Beans cause gassy discomfort — Any relief?

Dear Alice,

I have been searching for natural and/or dietary sources of galactosidase enzyme, the enzyme found in BEANO.

BEANO derives it from the mold, Aspergillus Niger, I understand. But, since BEANO is so expensive I was trying to find ways to get around buying it. I am convinced that there are natural sources out there that would help.


Dear Patriski,

In terms of locating naturally occurring sources of alpha-galactosidase, unfortunately you won't have much luck. Aspergillus niger is found in rotting cassava vegetables (also known as yucca). The enzyme alpha-galactosidase is, in turn, isolated from the aspergillus mold and incorporated into Beano tablets along with invertase, a sugar-hydrolyzing enzyme. Alpha-galactosidase and invertase help to relieve gas symptoms due to their ability to break down complex sugars before they become gaseous. If you really like the effects of Beano, stick to it — however, there are cheaper ways to manage your gas that don’t necessitate the use of expensive dietary supplements.

Being knowledgeable about the following causes of gas can provide you with some additional comfort to help reduce gas production:

  • Gas can be caused by swallowed air. Try to eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. If you tend to gulp beverages, make an attempt to sip instead. Carbonated beverages can also cause belching.
  • Sugar-free foods containing sorbitol or xylitol are poorly digested and can cause gas. Read labels to look for and avoid these ingredients.
  • Lactose intolerance, or the inability to digest lactose, the naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products, causes gas. Try eliminating milk products from your diet for a few days to see if your symptoms improve. If this is effective, you may be somewhat lactose intolerant. Look for supplements and food products that contain lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose during digestion, which may help you feel better.
  • High-fiber diets can result in flatulence (gas). If you have suddenly added a great deal of fruits, vegetables, cereals, and whole grains to your diet, the result may well be gastrointestinal discomfort. Try to add these foods to your diet slowly. While 20 to 35 grams of fiber is recommended as part of your average daily intake, you don't want to shock your system by jumping from low or medium fiber intake to a high fiber intake at the drop of a hat. However, you can eat lots of high-fiber brown rice without worrying about passing gas because rice is the only whole grain known not to cause gas.
  • Yes, beans do live up to their reputation, both for being a healthy addition to your diet and for causing gas. Here are methods for "de-gassing" your beans: soak dry beans for at least eight hours and rinse thoroughly before cooking them; if you buy canned beans, drain off the liquid and rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking. This will also help to reduce your sodium intake.

Keep in mind that gas is perfectly normal. Many people assume they produce excessive amounts of gas; however, it’s quite typical to pass gas around 20 times a day!

If none of these suggestions are helpful, talk to your health care provider or registered dietitian about a "complex carbohydrate elimination diet." This is a strict diet that excludes all forms of complex carbohydrates and high-fiber foods (i.e., fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains). Over time and as tolerated, these food sources are gradually added back to the diet.

Last updated Jul 27, 2015
Originally published Mar 06, 1997

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