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The Beauty of Beans (Part 2)
November 12, 2007
Last week, we looked at beans from a historical perspective and learned a little about both the nutrition and health benefits that they have to offer.
Do you eat beans? Many of my patients used to tell me that they liked beans, but disliked some of the unpleasant side effects. Just like the old childhood rhyme says (something to do with the words “fruit” and “toot”—you can probably fill in the rest!), some people find that they become quite bloated and gassy after eating any kind of bean dish. Why does this happen?
Beans contain types of sugars called oligosaccharides. These sugars are also found in other “gassy” vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, and onions. Unlike other sugars found in our food, oligosaccharides are made of big molecules. Humans don’t have the enzyme (alpha-galactosidase) needed to digest these sugars. So oligosaccharides move through the small intestine, undigested, into the large intestine. There, the many strains of bacteria that normally hang around in our colons feed on these sugars and begin to ferment them. This fermentation gives off gas, often in the form of methane or sulfur.
What’s the solution, then? Fortunately, there are several things you can try to avoid the embarrassing social consequences and discomfort of eating beans:
If, despite all your efforts, you still suffer discomfort after eating beans (or other vegetables, for that matter), try an over-the-counter enzyme replacer, such as Beano, with your first bite of food. Beano contains the missing enzyme that can help you digest those beans without all the gas. Beano is available as either drops or chewable tablets (check out www.beanogas.com for more information).
If you decide to give Beano a try, or already use Beano, it’s a good idea to keep close tabs on how this product affects your blood glucose levels. Because Beano is helping to digest previously indigestible carbohydrates, it’s actually serving to add a little more carb to your food intake. The amount of additional carb is likely to be minimal, but it’s a good idea to check your blood glucose level 2-3 hours after your meal and see what happens.
Other companies make similar enzyme replacement supplements, including Nature’s Plus, Garden of Life, and ReNew Life. These products are available in some pharmacies and natural foods stores, and can be purchased through the Internet.
Next week: Fitting beans into your eating plan.
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