This post is part of my ongoing Reader Questions Series.
Hello! I just found your site as my husband and I are transitioning to a plant-based diet after watching a few documentaries and having poor family health history. We are on day three and have noticed that we are very bloated and it’s a bit harder to gain an appetite and eat a full meal. What I mean by gaining an appetite and eating a full meal is that we seem to FEEL hungry, but it’s a struggle to finish a quinoa/veggie bowl without feeling like we are forcing it down.
It sounds funny to say it that way; maybe it’s that it’s not appealing and our taste buds are still getting used to it, but it seems much easier to finish a burger (for example) than it is to finish a full bowl of veggies. We do take probiotics and are chalking it up to our microbiome resetting itself – I’m just curious if this is normal to experience and if so, how long does this transition period last? Thanks in advance!
PLANT-BASED COOKING ANSWERS:
Thanks for your question. It’s super to hear that you and your husband are eating more plants! It’s a great experiment to see if you can create optimal health and avoid the poor health that runs in your family.
It’s interesting that you’re finding it hard to finish a meal, but I would guess that one reason may be because you’re eating foods that have more volume and take more chewing. A burger has higher calories but is easy to chomp down quickly without your stomach getting the message that it’s full.
Have You Heard About Volumetrics?
There’s a diet called “volumetrics” developed by Dr. Barbara Rolls that relies on foods with a low energy density and high water content such as fruits and vegetables. Volumetrics emphasizes a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The theory is that it allows you to feel full on fewer calories and to lose weight while eating satisfying portions of nutritious foods. I’d guess that you’re feeling fuller than with the types of foods you used to eat.
Ironically, you may also feel more hungry later and that’s because you’re eating fewer calories. It’s OK to eat a little more than you might otherwise. And be sure to drink enough water because all of these foods need plenty of water to keep things moving if you know what I mean.
Perhaps it’s also, as you said, that you’re just getting used to this way of eating and, I might add, removing foods that you’ve enjoyed most of your life.
What Causes Bloating?
As for bloating, I do know that it can be a normal feeling for some people when starting on a whole food plant-based diet. Bloating does a couple of things for your intestinal microbiome (gut bacteria). One is that bloating will increase the growth of beneficial bacteria. The good news about that is that having a healthy gut microbiome reduces inflammation. Reducing inflammation reduces your risk of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that you’re trying to avoid. This may be what’s making you feel bloated. So I think you’re right, that it may be related to your microbiome resetting itself.
I personally don’t feel that it’s necessary to take a probiotic because your microbiome should become strong and healthy on its own when eating a whole food plant-based diet. New research is even showing that taking probiotics after a round of antibiotics can actually hinder or slow regrowth.
All of the high fiber in plants may also be making you feel bloated because along with fiber comes – you guessed it, more gas. It may just take a little time for your body to adjust to these two things and your new way of eating.
If you find that your digestion is slowing down a bit or you’re feeling constipated, remember to drink more water. All of that fiber soaks up lots of water and drinking more will help keep things moving. I like to drink a couple of glasses of water right away when I get up in the morning to get the day going.
Remember that cooked plants are more digestible than raw and while raw fruits and vegetables are important to eat, the excess now, while you’re getting used to a plant-based diet, may be contributing to your bloating.
DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT LIVING A PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE?
If you have a question that you’d like me to answer, please email me at email@example.com. I read every question and answer them personally so if you feel stuck or are struggling with something or feel overwhelmed, I’d love to help you!
I hold a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell and am a certified Food Over Medicine instructor. I read a lot about what a plant-based diet and lifestyle can do for your health. I will answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.
If you have a question about a medical condition, I want to emphasize that I am not a medical doctor or licensed healthcare provider. I would suggest that if you’re not getting the help you seek from your current doctor that you visit Plant-Based Doctors to see if you can find someone who would help your deeper issues from a plant-based diet perspective.
Do You Have a Question?
This post is part of an ongoing series of questions from my readers about eating a plant-based diet. If you have a question that you’d like me to answer, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I read every question and answer them personally, so if you feel stuck or are struggling with something or feel overwhelmed, I’d love to help you!