Most of you may have noticed gastrointestinal discomfort which often manifests in the form of gas, after consuming beans. You may be fond of these nutritious legumes, but the embarrassment caused due to bloating and flatulence can make you avoid beans. This tendency is so commonly linked with beans that a popular children's rhyme refers to it as "the musical fruit".
Beans are the seeds from the flowering plants and are classified as legumes, and are a strong source of protein, iron, fiber, and vitamins that offer several health benefits. They contain amino acids that are the protein-building blocks used by your body to heal and make new tissues such as skin, muscles, bones, hair, and blood. But do beans cause gas and bloating?
Read on to know why beans cause gas and bloating, and effective methods, and tips to enjoy beans without the smelly side effects.
Do Beans Cause Gas?
Beans are a vital part of several healthy diets that protect against heart disease, dementia, cancer, and other chronic illnesses. But, the one issue with beans is that digesting their sugars can be hard for your gastrointestinal tract, which often creates an unpleasant-smelling byproduct- Gas or flatulence. Of course, gas is a normal part of the digestive process wherein the average person passes gas eight 9 to 14 times per day. A normal digestive system functioning will produce gas in the intestine that will keep moving through for release. But for some reason, if you stop yourself from releasing gas (due to embarrassment or any medical condition), gas will build up causing bloating and abdominal distention. But here, the question arises, why do beans cause gas?
The simple answer lies in the following reasons:
Beans Are High In Complex Carbohydrates
- The presence of complex carbohydrates in the beans can be difficult for your body to digest.
- Beans contain a type of carbohydrate known as oligosaccharides, especially raffinose.
- These carbohydrates fail to break down in the small intestines due to the lack of an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase. Instead, they travel to the large intestine, where they are fermented by gut bacteria.
- This results in the production of gasses, including methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide.
- This is extremely uncomfortable since the gas accumulated needs to be released. This is why eating beans can cause flatulence and bloating.
Beans Are A Rich Source Of Fiber
- Beans are a powerhouse of fibers that are excellent for your digestive health.
- However, too much fiber can do more harm than good and cause bloating and gas.
- Your body fails to digest the fiber that is left in your digestive tract, which is consumed by the bacteria. As a result, it leads to gas-producing byproducts.
Beans Are High In Lectins
- Lectins are a type of protein found in plants that usually bind to carbohydrates, and are difficult to digest.
- You may exhibit an increased sensitivity to legumes or beans, and experience gastrointestinal discomfort.
Do Beans Cause Bloating?
Bloating refers to a condition when your belly feels full, and tight due to the buildup of gassy products. Failure to digest beans can lead to foul-smelling gassy byproducts. When not treated, these by-products can continue to accumulate and make you feel bloated.
Symptoms of bloating include:
- Your tummy feels bigger than usual
- You may experience abdominal pain or cramps
- Your tummy may make rumbling sounds
- You may fart more than usual
Should You Avoid Beans?
Beans are healthy and nutritious food due to the nutrients present in them. They contain fiber, proteins, folate, vitamins, and minerals like manganese and potassium. Thus, it is not advisable to avoid beans since this may deprive you of the beneficial nutrients.
- The phytates present in beans help enhance your bone density.
- The lectins are incredibly beneficial for combating fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
- Beans consist of resistant starch that acts as a prebiotic, which means it feeds and promotes the growth of probiotics (the healthy bacteria needed for your gut). The resistant starch also creates compounds that enhance your immune system and help lower your risk of colon cancer.
- Due to the fiber content in beans, they are considered to have incredible cholesterol-lowering ability. Beans are also included in diets that facilitate weight loss.
- The soluble fibers present in beans also increase the amount of metabolites that can boost metabolism, and gut health too.
- Beans are one of the most budget-friendly, high-quality protein sources.
Looking at the enormous nutritional and health benefits offered by beans, it does not make any sense to avoid them altogether. However, you can take certain precautions while consuming them to lower your risk of experiencing gas, flatulence, and bloating.
How To Prevent Gas And Bloating From Beans?
If you wish to consume beans but are scared of the associated discomfort caused by them, you can prevent or minimise these symptoms in the following ways:
Rinse Your Beans Well Before Eating
- Rinsing helps remove excess salt (especially if it is canned beans) and reduces the phytic acid and gaseous oligosaccharides from the beans.
- This also helps eliminate any metallic coating on the beans.
Soak Your Beans
- Soaking beans can greatly reduce the amount of oligosaccharides.
- Soak the beans overnight in water, and drain them well before cooking.
Use Herbs And Spices That Aid In Digestion
- This is a common tip that most of them follow which includes adding herbs and spices to boiling beans.
- These help make them more digestible since they help promote healthy gut bacteria and fight inflammation that might help with gas and bloating.
- You can add any one of the following to your beans while cooking them:
- Cumin seeds
- Asafoetida (Hing)
- Apart from making beans more digestible, they can even impart a great taste to your dish.
Cool Your Beans Well
- Cooking the beans well until they are soft will help decrease gas since it removes the oligosaccharides or starts to break them down.
Start Slowly And Gradually Build Up
- Always remember to go slow with the amount of beans you consume.
- A thumb rule for fiber or protein is that it should be added in small, gradual doses.
- Once your body can tolerate the amount, you can slowly build it up and increase the amount.
Chew Your Food Thoroughly
- Chewing your food well stimulates your salivary glands which releases amylase.
- This enzyme helps break down carbohydrates in your food.
- This in turn helps limit the gas production in the intestine.
- Also, remember to eat your food slowly to prevent yourself from swallowing extra air that can contribute to flatulence.
Use A Digestive EnzymeYou can consult a doctor for digestive enzymes like alpha-galactosidase.
- This enzyme helps break down raffinose and similar compounds.
- This can greatly ease flatulence in healthy adults, children, and people with irritable bowel syndrome.
Hydrate Yourself Well
- As and when you consume beans, make sure to drink plenty of water.
- Too little liquid can cause food to move very slowly through your digestive tract which ultimately leads to gas buildup.
Try To Consume Different Types Of Beans That You Can Tolerate
- Consume beans that have low amounts of oligosaccharides in them to reduce your risk of flatulence and bloating.
- The easiest beans to digest making you less gassy are:
- Mung beans
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
Reduce Your Stress Levels Around Your Meal
- Stress can lead to the 'fight or flight' response that may inhibit the blood flow to your gut.
- This leads to more undigested food being diverted to the large intestine causing gas.
Indulge In Movement After Eating Beans
- Taking a walk after eating beans can help relieve trapped gas and bloating in the short term.
- Physical movement can help the food travel more quickly through your digestive system.
- You can even try some yoga poses that help stimulate your digestion. Some helpful yoga poses include:
- Cat-cow pose
- Downward dog
- Three-legged dog
- High lunge
- Warrior 2
- Reverse warrior
- Triangle pose
- Triangle Twist
- Half-wind relieving pose
- Reclined twist
Use Prescription Medications
- Simethicone is the most common medicine used that can help reduce bloating, abdominal pain, and discomfort.
- This can help in dealing with flatulence caused by consuming beans.
Beans are a nutritious food packed with essential nutrients that offer several health benefits. But they can also cause gas and bloating due to high fiber and lectin content, and due to the presence of complex carbohydrates. When your body fails to digest these nutrients (when consumed in excess), the food particles accumulate in the large intestine and are fermented by the bacteria present, producing gas. Since they are loaded with nutrients, it does not make sense to avoid beans altogether. Because, thankfully, there are several tips you can follow to reduce the risk of experiencing gas and bloating. This way you can keep enjoying the many health benefits of beans without experiencing the unpleasant side effects.