Help! I’ve Gone Vegan but I Can’t Stop Farting
Whether you’ve decided to go fully vegan or made the shift towards adopting a more plant-based diet, you may have experienced a range of benefits like more energy, mental clarity, better digestion, and improved sleep. However, perhaps you have also been met with a range of rather unexpected effects like constant bloating and so much gas that it leaves you questioning whether you’ve made the right call for yourself! Let’s uncover why excess gas and bloating might be the occurring and most importantly, what you can do about it!
Why am I gassier than normal?
If you’re transitioning to a vegan diet, you’ve likely increased your intake of legumes. If you’ve adopted a vegan diet overnight, then you’ve also likely had a sudden increase in them. Legumes, which include lentils, beans, chickpeas, and soybeans, are a main source of protein in a vegan or vegetarian diet. They contain oligosaccharides, which is a fancy name for types of indigestible carbohydrates. In our gut, bacteria ferment them and produce gas as a result, which can lead to uncomfortable symptoms. While this may not sound like a good thing – it is!
Wait… bloating can be a good thing?
Yes! Even though we don’t digest these carbohydrates, they work their magic when they reach our gut.
Bloating can be a sign that our gut bugs are being fed and supporting a healthy gut microbiota which may have numerous benefits including:
- Improved digestion 
- Improved heart health 
- Strengthened immune system 
- Protection against bowel cancers 
- Improved mental health 
Nonetheless, we get that it may not be pleasant to deal with. Here are some tips to help you avoid excess gas, painful bloating or other unwanted symptoms when transitioning to a vegan diet or simply eating more plant-based foods.
Tips to avoid gut symptoms:
- Start small and build up. Did you know that your gut improves at digesting prebiotic fibres? If you had a relatively small amount of fibre to begin with and suddenly increased your intake, it could cause gut symptoms as your gut microbiota adjusts to your increased intake of fibre. It’s best to gradually increase your intake of fibre to help avoid unwanted symptoms. For example, try adding a couple tablespoons of beans to your meal to start with.
- Be mindful of other sources of legumes in your meal. While you may have a small amount of lentils added to your meal, are there other legumes you’ve added? Try to create a balanced meal by adding whole grains and veggies to your meals as well.
- Choose canned legumes. Canned legumes are generally better tolerated than dried legumes since they have lower FODMAP content.
- If you do choose to have dried legumes, try soaking them overnight and discard the water. Soaking can help to remove some of the oligosaccharides in them which may help to reduce gas.
- Consider meal timings. If you’re someone who has infrequent but larger meals, you may want to consider having more frequent and smaller meals to reduce the amount of gas-producing foods you are having in any one sitting.
- Consider FODMAPs. Some plant-based foods are high in FODMAPS (fermentable and indigestible carbohydrates) which can cause symptoms in those with sensitive guts or who have IBS. Try to stick to low FODMAP servings of legumes to help reduce symptoms. Some examples of low FODMAP servings are as follows: ¼ cup canned lentils, ¼ cup butter beans, ¼ cup chickpeas.
- Try temporarily reducing gas-producing vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) are known offenders.
- Chew your food well. Whether you’re vegan or not, this tip may be helpful for a lot of people who struggle with bloating and/or gas! Digestion starts in the mouth, so chewing your food well can help aid digestion. It also may help minimise the amount of air you swallow which can contribute to bloating.
The Bottom Line
You may find that you experience bloating and excess gas when transitioning to a vegan diet or incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet. This is because you have likely increased the amount of indigestible carbohydrates in your diet that are feeding your good gut bacteria. Following these tips can help you manage any symptoms while your gut bugs adjust to your intake. If bloating is accompanied by abdominal pain and/or a change in bowel habits, we recommended seeking professional guidance to rule out other potential causes, via our expert gut health dietitians or your doctor.
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