People who’ve just switched to a vegetarian diet may experience some digestion problems like gas, bloating, etc. However, it doesn’t mean this diet is not for you or that these issues will plague you for the rest of your life. The problem is that your digestive system has gotten used to your previous diet, which included meat. So, now it needs some time to adjust the internal environment to effectively work in these new conditions.
4 Main Food Groups That May Cause Digestion Problems
Fruits and Vegetables
Some fruits, like apples and citrus fruits, may cause heartburn or a sad stomach. To avoid them, make sure the fruit you are about to eat is ripe enough. Also, try combining fruit with other products to minimize digestion problems. If you like dried fruits, make sure you don’t eat them too much, as they have a laxative effect.
Many vegetables, especially cauliflower and broccoli, cause disturbing gases. Excluding them from your vegetarian diet will not be the best choice however, so to reduce this “side effect”, include them in your meals with other vegetables that don’t produce as much gas.
Many people who switch to a vegetarian diet start eating and drinking more dairy products. However, this might not be the best decision, as with age we are less able to digest lactose properly due to our lack of lactase (the enzyme that breaks lactose down). When lactose goes through the digestive system without breaking down, you experience gas, bloating, and even diarrhea.
If you don’t want to quit dairy products, try buying more lactose-free products – the enzymes are placed there beforehand, so they are safe for your digestion. Yoghurt, cheese, and some other products contain less lactose, so they will do no harm either. Moreover, yoghurt helps the functioning of the digestive system due to the healthy probiotics they contain, so they may even be useful.
Most legumes cause digestion problems, like an upset stomach and gas, when you switch to a vegetarian diet. The reason is that some carbohydrates go straight to the large intestines undigested, finally breaking down there and producing gas.
These digestion problems can be solved by cooking legumes well. The softer the dish is, the better it will be digested. Also, after you soak legumes, rinse them well to get rid of indigestive particles.
Whole grains are an essential part of the vegetarian diet. But if you eat too much of them without giving your body some time to get used to the new food, you can experience discomfort in your stomach. This feeling is caused by the coating of the grains, as they are difficult to digest.
In order to minimize the effect, start with small servings of soft whole grains, like brown rice. It’s not as rich in nutrients and fiber as other grains, but your stomach will process it without any problem. Also, try using whole grain flour in your baking – it will be easier for your digestive system to process them ground and mixed.
Understanding Your Digestive System
Your digestive system has to get used to your new diet, and the key point to a successful transition is doing it gradually. Follow the reaction of your body after eating certain products – this will help you understand it better and allow you to create a diet that won’t cause any digestion problems. Certain issues are inevitable, but it’s possible to prevent them by combining the right food groups and cooking dishes in a certain way.