Gastrointestinal Flatulence Can Put An End To Eating Beans

Prevent gastrointestinal flatulence. How to deal with, prevent, and understand the unfortunate flatulence that comes from eating the musical fruit.

Beans, well known as the "musical fruit," cause intestinal gas. Intestinal gas, unfortunately, must come out of the body; it usually exits through the rectum, often with an unpleasant sound and always with an unpleasant odor. The medical term for this process is "flatulence."

Other similar vegetables have similar flatulent after-effects; cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are often mentioned.

Flatulence results from eating beans because we do not have the particular enzymes in our digestive tracts needed to break down certain complex bean sugars, the oligosaccharides. Beans contain large amounts of raffinose, a complex sugar found in lesser quantities in other gas-prone vegetables.

There are things you can do to minimize the gas problem.

o Eat beans (and the other similar foods) regularly to build up your body's ability to process them. Increase the quantities you eat slowly, however.

o Drink more fluids than normal when you are eating beans. (This will also help you better process foods which are high in fiber.)

o Soak the beans thoroughly. The soaking process dissolves gas-causing elements into the soaking water. (Some claim that the foam that forms on the soaking water is evidence of the dissolved sugars.) The longer you soak the beans (within reason), the more gas-generators you remove. Discard the soaking water.

o Some experts advise adding 1/8th teaspoon baking soda to the soaking water. This advice is not universal; about as many experts claim this will harm the nutritional value of the food. Others claim it does not actually help.

o Rinse the beans whenever reasonable to do so. After soaking and discarding the soaking water, rinse them thoroughly. After boiling the beans, if the recipe allows, discard that water and rinse the beans again.

o If you are using canned beans, drain the fluid from the beans and rinse them.

o Many claim that using a modified version of the popular quick-soak method of preparing dry beans removes virtually all of the gas-causing materials. Boil the beans, covered, for three minutes. Remove them from the heat and let them stand at room temperature in the same water for four hours or more. Drain off and discard this water and thoroughly rinse the beans.

o Use the newly developed commercial product, Beano, which supplies the necessary enzymes to allow easy digestion of the offending complex sugars. You do not add this to the beans while cooking; you take it as you eat the beans.

o Some have reported good results from cooking a small quantity of epazote (an herb available at health food stores) with the beans.

o Pills containing activated charcoal, such as Charcocaps, Charcoal Plus, and Flatulex, can reduce flatulence and absorb nasty odors. (Activated charcoal is the primary filtering medium used in gas masks.) Do not, however, take these pills if you are on other medications or nutritional supplements, because they will inhibit the body's ability to absorb those necessary items.

o Avoid other unrelated gas-causing activities such as chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages, eating and drinking rapidly, and smoking. These activities can cause you to swallow excessive amounts of air, which then adds to the gas problem later.

Beans are an extremely healthful food; they're high in fiber and other beneficial nutrients and low in fat. It would be a shame to let a little gas force us to abandon the many wonderful bean dishes we love. These techniques can help.

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