If you are cooking foods that store well, chances are you’re eating more beans. That’s not a bad thing; beans have lots of fiber and are very nutritious. As you might guess, though, there’s one disadvantage. When you eat beans, do you notice more gas? Most people do, and they would be happy for a way to counteract that effect. Sometimes people need to follow a high-fiber diet for medical reasons and they may have similar problems.
Can You Control Flatulence?
Q. What do you suggest for the inability to control (hold in) flatulence? It’s extremely embarrassing! The odor usually isn’t the issue, but the sound of it is!
A. Flatulence is a normal result of eating healthful foods; it’s quite common when you eat beans. The average person passes gas between 14 and 22 times daily.
Resisting the release of flatus is at best a temporary solution. The gas that has built up eventually needs to escape.
Dietary changes can reduce the amount of intestinal gas that is produced. Keeping a detailed food diary may help you identify the foods that are causing you the most distress. You’ll find information on how to do this in our eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders.
Flatulence from a High-Fiber Diet:
Q. My husband was put on a very high fiber diet a while ago, including a daily fiber supplement. This seems to be causing a lot of intestinal gas, which is very uncomfortable – for him AND me! Beans are problematic, of course, but other foods seem to cause this as well. Do you have any suggestions? He’s tried using Beano when he eats beans, but it had minimal effect.
A. It can take time for the digestive tract to adjust to a high-fiber diet. In the meantime, though, he shouldn’t have to suffer. Each person may vary in their sensitivities. Some individuals react badly to apples, while others find broccoli and cabbage are culprits. A diary of foods and flatus events can help identify which meals require the most attention.
While Beano helps some people, others feel they do better with activated charcoal. Unfortunately, there is little scientific support for this approach.
Pepto Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) can help control odor but won’t reduce the quantity of gas produced. Other options include probiotics or herbs such as asafoetida, fennel or turmeric. You can learn more about these from our eGuide to Overcoming Digestive Disorders, which also includes a recipe for de-gassing beans.
Preventing Gas When You Eat Beans:
Q. I love to eat beans, all kinds. Unfortunately, they don’t like me.
A. You may need to up your dose of Beano. The person who invented Beano told us many years ago that a higher dose sometimes helps when the usual dose doesn’t do the job. There is now Beano Ultra 800 to make that easier.
Other Ways to Reduce Gas When You Eat Beans:
Other options include an Indian spice called hing (Ferula asafoetida). Cooks in India add it to lentils and beans to prevent flatulence. They also appreciate the flavor it contributes. (Be forewarned: prior to cooking, it smells very stinky.)
In Mexico, cooks add a different herb. They believe epazote reduces flatulence from eating beans.
Could Your Medicine Be to Blame?
In the online resource, eGuide to Digestive Disorders, we include a list of medications that can cause flatulence. Obviously, you can’t just stop taking a medicine to see if it is the culprit. You need to discuss that with your health care provider. But you should consider the possibility that adjusting your regimen would reduce the flatulence you suffer when you eat beans.
Consider Celiac Disease:
It would also be helpful to rule out celiac disease. People with this auto-immune condition may develop extremely smelly gas and stool when they consume gluten. These are not the only symptoms of celiac disease, but you should pay attention to them.
Change Your Diet:
The range of intestinal problems you mention suggests you might have irritable bowel syndrome. If that is the case, you could try a low FODMAP diet for six weeks, with a gradual re-introduction of the restricted foods over three months or so. Italian researchers found that this approach significantly reduced gas, bloating, stomach pain and other problems (Nutrients, March 27, 2020). A systematic review has confirmed that this approach can reduce GI symptoms (European Journal of Nutrition, Sep. 2021).
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols (such as sorbitol or maltitol). To follow a low FODMAP diet, you’d eliminate foods containing fructose. Fruits such as apples, pears, raisins and stone fruits such as cherries or peaches are high in fructose. Vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli and cauliflower are also high in fermentable carbohydrates. You would reduce or eliminate them during the low FODMAP experiment. You would also want to avoid lactose-containing dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese, ice cream or yogurt. In the Italian study mentioned above, volunteers also refused wheat, barley, spelt and rye during the six-week restricted period.