There are a lot of myths surrounding gut health and a vegan diet. In particular, take the adage that too many vegetables can cause gastrointestinal distress and smelly gas. While there can be some initial side effects to switching to a plant-based diet, new research suggests that a vegan diet could help improve gut health. It may also help alleviate symptoms of gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome.
At GastroCare LI, we believe that maintaining a healthy GI tract is important for overall health and wellness. While gastrointestinal conditions may require medical intervention, patient outcomes can be improved by making lifestyle changes.
If you are suffering from gastrointestinal distress, discomfort, or inflammation, you may want to consider the benefits of switching to a vegan diet. Here’s how a vegan diet may help improve your overall gut health.
There are many mostly plant-based diets out there, including vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, pescatarian, proletarian, and vegan. With all the buzzwords surrounding veganism, choosing to move towards a plant-based diet can seem overwhelming.
There are a few key differences between a vegetarian and a vegan. While strict vegetarians typically eliminate meat, dairy, fish, and eggs from their diets, vegans are even more restrictive. Vegans generally choose to eliminate all foods that contain animal by-products. These products include honey and foods that contain gelatin, collagen, and sometimes white sugar.
Vegans tend to base their diet around fruits and vegetables, legumes like peas and beans, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and whole grains. Vegans will also gravitate towards dairy-milk alternatives such as soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk.
The gastrointestinal tract is filled with a wide variety of microorganisms, such as bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes. In fact, the largest population of microorganisms in the human body lives in our intestinal tract. These organisms provide us with multiple health benefits, including boosting our immune system, degrading toxic compounds, and helping us digest certain foods. When our gut microbiome is compromised by a poor diet, unhealthy lifestyle, or disease, it can impact not only our gut health but our overall health and wellbeing.
Medical studies indicate that a vegan diet helps improve gastrointestinal health by diversifying and stabilizing the colonies of microorganisms present in our gut. Studies also show that vegans tend to have higher counts of certain types of bacteria that provide the body with anti-pathogenic and anti-inflammatory benefits. Considering many gastrointestinal issues are exacerbated by inflammation, a microbiome filled with anti-inflammatory bacteria could be a major benefit for those battling GI conditions. These “good bacteria” can also help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Making the switch to a vegan diet can seem daunting. While it may be frustrating and challenging at first, the difference it may make in your energy levels and your gut health can make a world of difference. If you are thinking about trying a vegan diet, you may try starting small. Make simple switches to your diet without going “cold turkey.” This strategy may help you wean yourself away from animal products without feeling overwhelmed. Gradually incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet and swap out meat for veggie substitutes. Be sure to check labels and learn the common industry names for popular animal by-products.
If you are thinking of going vegan to help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome it is important to choose the right kinds of plant-based foods. You may want to think about trying the FODMAP diet. FODMAP stands for:
High-FODMAP foods can cause IBS symptoms to flare. Avoid things like cauliflower, onions, and asparagus. Instead, opt for whole grains, almond milk, zucchini, cucumber, grapes, and strawberries. Low-FODMAP foods can help ease ISB symptoms in some people.
Many vegans also choose to incorporate fermented vegetables into their diets. Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and miso are wonderful sources of vegetables and gut-healthy bacteria. With the emergence of more plant-based products on the market, it is easier than ever to move toward a vegan diet.
As with any major diet or lifestyle change, don’t jump into it without first consulting with your physician. It is best to make changes gradually and with the support of your medical provider. Ask about how a plant-based diet may help ease your GI symptoms and distress.
If you are suffering from gastrointestinal issues or irritable bowel syndrome and feel like your symptoms are not under control, contact GastroCare LI today. Our team understands how difficult it is to cope with serious gastrointestinal issues. We also know how distressing and embarrassing it can be to open up about gastrointestinal problems. We want to help prevent, diagnose, and treat your issues in a comfortable and supportive environment.