Switching to a vegan diet has the unfortunate (but temporary) side affect of causing short-term bloating and flatulence as your body adjusts to the changes.
This is obviously not ideal for an athlete and there are steps you can take to reduce the impact on your performance.
A vegan diet includes a variety of foods that take a little extra work from your digestive system to break down which is why you create more gas.
Role of Oligosaccharides in Excessive Gas Production in Vegans
Beans and legumes contain natural sugars called oligosaccharides which are difficult for your body to digest.
This is because your body doesn’t produce the enzyme alpha galactosidase which is needed to break down these sugars. Instead, bacteria in your intestines consume these oligosaccharides releasing gas as a by-product.
This gas and bloating may be a long-term side-effect of switching to a vegan diet.
If you are badly affected you can get Alpha-galactosidase as an over-the-counter dietary supplement, marketed specifically for preventing gas.
Role of Fiber in Excessive Gas Production in Vegans
Vegans and vegetarians consume much more fiber than non vegans.
There are two types of fiber, soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber produces more gas as it is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. Foods rich in this type of fiber include lentils, beans, oats, peas and most fruits
Insoluble fiber produces less gas as it passes through with minimal fermentation. Insoluble fiber is found in foods such as wheat bran, vegetables, and whole grains
When you increase your fiber consumption it is really important to stay well hydrated or you risk becoming constipated.
Take these Steps to Reduce Bloating and Gas
Although it’s difficult to avoid the short-term gas and bloating caused by a change of diets, there are ways to reduce this discomfort and inconvenience.
Soak beans and legumes overnight
Soak beans and legumes overnight for between 8 and 24 hours to reduce oligosaccharide concentrations, you could try adding a little lime juice to the water used for soaking.
Wash them thoroughly a few times to remove the soaking liquid and dry them off. (The same applied to bottles and canned legumes).
Consume probiotics, prebiotics and digestive enzymes
Probiotics are critical to keeping your digestive system in good shape. The strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus are particularly helpful in reducing gas and bloating. You can also try taking Alpha-galactosidase to help with your digestion of Oligosaccharides.
Cut out foods known to cause gas
Try and cut out unnecessary foods that can cause excessive gas like gassy carbonated beverages, beverages with sorbitol or sugar free sweets/candy/gum.
Limit the amount of raw vegetables you eat
Raw vegetables can be difficult to digest, so in the beginning it makes sense to steam them lightly instead. You should slowly build up to eating raw vegetables as your body adjusts as they have tremendous health benefits.
Eat Fresh Papaya and Pineapple
Fresh (not dried) Papaya and Pineapple can help reduce gas as they both contain important digestive enzymes.
Consume More Ginger
Drink ginger tea or put fresh ginger in your smoothies.
Eat Fermented foods
Fermented foods contain probiotics which will help improve your digestion and reduce gas. Try Replacing Tofu with Tempeh.
Avoid eating processed fats
Avoid all processed fats. Fats in nuts and seeds and avocado are ok.
Stick to these guidelines and after a few weeks you should find the problem has gone away.