In this article:
- Why an indigestible carbohydrate in beans and legumes causes excessive gas.
- How to prepare beans, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes in a way that reduces flatulence problems.
- How to use a special digestive enzyme to enjoy beans without the gassy after effects.
Why Beans Give You Gas
Beans, and other legumes like chickpeas, lentils and soybeans, are high in soluble fiber, which is considered beneficial for digestion. Unfortunately, it’s this soluble fiber that is also central to why they cause so much gas when you eat them.
It all starts with a component of bean’s soluble fiber called galactans. These are indigestible carbohydrates made of galactose molecules that are too large to be absorbed in your small intestine during digestion. Instead, they pass through to the large intestine intact.
While the digestive processes of the small intestine cannot breakdown galactans, the bacteria in your colon thrive on them. A meal high in galactans, like beans or lentils, is a feast for certain bacteria in your lower intestine and will invariably lead to an increase in their numbers.
This process of bacterial breakdown of soluble fiber also produces large amounts of hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide gas. All of which increases flatulence, often significantly to say the least.
Can You Have Beans Without Gas?
Soaking beans and other legumes overnight before cooking them can greatly reduce the amount of gas-causing galactans they contain. To do this, add them to a large bowl of water, cover them with a tea towel and leave them on a kitchen bench overnight. Drain and then boil them in fresh water to cook them.
To further improve their digestibility you can add a large pinch of fennel seeds or freshly grated ginger to the boiling water in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Many people report these two steps allow them to enjoy eating beans, peas or lentils without the unwanted after effects.
Obviously, this is not a good option with a canned product though. So is there a way to still eat baked beans and without the excessive gas?
The reason we have gas problems with beans is because we lack the alpha-galactosidase enzyme in our digestive tract. This enzyme breaks down the indigestible sugars into smaller components that can be absorbed in the small intestine.
For many years, people have taken a product called Beano, which contains the alpha-galactosidase enzyme, to help prevent flatulence problems caused by beans. Now there is a new product called Bean-zyme that also contains large amounts of alpha-galactosidase like Beano, but is significantly cheaper.
How to Stop Flatulence from Beans with Bean-Zyme
The directions for Bean-zyme suggest using two tablets per meal containing beans, chickpeas, lentils or other galactans rich vegetables like cabbage or broccoli. Most people will swallow them whole, but it’s worth taking an extra step to make sure that they are quickly dispersed in your digestive tract.
Start by taking a first mouthful of beans or other food. Chew it up and then pop in two tablets of Bean-zyme. They don’t have much of a taste so you shouldn’t notice them beyond the texture. Chew them up as well and swallow them down.
Some people don’t have very strong hydrochloric acid secretions in their stomach and there have been are reports of tablets passing right through a person system. While this step probably isn’t vital for most of us, it does give the alpha-galactosidase enzyme some extra time to work on breaking down those gas causing galactans.
No matter how healthy your digestive system is, we humans simply don’t produce the right enzymes to digest beans and legumes properly. If you enjoy your foods like baked beans or lentils then Bean-zyme is a handy and inexpensive product to keep on hand.
- Avoid all beans and legumes like baked beans, broad beans, lentils, chickpeas, hummus and soy products while you have problems with bloating and flatulence. Also check food labels for soy lecithin and vegetable protein, which is usually soy based.
- If you do want to enjoy baked beans, hummus or other legumes from time to time then get some Bean-zyme and keep it in the cupboard next to bean foods to remind you to use it.
Photo credit: Kelly Garbato