A plant-based diet is one of the healthiest diets, but all that fiber and plant-based protein goodness can sometimes take a toll on digestion, especially if you’re not used to having large quantities of fiber and plant-based protein!
Light gas is a natural part of digestion, but when it reaches discomfort, it can affect our daily activities. Luckily, there are some things that we can do to decrease bloating. They mainly involve the food we eat, how we eat it, and even how we cook it!
What causes bloating?
Bloating can be caused by excessive air in the digestive tract, water retention, constipation, or hormonal changes during menstrual periods. Now, the excessive air can be related to overall digestive issues, trouble digesting certain foods, or ingesting too much air during digestion.
One or a combination of all of these can lead to stomach pain and bloating. We’ve all been there, it’s not the most pleasant sensation, but I’ve found a few ways to reduce bloating fast.
How to relieve bloating fast?
1. Know your Trigger Foods
We’re all unique in many ways, and that also relates to how we digest food. It’s a good idea to note what foods cause bloating and in which form they’re eaten (raw or cooked). Even on a plant-based diet, there may be certain foods that are hard to digest. Sometimes, the discomfort may be due to food intolerance. Knowing which foods these are can help you create a better diet and significantly improve digestive issues.
Salty foods can cause water retention, which ultimately leads to bloating. Salt can sneak up on you, especially if you’re not preparing your own food. One way to control the amount of food in your meals is to meal prep and cook them yourself! I also try to avoid processed foods if I’m feeling bloated, they’re usually high in sodium. Check the labels!
3. Physical Activity
Even a quick daily walk after meals can move digestion along! On a separate but related note, I found that changing an evening workout for a morning workout can reduce the likelihood of skipping workouts due to bloating. That was one of the main reasons I would skip workouts in the evenings. Since we tend to be less bloated in the morning, take advantage of an unbloated stomach! That’s especially the case if you allow for 12 hrs in between dinner and breakfast. It gives your digestive system a little break!
4. Water Intake
On average, women should drink 2.7 liters (11 cups) of water and men 3.7 liters (15 cups) of water. For me, that means filling up my water bottle at least 3 times every day. One way that makes drinking water more enjoyable is to make flavored water. When I get bloated, I make pineapple peel water, and it works wonders! Pineapples contain bromelain, a group of digestive enzymes that breaks down proteins, making digestion easier. It's also believed that pineapples may have diuretic effects that flush out excess water from our systems. A powerful combination to beat bloating!
5. Smoothies with the Right Ingredients
Ginger, celery, mint, papaya, papaya seeds (yes! papaya seeds), and pineapple are my go-to ingredients to make juices or smoothies that reduce bloating and support my digestive system. They work like a charm! Try this papaya and mint smoothie or this anti-bloating green smoothie. The nutrition section in these recipes contains the benefits of each ingredient! I swear by them.
6. Peppermint and Chamomile Tea
Peppermint has been shown to relax muscles in your digestive system and improve several digestive symptoms, including bloating. Drink a cup of tea with a meal or after a meal to reduce bloating.
7. Soaking Legumes
Besides helping with protein absorption, soaking legumes like beans or lentils before cooking removes compounds that produce gas and reduces cooking time! Legumes are a staple in a vegan diet, instead of removing them from your diet, soak them for at least a few minutes, or even better, 1-8 hours, to significantly improve your ability to digest them without the extra gas. To soak, use 3 cups of water for every cup of legumes. Also, discarding and refilling the soaking water helps to remove even more of these gas-producing compounds.
8. Chewing and Eating Slowly and Calmly
The faster you eat, the more air you swallow. Digestion starts in the mouth, so make sure that you’re chewing your food fully and eating slowly. We tend to eat larger quantities and faster when we’re too hungry. One trick is to time your meals when hunger levels are present but not so high that they would make you eat too fast. In addition to this, eat your meals in a calm setting. If you eat while being tense or upset, digestion won’t go as smoothly. Being angry or upset sparks the fight or flight response where the body thinks it's in danger. In that state, digestion takes a backseat and does not function optimally. This may result in diarrhea or constipation.
9. Avoid Straws
Besides being good for the environment, avoiding straws prevents unnecessary air from getting into your digestive system.
10. Laying on Your Left Side
While you sleep on your left side at night, gravity can help take waste on a trip through the colon, encouraging a trip to the bathroom in the morning. This position alone promotes the passing of gas and bowel movement. Learn more about it here.
There are many other tips to reduce bloating, but these are the ones I personally follow. If you have continuous bloating and none of these work, please reach out to your primary care physician. Bloating can be a symptom of digestive illnesses. And of course, things like slowly increasing your fiber intake and taking probiotics are the best ways to keep a healthy gut.
Have you tried any of these tips to get rid of belly bloat before?