A reader recently wrote in complaining about gas and bloating after drinking green smoothies. This is actually a common problem, particularly for those who are making any sort of change in their diet including starting a green smoothie regimen.
Gas and bloating can be caused by a variety of foods or medical conditions. Since there are so many possible causes ranging from certain food combinations to serious gastro-intestinal health problems, this article will only address acute gas and bloating immediately after consuming a green smoothie. I’ll assume that you are a healthy individual who doesn’t typically get indigestion. I’ll also assume that you’ve only noticed gas and bloating after drinking green smoothies (or eating more fruit than usual). If this does not describe you, you should consider consulting a licensed physician or practitioner who can rule out a serious health condition or food intolerance.
In my experience, the two likely causes of gas and bloating after drinking a green smoothie are:
1 – Too Much Fruit At Once
You love fruit, you love green smoothies and you’re probably getting too much of a good thing. Why stop at an 8-ounce glass when a 32-ounce pitcher must be even better! Well, if you’re not used to eating a lot of high-fiber fruit in your diet, it can “shock” your body. If you overload your body’s capacity to digest and break down fructose, the main sugar in fruits, some of it may remain in your digestive tract where if ferments, producing gas and creating that uncomfortable, bulging feeling.
The simplest solution is to reduce your green smoothie consumption. If you make a pitcher, drink half now and save the other half for later. When I started drinking green smoothies every morning, I’d chug a whole pitcher of smoothie and felt the unpleasant aftereffects! After cutting my intake in half, and then slowly working my way back up, I did not get gas and bloating. Now I routinely drink a 32-ounce pitcher of green smoothie in one sitting with no effects.
You might find that you can drink 16 ounces with no effects, but more than that might make you feel bloated. You might need to cut back to an 8-ounce smoothie and build up from there. It takes a little trial and error to find your tolerance limit. If you continue to have problems, get yourself checked for a condition known as fructose malabsorption.
2 – Mixing Too Much Fat With Fruit
The second common cause for feeling bloated after drinking a green smoothie is mixing too much fat with fruit. Fruit digests rapidly while fats from nuts and seeds take much longer to digest. While a little fat digests fine with fruit, too much fat can cause gas and bloating. (I am not talking about the “Food Combining Hypothesis” here.)
If you eat a high-fat meal, then follow it with fruit, the fat will take its precious time digesting while the fruit, held up in your intestines by the slow-digesting fatty food, ferments in your gut. As a result, you feel like a balloon that is about to pop!
Everybody is different, so while I can add a tablespoon of ground flax seeds to my green smoothie with no effects, you might feel quite bloated after such a combination. If you feel bloated after drinking a smoothie with avocado, cacao or seeds in it, switch to some ultra-simple smoothie recipes for a week and only use one type of fruit and greens. Some people might be sensitive to certain fruit combinations like sweet banana with acidic citrus. Be sure to drink your green smoothie by itself and do not eat anything for at least two hours before and after you have your smoothie. Simply have your smoothie first thing in the morning or as a snack between meals.
Even if you can tolerate a couple slices of avocado in your smoothie, you might not be able to drink a smoothie after a high fat meal. I can’t eat nuts or any fats and then follow it with a green smoothie as it will cause bloating. I can, however, add flax seeds, a slice or two of avocado or even small amounts of nut butter to my smoothie with no ill effects. I have found through trial and error what foods I can safely add to or eat with my green smoothie. Unfortunately, it is different for everybody so I can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. You have to figure it out for yourself.
When changing your diet, you will inevitably encounter odd digestive issues. This is normal and in most cases, will go away on its own as your body makes the transition. If you continue to experience digestive issues, you should keep a food journal and work on isolating the cause. You might have an intolerance to a certain food or food combination. If digestive problems persist, you should consult a physician, dietitian or licensed practitioner to ensure that your digestive system is functioning properly and to rule out any intolerance or allergies that you might have.
Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Health & Weight Loss Program and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.