan diet—and it can be overcome. Here are some solutions.

1. Consider the fiber

How easily a vegetable is digested often relates to the type and quantity of fiber it contains. Insoluble fiber, while important, can be harder to break down when digestion isn’t functioning optimally.

Foods such as broccoli or cauliflower are slower to digest when raw, so try steaming or baking them instead. You can also combine those foods with soluble fiber foods, such as quinoa or potato, to get the bulk you need without stressing your digestive system.

2. Phytates and lectins don’t help

Some foods, such as beans and grains, contain compounds called phytic acid and lectin that may be irritating to the intestinal lining and can inhibit nutrient absorption. Proper advanced preparation, such as soaking and rinsing before cooking, can greatly reduce these compounds, making them easier to digest and the nutrients more bioavailable.

3. Digestive enzymes do help

During digestion, the body produces enzymes to break down food. There are three main types of enzymes: proteases to digest proteins, lipases to digest fats, and amylases to digest carbohydrates.

Prolonged digestive difficulty may indicate these enzymes have become depleted in your body, making symptoms such as gut irritability, diarrhea, and bloating difficult to overcome. Enzyme supplementation may greatly improve these symptoms. Consider taking a plant-based, vegan-certified digestive enzyme. Some can react with certain medications, so be sure to check with your doctor first.

4. Variety is key

Nutrient depletion can lead to general inflammation that may include intestinal inflammation, so staying properly nourished is important. Individual plants on their own don’t always have all the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals you need, so eating a wide variety of foods helps ensure your diet is balanced and nourishing.

5. Eat mindfully

How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Here are some helpful mealtime tips for better digestion.

  • Avoid processed foods. Many vegan alternatives contain fillers and ingredients that may be hard to digest.
  • Avoid fried, greasy foods. These can slow digestion.
  • Eat smaller meals. Too much food at once is more likely to cause indigestion.
  • Chew thoroughly. Digestion begins in the mouth, and chewing thoroughly will make your stomach’s job easier.
  • Hydrate! Your gut needs water to keep all that fiber moving smoothly.
  • Avoid alcohol and excess coffee and tea. These may cause inflammation.

6. Try herbal teas

Peppermint, ginger, fennel, or anise tea during or after meals may help support digestion.

When to seek professional help

The above advice should be helpful if you’re experiencing mild to moderate digestive upset. If you don’t notice fairly immediate relief in your symptoms or if your symptoms get worse, seek professional help.