What Causes “Vegan Farts”? Ways to Prevent It

Farting is a normal by-product of digestion. It is a mechanism of the body to expel the gas (nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane) build-up in the digestive tract. It can be caused by several factors that generally relate to a person's diet.

Causes of Vegan Farts

Put simply, "vegan farts" are a result of the plant-based food you eat.

Drastic Shift to a Plant-based Diet 

Vegan farts are a common side effect of transitioning to a plant-based diet. The sudden change in the type of foods consumed disrupts the operation of the existing pool of gut microbiome(1) that thrives in the human digestive tract.

The gut microbiome consists of different fungi, bacteria, and archaea(2) that are responsible for breaking down foods during the digestive process. The type of gut bacteria that exists is based on diet.  

Transitioning from a meat to a vegan diet can cause excessive production of gas due to the sudden introduction of high-fiber foods.

However, this only lasts during the initial stage of the transition; Research suggests as quickly as two to four days(3).

Moreover, the continued consumption of high-fiber foods can promote the growth of more fiber eating microbes in the gut that can facilitate the digestion of plant-based foods.

Plant-Based Carbohydrates 

Vegan farts can also be attributed to certain plant-derived carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are known to produce gassy by-products as they are not easily digested in the intestines.

For instance, onions and broccoli are high in fructan carbohydrates. The gut bacteria consumes fructan through fermentation which results in gas(4).

Some plants like beans, lentils, and peas also contain large sugar molecules like oligosaccharides that are not easily absorbed in the small intestines.

The small intestine does not have sufficient alpha-galactosidase enzymes that can break down oligosaccharides. As a result, this carbohydrate remains intact until it is processed by the gas-producing bacteria in the large intestine.  

High-fiber plants like grains, fruits, and vegetables can also cause flatulence and excessive farting since fiber is non-digestible. Fiber merely sweeps wastes in the digestive tract and arrives intact in the large intestine. The bacteria in the large intestine produces gas after it breaks down the undigested fiber through fermentation.

How to Prevent Vegan Farts

Start Slow

Gradually introducing high-fiber foods can help prevent excessive production of gas during the transition to a vegan diet.

Beginner vegans can initially use white rice, pasta, and bread before transitioning into high-fiber foods like whole wheat and whole grain. This will provide the gut bacteria sufficient time to adjust to a different diet.  

Eating simple food combinations that can be digested easier can also help prevent excessive flatulence.

Complicated combinations of different food groups like protein (protease enzymes) and starch (amylase enzymes) can hamper digestion as they require different types of digestive enzymes.

Avoid Problem Foods 

Identifying and eliminating specific food sensitivities can help prevent bloating and excessive farting. Some people have allergies and intolerance to certain food components that prevent proper digestion and cause gas. For instance, people with gluten-intolerance should avoid wheat-based foods like bread, pasta, and cereal.  

Avoiding hard digesting foods like beans and legumes during the transition stage can also help prevent vegan farts.

Processed fats should also be avoided since they take longer to digest than other types of fats. These can be replaced with healthy fats from avocado, nuts, and seeds.  

Gum as well as soda and energy drinks are also considered problem foods. These foods cause a person to swallow more air which eventually passes through the digestive system and becomes gas that manifests into either farting or burping.

Proper Food Preparation 

Cooking foods can help lessen or eliminate their gas-producing properties. For instance, the raffinose content(5) of cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower can be broken down through light steaming.  

Soaking beans overnight can also help remove their gas-producing sugars. Water dissolves the bean's non-digestible oligosaccharides(6) and helps reduce their phytic acids that inhibit digestion and nutrient absorption.

This also makes the beans softer and easier to cook. As such, it is important to discard the brine in canned beans and wash the beans to remove the non-digestible sugars.

Introduce Digestive Enzymes 

Eating foods and dietary supplements with digestive enzymes can also help break down food and reduce gas build-up.

Fresh pineapple and papaya(7) are rich in alpha-galactosidase that help break down carbohydrates into simple sugars and makes them easier to digest.

Ginger(8) and herbal teas like chamomile(9) can also alleviate gas since they naturally stimulate digestive enzymes.

Take Probiotics and Prebiotics 

Probiotics, particularly, lactobacillus acidophilus, can prevent excessive farting since they promote a healthy balance in the gut microbiome.

These probiotics contain beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion and nutrient absorption. They can also help facilitate the transition to a vegan diet since they increase tolerance to high-fiber foods.  

Probiotics can be easily acquired through fermented foods like yogurt, pickles, kimchi, and miso. However, probiotics need prebiotics to grow and multiply.

These prebiotics are commonly found in plant fibers. They serve as food for the probiotics and make them last longer in the digestive tract.

Eat Less and Slower

Eating slowly and chewing food well can help to prevent the swallowing of air along with the food. Chewing smaller bites of food also facilitates easier digestion as the saliva has more time to breakdown the food before it reaches the stomach.

Eating smaller portions at regular intervals throughout the day can also prevent excessive farting. 

Final Thoughts 

Vegan farts are a normal reaction of the body to the increase of plant-based foods in a person's diet, especially for people transitioning from non-vegan diets.

However, vegan farts can cause discomfort due to their frequency and odor. Thus, it is important to gradually introduce the body to various plant-based foods before transitioning to a completely vegan diet.

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

2. https://www.nature.com/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/

6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

Travis Harlan
Travis has been Vegan since 2016. Like other Vegans, he found himself regularly searching for if X product was Vegan or not. Due to the lackluster answers, Vegan Picker was born.

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Vegan Picker analyzes food and beverages to help identify problematic animal-derived ingredients.