Gas Reduction Tips

Beans are a wonderful food, packed with filling protein and fiber, as well as other important vitamins and minerals that nourish a healthy body. Unfortunately, some people choose to avoid this healthful food because they fear intestinal gas or flatulence. However with all their benefits, it’s important to regularly enjoy this simply delicious, naturally nutritious food.

Beans contain fibers called oligosaccharides (all-uh-go-SACK-are-rides), which are non-digestible, fermentable fibers that cause gas. While this might sound like a bad thing, it’s actually a very good thing. These fibers survive the acidic stomach and don’t get digested in the upper part of the gut. They make their way intact to the colon where they are fermented by beneficial bacteria. Gas is created during this fermentation process. It’s a good sign, one that says these healthful bacteria are being fed well, maintained, and enhanced through the right food choices which in turn may lead to the prevention of diseases of the gut, as well as other organs in the body. Fibers from foods like beans that are able to reach the gut intact and stimulate growth and promote activity in the beneficial microflora are also referred to as “prebiotics.”

Research shows that the health of our gut plays an important role in our overall physical and mental health. Consuming plant-based foods that contain these non-digestible fibers may keep our bodies regular and our gut healthy.

Healthy adults were asked to eat half a cup of legumes (pinto beans, black-eyed peas, or navy beans) or carrots each day for 8-12 weeks. Initially, half the people reported increased gas, but after 8 weeks they were back to normal levels. These results suggest that while some individuals may experience gas associated with bean intake, regularly consuming beans (~1/2 cup daily) for a period of 8 weeks may reduce bothersome symptoms like bloating and abdominal discomfort.

What’s the bottom line? The more often you eat beans, the less often you’ll experience GI discomfort!

It is important to recognize that gas production is a normal body process, one that signals good things are happening in your body. Some of the benefits of fiber fermentation in the gut include improved mineral absorption, especially calcium and magnesium, and enhanced immunity. So the next time you feel the rumbles, try to relax and remember, it happens to everyone.

If fermentation still has you fearful, here are some tips to reduce your fear of flatulence:

  • Increase your bean intake slowly. Start by eating 2 to 4 tablespoons of beans per day, and gradually increase consumption to the ½ cup per day recommendation.
  • Drink more water each day as you eat more beans.
  • When soaking dry beans before cooking, change the water several times. The gas-producing fibers are released into the soaking water, and discarding it removes some of these compounds.
  • Rinse canned beans without sauce before eating or using in recipes. (Rinsing also reduces the sodium content of canned beans.)
  • Cook with herbs. Certain herbs may also help break down the gas-producing fermentable fibers. Try epazote (commonly used in Mexican cuisine) or asafetida (commonly used in Indian cuisine).
  • Consider using a gas-reducing enzyme tablet. These are available over the counter in many pharmacies.

Don’t let fear of flatulence rob you of the many benefits of beans when consumed as part of a healthful diet. Regularly enjoying beans increases your body’s tolerance and may reduce intestinal gas. If you do experience a little gas, it’s okay—it happens to everyone. It’s the sign of a healthy gut that is being fed well. Remember the more you eat, the less you toot!