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Why Does Beans Cause Gas and What You Can Do About It

Updated on June 23, 2012

Many people have experienced bloating were there is excessive gas and bloating in the intestines after eating beans and certain vegetables. This article explores a couple of things that one can do to reduce this. First let's understand why there is excessive gas.

This gassy extension of the abdominal region is not due to fat nor fullness, but rather trapped gas in the intestines. Sometimes the abdominal muscles will try to constrict against the pressure of the gas and causes cramping and even abdominal pain.

In most normal cases, the bloating will go away on its own as the gas is passed. However, for quicker relief try taking vegetable charcoal. Beano may also help if taken before the gassy meal. The vegetable charcoal will absorb the gas after the fact. Whereas, Beano works best if you take it right before consuming your beans.

Minor bloating due to certain foods is normal. However, if you have chronic or serious bloating that is abnormal, you should consult with a medical professional. Abnormal bloating can be due to many conditions including small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO) and perhaps other more serious conditions.

Bacteria Causes the Gas

Why does bean produce gas? It is not the beans that produce the gas. It is the bacteria in the colon (also known as the large intestines).

Food passes from the stomach to the small intestines and then to the large intestines (also known as the colon). Normally the food is absorbed in the small intestines. Whatever is not absorbed and digested is passed to the large intestines where a lot of bacteria lives. These bacteria love to eat the sugar and starchy carbohydrates. The undigested sugar and carbohydrates are fermented by the bacteria. And the bacteria produces gases as a by-product.

The majority of the sugar, carbohydrates, and nutrients is absorbed in the small intestines and does not get to the colon. However beans contain a particular type of sugar in the raffinose family of oligosaccharides. Our bodies do not have the alpha-galactosidase enzyme to break down this type of sugar and we are not able to absorb it in the small intestines. So this sugar goes down to the large intestines where the bacteria eats it.

When bacteria eats these sugar, they produce gas as a by product. This gas causes bloating, until it is released by flatulence. The gas that the bacteria produce consists of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and sometimes methane.

Beans also contain soluble fiber which often does not get digested until it reaches the large intestine where it is consumed by bacteria which produces gas.

Human can not digest Raffinose

Beans are not the only foods that cause gas.

Milk in dairy products can cause gas. As we become adult, we start losing the enzymes needed to digest the milk sugar lactose. This is known as lactose intolerance. Most adults are lactose intolerant.

Just like the oligsaccharide, the lactose sugar passes through to the colon, where the bacteria eats it and then produces gas.

Cabbages, brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, and many other starchy carbohydrates also causes gas. Some whole grains can also cause gas. This is because many of these food contain the raffinose family of oligosaccharides, which is very common in the plant kingdom. In contrast, protein and fats do not cause much gas. Rice also does not seem to cause much gas.

This does not mean that we should not eat these types of foods. In fact, many of these types of food such as beans, broccoli, and vegetables are good for you and should be part of your regular diet. There is a study in Nutrition Journal titled "Perceptions of flatulence from bean consumption among adults in 3 feeding studies" which says ...

"An increasing body of research and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans supports the benefits of a plant-based diet, and legumes specifically, in the reduction of chronic disease risks."

and then goes to make the conclusion that ...

"People's concerns about excessive flatulence from eating beans may be exaggerated."

If you want you, can space out the timing of eating these food items so the gas has time to pass. Having minor gas is not a problem and is not dangerous. So if you are by yourself, you can just let it be. Alternatively, you can use Beano and Gaia vegetable charcoal to relieve some of the gas and still eat these healthy foods.

Beano Supplies Needed Enzyme

Taking Beano just before the beans or vegetables will help prevent gas because Beano contains the natural enzyme called alpha-galactosidase, which is just the enzyme needed to break down the raffinose family of oligosaccharides type sugars.

Beano prevents gas. It does not eliminate gas after-the-fact. Beano only works if you take it just before the meal. Because the enzyme in Beano breaks down the sugar before it gets to the bacteria in the large intestines, the bacteria does not have the sugar fuel and hence does not generate gas.

Beano is not recommended for children under 12 and not recommended for people with galactosemia, which is a condition where the body is unable to metabolize the galactose sugar. For diabetics, it is estimated that Beano produces 2 to 6 grams of carbohydrates for every 100 grams of food treated with Beano. It is unclear if Beano contains wheat or not. Wheat was listed in some of the packaging. But other say that the amount is negligible. People who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease should take note.

According, Beano is effective in preventing gas and is made from a safe food-grade mold. However, it does cautions that if a rare sensitivity or allergic reaction occurs, discontinue use. It notes of some rare reports of allergic reaction have been reported by some individuals.

Vegetable Charcoal

But what happens if you have gas already. Taking Beano after you already have gas will not help. Beano is a gas preventer and is not a gas reliever.

In this case, you might want to consider taking Gaia Herbs' Gas & Bloating product. It is a natural vegetable charcoal and fennel seed plus a proprietary herbal blend that is designed to provide relief from gas. It is intended only for occasional use.

WebMd says that activated charcoal is safe for most adults when taken short term. However, vegetable charcoal may interfere with the absorption of medications. For example, it interacts of syrup of ipecac. It also interacts with alcohol. Consult with your doctor if you are taking any drugs or medication. It should not be used by children or pregnant and lactating women. It should also not be used if there is any kind of intestinal obstruction or if you have slow moving passage through the intestinal system.

Avoid Antacid

It is best to avoid the use of antacids. Chronic use of antacids decreases your stomach acid resulting in poor digestion. We need stomach acid to kill any bacteria in our foods and to aid breaking down the meal.


Article was written in January 2012 and is only opinion at the time of writing. Author may receive revenue from that display ads within content. Author is not a medical professional and this is not medical advice.


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