Fighting Gastrointestinal Illnesses with a Plant-Based Diet

By Marni Wasserman

Plant-based eating can help with a wide variety of gastrointestinal conditions. A diet high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals can help prevent the onset and progression of these common diseases.

  • Acid reflux: In this condition, some of the acid content of the stomach flows up into the esophagus. Eating more plants eases acid levels by decreasing or eliminating animal protein (which is more difficult to digest) from the diet.

    A plant-based diet also improves elimination of wastes from the body by increasing fiber intake and removing foods that may cause an increase in acid levels in the stomach. The more veggies in your diet, the less inflammation of the upper digestive tract you get because plants (especially green ones) neutralize acid levels.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): IBS is characterized by chronic abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and alteration of bowel habits. IBD is a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine.

    Plant-based eating can be healing to the bowels. It can help stabilize blood sugar, thus promoting stable insulin levels and lowering inflammation. It allows for a more balanced intake of essential fatty acids (more omega 3s and omega 9s than omega 6s), which decrease inflammation in the body.

    Increased fiber in a plant-based diet improves elimination of wastes from the body, which promotes the flushing of harmful toxins. Plant-based eating is often alkalinizing (versus conventional meat, grains, dairy, and sugar, which are acid-forming), which also helps lower inflammation and creates an environment in which harmful bacteria starve and beneficial bacteria thrive.

  • Celiac disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that occurs in genetically predisposed people of all ages. It is associated with pain and discomfort in the digestive tract. Consuming plants and gluten-free grains can help someone with celiac disease prevent flare-ups, discomfort, and bloating.

    When you eliminate gluten from your diet, it’s essential to find substitutes and alternative grains that are healing. Eliminating milk products and meat — which are inflammatory — is also critical for intestinal healing. Plant foods are also rich in enzymes that aid digestion — an extra bonus for people with celiac disease.