Guest post by by Sonia Chartier, with Dominique Vanier, B.Sc.(Hons.), M.Env.Sc., N.D. (candidate)
It has happened to all of us: that moment when you feel the onset of gas, and the security of your own washroom is nowhere in sight. You scour your mind on what you ate for lunch. You ask yourself, “Could it have been the bean salad? But more importantly, how do I make it stop?!”
Beans contain two sugars, raffinose and stachyose, which produce gas in the intestines during digestion. These sugars are classified as oligosaccharides – a common type of carbohydrate found in many vegetables. Our bodies are missing an enzyme required to break down these sugars; consequently, they pass through the small intestine undigested until they hit the large intestine, which is where the fun starts!
Our digestive tract contains approximately 100 trillion bacteria, with most bacteria localized in the large intestine. These beneficial bacteria have many roles including helping absorb nutrients, producing certain vitamins (such as vitamin K), and participating in immune responses. When intact bean sugars enter the large intestine, the bacteria living there will ferment the sugar, using it as fuel and producing methane, hydrogen, and other gases as by-products.
But beans are not all about their gas – they have a high nutritive value and provide numerous long-term health benefits. Below are just a few examples of how beans are a “magical fruit.”
Benefits of Beans
• High in fibre (both soluble and insoluble)
• High in antioxidants
• Good source of iron
• High in folic acid (vitamin B9)
• Balance blood sugar
• Reduce constipation
• Can help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels
• Can help manage high blood pressure
• May help reduce risk of colorectal cancer
Many people shy away from eating beans, but few of us know that the key to gas reduction is to eat them often! There is good news in all of this: the gas will eventually go away as our bodies adapt to eating beans more regularly. In the meantime, the following are a few ways to reduce the amount of gas produced from eating beans.
Reducing Bean Gas
• Soak your beans. Soaking helps break down bean sugars, and does not interfere with the nutritive value of the bean. Soaking and cooking dried beans is better than using canned beans.
• Add spices. Spices such as ginger, fennel, coriander, and turmeric have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, which promote digestion by acting on the smooth muscle of the intestines.
• Start small. As with all new foods, the bacteria in the gut must adjust in order to break down new food more efficiently. Over time, the bacteria will adapt and produce less gas.
• Drink peppermint tea after your meal. Peppermint tea that is high in volatile oils has anti-spasmodic properties, allowing food to move through the digestive tract more smoothly and reducing the amount of gas produced.
• Support your friendly gut bacteria. Try Molkosan Berry, a concentrated lacto-fermented whey supplement high in L+ lactic acid and alkaline minerals. As a prebiotic, Molkosan acts as a food source for the probiotics (i.e., your “friendly bacteria”) in your digestive tract. When your bacteria are happy and well fed, you are less likely to experience gas and abdominal bloating.
• Stimulate bile production and reduce gas by taking Boldocynara Complex. This artichoke, milk thistle, dandelion, and boldo complex supports other organs involved in digestion (the liver and gallbladder), and also contains anti-spasmodic and anti-septic properties to relieve gas.
• Chew your food! Mechanical breakdown of food starts in your mouth, which allows for better breakdown of food in other parts of the digestive tract.
• Avoid other gas-causing foods when consuming beans like cruciferous vegetables (such as cauliflower, broccoli, and brussel sprouts).
• Purchase digestive enzymes that contain alpha-galactosidease, which breaks down oligosaccharides.
References: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12489819; www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/22/beans-blood-pressure-legumes-heart-disease-glycemic-index-diabetes_n_2002083.html; www.rd.com/health/wellness/stomach-soothers/; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23882273; www.oley.org/lifeline/bacter.html; Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1605-15; Agurs-Collins T, Smoot D, Afful J, et al. Legume intake and reduced colorectal adenoma risk in African-Americans. J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2006 Dec;17(2):6-12; Lanza E, Hartman TJ, Albert PS, et al. High dry bean intake and reduced risk of advanced colorectal adenoma recurrence among participants in the polyp prevention trial. J Nutr. 2006 Jul;136(7):1896-903.