Treating IBS With a Whole-foods Plant-based Vegan Diet
No Animal Products – No Meat, No Dairy – What Impact on IBS?
In 2013, just before my 40th birthday my husband and I watched the Forks Over Knives documentary (link to trailer) on Netflix. It was scientifically based and gave many compelling reasons to follow a whole foods plant based diet for health.
I was worried about cancer because I had skin cancer once already and my mother had uterine cancer so I decided to give going vegan a try with my husband and kids. I wasn’t really thinking much about my IBS.
IBS Symptoms Disappeared for Three Years on a Vegan Diet
Within days of giving up dairy, meat, and oil and eating beans, soy milk and tofu instead, my poops became daily and regular – once a day, first thing in the morning – and I stopped having diarrhea. No more diarrhea meant no more intestinal cramping pain. NO MORE PAIN. No more constipation, less gas, my abdomen stopped being swollen and became nice and flat. The improvement was amazing.
As I write this now, years later, I can barely remember what those cramps felt like, and it was such a regular occurrence in my life before I went vegan. That was a big change and huge relief for me. Acid indigestion, bloating, and any other digestive problems were replaced by a good healthy feeling in my stomach and intestines.
After a year plant based I no longer needed probiotics. I only needed them after drinking alcohol as a reset. I ate foods with gluten and wheat regularly like pasta and bread and I had no ill effects as long as I also ate lots of fruits and vegetables and beans and no margerine, oils, or animal products.
Going whole foods plant-based was the best 40th birthday present I could have given myself. Before I started eating whole foods plant based I had constant IBS related stress and worry about what I should eat and how I would feel afterwards.
This post describes What my IBS Symptoms Were Like – Before I Went Vegan
My IBS Came Back in the 4th Year of a Vegan Diet 🙁
In August of 2017 I started experiencing digestive issues again.
For three years I followed a whole-foods plant-based diet and had rare to no IBS related issues, it was wonderful. End of summer that year, however, my IBS came back, along with nighttime nausea, bathroom trips, and dizziness as well as daytime fatigue. I was able to figure out a management plan. I now am in control of my IBS symptoms with a low FODMAP vegan diet.
How to Deal with IBS and Controlling IBS Symptoms On a Vegan Diet 🙂
I created a low-FODMAP vegan meal plan. Starting with an elimination phase (no foods with FODMAPS), and with the help of a dietitian and food logging, I’ve creative recipes with low amounts of FODMAP foods, that I really enjoy. I feel energized with no gut issues.
I now follow a vegan diet with moderate FODMAPs, and I don’t suffer from digestive problems.
I am working on meal plans to help people with IBS follow a healthy whole-foods plant-based vegan diet.
This post describes how my IBS symptoms returned and what I did to manage them on a Vegan diet.
Eating Vegan With IBS Is Possible and Enjoyable
What I experience from eating only whole plants, is a dramatic improvement in my physical well-being. I believe switching from meat and dairy to plants has prevented me from developing Ulcerative Colitis, which I’m sure would have eventually occurred as my stressed out intestines got older.
I believe my plant based diet will protect me from Crohn’s Disease – which I am at risk for because my father has it – he is in remission now, after he became a 90% whole foods vegan as well.
I notice so many people around me complaining about indigestion and about their kids’ digestive issues. The solution is available – high fibre whole plants.
My digestive and other health improvements have affected me so much, I’m inspired to build VeganEnvy.com to spread plant-based information to help and teach others who are still struggling with IBS, whether you are vegan or not.
I am keenly aware of the plight of animals now, and how our consumption of meat and dairy is not good for the planet. I hope to help people, animals, and our environment.
If You Have IBS You Can Eat Vegan
I hope writing this is helpful to others. I don’t talk about my bowel health in everyday situations. But, if I don’t tell my story, people won’t know about the incredible digestive benefits of a whole foods plant-based vegan diet and how you can be a vegan and control your IBS.
One thing that took me a while to accept, is that I cannot digest beans anymore. Once I replaced beans with edamame, firm tofu, gluten based fake meats, things really improved.
For me, beans mean bloating. I’m still experimenting, but 1/4 cup of canned and rinsed beans seem ok. I’m a small person, I can eat a little handful of cooked canned beans. Dried beans no.
Another key learning was, greens are my friend. If I want to feel good I should eat them every day. How? Salad for lunch, cooked swiss chard or bok choy for dinner, and kale smoothies for an afternoon snack. Maybe not all in the same day. 🙂
I’ll add more low-FODMAP vegan recipes to this site to help people who are struggling with IBS symptoms on a vegan diet. You can find my low-FODMAP recipes from the sidebar on the recipes page, click on the Low FODMAP tag.
I’m hoping my veganenvy.com website and materials will reach people who get stomach aches, bloating, diarrhea, painful cramps and acid indigestion. I hope people will use my experiences and information to decide to shift to plant based eating too, so they can feel better.
Click here, if you want to find out more about my specific diet – I call it the VeganEnvy Diet.
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People Exploring Plant Based Eating
What does FODMAP stand for?
FODMAP is an acronym that describes the short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly digested by humans. The Monash University FAQ page explains them well. Such as this: “FODMAPs are rapidly fermented by the bacteria living in your intestines. They pull more water into your gut, which can cause more gas to be produced. This results in bloating and distension, impacting the ways the muscles in your gut contract. As a result, people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can experience gastrointestinal discomfort (such as diarrhea and constipation). People without IBS are typically able to ingest FODMAPs without concern.” Monash.
Your article kind of made me cry a little bit. I’ve been WFPB 4 years now and in the last year I’ve developed IBS. Why??? It’s so frustrating. I too am better with a low-ish FODMAP diet, but I feel like I’m always on the edge of it going wrong. I need to read more of your site! I was sat here thinking that maybe I had to let go of WFPB but maybe, like you, I can get through this!
Vikki, I have really good news that I hope will help you. I hope you see this. I’ve been able to reintroduce FODMAPs to my eating, while staying WFPB. The book Fiber Fueled by Dr. Bulsiewicz taught me how: https://theplantfedgut.com/book/. I need to update the above post to describe the success I have been experiencing.
In a nutshell, Dr. B’s advice (based on his clinical observations) is to eat smaller amounts of a larger variety of all plants, and not to avoid any. The idea is that the bacteria in our gut will help digest food for us, but we have to be eating a food for that particular bacteria to exist in our gut. When the bacteria are there, we don’t get IBS symptoms.
It took me about 8 months to reintroduce all the foods I had cut out because of the FODMAP diet.
I highly recommend reading this book, as it was a total life saver for me. Also, now I do not worry about what I eat, if it is a plant, I go for it, no food anxiety. If I haven’t eaten it for a while, then I start with small amounts, over a few days, until the particular bacteria on that food (that also will be the particular bacteria that likes to eat it!) can build up.
I hope this makes sense, and I hope it helps you and others who are struggling!
Thank you so much for your reply! I have actually read his book and listened to a few of his podcasts, and he is so inspiring and I understand the concept, but in practice I don’t know how to do it. I feel like I’m missing something!
First of all I can’t understand how I lost tolerance to these foods in the 1st place! I used to have such a varied diet. And secondly, some foods, particularly oligos HURT SO MUCH. When you reintroduced did you have to go through some pain to get there? I have to be so careful with GOS, I could have a spoonful of beans a few days running and my tummy would be shot for 4 or 5 days. Then if I had almond butter on top of that… argh!
Thank you again for your advice and support. I think this is probably pretty common but finding people who discuss IBS vegan diets is hard, and usually material is written by someone without IBS or veganism in their life! An update to your article would be fantastic. I’ll look out for it!